Being Eclectic – A Pharma Leadership Quality In The New Normal

It’s no-brainer that since the onset of Covid pandemic, digitalization initiative of many pharma companies in critical facets of business operations, has reached a new high. The process is now fast accelerating with the adoption of avant-garde ideas, and scalable digital tools and platforms. Some of these initiatives may be incremental in nature, but several others possess game changing potential in delivering business outcomes.

This period of transformation is also an opportune time for pharma leadership to be more eclectic, while working out strategies to gain business momentum – outpacing the competition. As is being revealed, strategic inputs from a diverse range of sources – often from totally different areas, to meet fast changing customer needs and expectations, would immensely help in the new normal.

In this article, I shall argue on the need of being eclectic for pharma leadership to gain competitive edge, especially in the trying times. I shall elaborate this point with the example of an eclectic idea – Gamification. If used where it ought to be, eclectic ideas may help organizations to successfully navigate through unprecedented disruptions, especially, caused by Covid pandemic, in various critical areas of pharma business.

Gamification – an eclectic strategic tool for pharma:

Gamification – an eclectic strategic tool, ‘incentivizes people’s engagement and activities to drive results with game-like mechanics.’ Various companies, across the industries, are leveraging this technique for greater effectiveness in different business domains. This includes, driving employee motivation for sustainable performance excellence.

I discussed ‘Gamification in Pharma’ in this blog – about a year before the onset of the pandemic. However, its potential is being increasingly realized with virtual engagement becoming more common during Covid pandemic. Several drug companies are now imbibing Gamification techniques to offer greater value in several areas of business. These include, among others, chronic disease management, adherence to the prescribed dosage regimen, and also for training and development.

The core purpose and value: 

The core purpose of Gamification is to effectively engage with both internal and external customers of an organization, with clearly captured details of their changing needs and expectations in the new normal. Game mechanics are basically the rules and rewards that build the foundation of game play. Game dynamics involve a set of emotions, behaviors and desires found in game mechanics that help foster engagement and motivate participants.

The broad process of Gamification entails integration of game mechanics on various existing platforms. These include, a website, online community, learning tools - providing target audiences with proactive directives and feedback through game mechanics that lead to the accomplishments of business goals and objectives.

According to BI Worldwide - a global engagement agency, ‘Gamification is about driving engagement to influence business results.’ When people participate and engage with gamification initiatives, they learn the best way to interact with the business, its products, services and in thereby in the brand building process.

It further says, the business value of Gamification doesn’t end with the participant. Engagement with game mechanics provides insightful data that can help influence marketing campaigns, platform utilization and performance goals. Every employee or customer interaction gives a better sense of where a participant is spending their time and what activities drive interest.

Application of ‘Gamification’ in pharma is a decade old now:

Gamification isn’t totally a new concept in the pharma industry. It was successfully tried by some pharma majors, at least, about a decade ago. Let me give below just a couple of examples from that period to get a feel of it:

Way back in 2011, Pfizer created the Back in Play game for European patients, to boost knowledge of ankylosing spondylitis, a disease that causes inflammation in the spine and pelvis joints. Interestingly, the game delivered a simple healthcare message to a notoriously difficult to reach audience 38 million times.

In 2012, Boehringer Ingelheim launched its pharma game – ‘Syrum’ on Facebook platform. This particular initiative is considered as an evolution in the pharma industry’s use of the social media platform. It gave the Company a new tool to educate and expand the knowledge of the general public about the challenges of its business. It also helped to improve disease awareness, besides allowing the company to conduct its market research.

Besides these two, other interesting Gamification initiatives taken around that period include, Zec Attack (Novartis), Silence Your Rooster (Sanofi).

Its potential in pharma marketing – and what to avoid:

Applying game mechanics to healthcare marketing could also help ensure that patients are activated, educated, and engaged throughout the duration of their care, driving both – business performance and patient outcomes. This observation was made in an article on ‘Gamification’, published in the Pharmaceutical Executive on February 28, 2019. Another article titled, ‘Gamification is Serious Business’ also reiterates, ‘Research and case studies from both the academic and healthcare space bring forth ample evidence that games can improve patient compliance and healthcare outcomes.’

However, if any pharma marketer enters into the gamification arena with greater focus on the desired outcome than on patient goals, or the games themselves don’t excite, engage, and motivate the users, the efforts may not succeed.

Gamified e-learning helps during Covid pandemic:

An interesting study on ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Learning,’ conducted by find courses, noted some interesting points. A few of which, are as follows:

  • Covid pandemic is fueling an unprecedented interest and opportunity for many people to acquire more job knowledge and skills, mainly to protect their future in uncertain times.
  • In tandem, people’s priorities when it comes to learning are also changing. Health-safety being at the forefront of many learners’ minds, they prefer mostly online courses, or heavily reduced classroom sizes - to maintain social distancing.

It has also been noted that many such learners often find virtual learning programs uninteresting and lackluster. Sensing this issue, many organizations, which include some pharma companies, are now using Gamification to augment learning effectiveness and build greater team harmony. Let me illustrate this point with an example from the pharma industry during the ongoing pandemic.

It’s more relevant in the new normal:

On June 04, 2021, Fierce Pharma featured an article on Pharma companies’ getting into gaming to boost retention, recall – and fun. There, it quoted a top official of the global pharma major AbbVie, who said: “Gamification has become more important and more impactful in the virtual environment.”  The honcho further said: “The pandemic showed we need this now more than ever. – It’s given an extra push to what has always been core to what we do, which is retention and recall in a fun and engaging manner.”

The report elaborates, AbbVie Canada uses gamification to onboard new reps, district managers and brand managers as well as for national sales meetings. Instead of studying or reading up, AbbVie asks employees to do the advance work through gamification tasks and then follows with more tasks after the meetings to boost retention and recall.

The Global Healthcare Gamification Market Report 2021-2027, also vindicates this point. As it reported, utilization of new healthcare gamification applications based on mobile tablets and laptops, witnessed a good growth during Covid pandemic. It reported, ‘Healthcare Gamification Market’ is expected to reach US$35,982.7 million in 2027 from US$ 3,072.5 million in 2019 with an estimated CAGR of 36.2% from 2020-2027.

Gamification is now being used by pharma in India, as well:

Abbott India is using elements of gamification in its customer services through a: care program. As the company Press Release says: ‘This new healthcare service is designed with games, quizzes and recognition programs to support patients, doctors and pharmacists throughout the entire healthcare journey, from awareness and prevention to motivation to get and stay healthy.’

In India, since quite some time, many well-known non-pharma companies are successfully using gamification for employee engagement and hiring.

Conclusion:

Unprecedented disruptions caused by Covid pandemic have considerably impacted the business operations of virtually every industry in India – just as other nations, across the globe. Since the onset of the pandemic, non-covid related medical centers, fitness institutions or gyms remained shut. Getting F2F – in clinic or hospital care, especially for non-Covid patients were also challenging for several reasons, with virtual care being the only options for many.

Interestingly, with most interactions and engagements – including learning, training and development programs going virtual, ‘Gamification’ initiatives started gathering wind on the sail, in some of those areas. This happened mainly because, organizations, institutions and people were driven to look for digital and app-based solutions for all needs and necessities, for a sustainable progress in an uncertain future.

An article on gamification, published in the PharmaPhorum on March 21, 2021, reiterated the same. It said, “Gamification” – adding game-like elements into non-game or real-world settings – has become a popular concept in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, and event industries, especially as virtual engagement becomes more common during COVID-19.’

With diverse applications and approaches, Gamification is quickly becoming a promising tool in various areas of pharma service and operations. These include, patient adherence, chronic disease management, preventive medicine, rehabilitation, besides better customer engagement, medical education, training, hiring and more.

From this perspective, in my view, pharma leadership now needs to more eclectic, and try using methods and approaches, such as, ‘Gamification’ – drawn from various other disciplines, in pursuit of excellence in the new normal.

By: Tapan J. Ray     

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

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