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Knowledge Hub

Building the trust – post COVID-19

Simon Grime, Executive Director at Wilmington Healthcare discusses what needs to be done to build trust between pharma and health in a post COVID-19 world.

Trust me, I’m a doctor, is a well-worn phrase. But who do doctors – and other healthcare professionals – trust?

Our ways of working have changed radically due to the pandemic, and so too have the foundations on which we have built our professional relationships. Face-to-face meetings or appointments remain rare in any sector.

For patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs), remote access and consultation is no longer an occasional possibility, it is the new reality. Many HCPs have found that using technology to diagnose or monitor health remotely has transformed their approach. They – and their patients – have taken a leap of faith that they would not have considered a year ago. Extreme circumstances have a knack of accelerating progress.

But new methods of working cannot override old formulas for success completely. At the heart of any good person-to-person relationship – commercial and medical alike – is trust.

We have been used to building this trust by working together and by sharing the same physical space with each other whether in a face-to-face meeting or in more relaxed settings. Although this has now had to change, trust is still fundamental throughout the chain of healthcare. Patients need to have faith in their HCPs in order to follow their advice. HCPs, in turn, must also trust the people who provide them with drugs, equipment, and education to inform their practice.

As Steven R Covey, the American author and educator, said: “Trust is the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It is the glue of life.”

The fact is that trust has already been built in new ways, very rapidly. As industry and HCPs in different care settings have faced up to the challenges of COVID-19, barriers have come down. Clinical trials have been accelerated as never before. In pharma, the role of MSLs has changed and they have come to the fore to provide much needed medical support to their NHS customers. Companies across the life sciences spectrum have been engaging with MSL teams and even picking up the phone to ask, with genuine intent, “how can we help?”. Truly collaborative efforts to combat the pandemic have seen commercial priorities laid aside.

New models of engagement

Now, as the industry resets, it needs to maintain and build on that goodwill by adapting that supportive approach to a new model of engagement. We cannot simply revert to the old model of sales and key account teams constantly trying to understand what HCPs want and which channels they prefer. The evidence is plain to see and the customer environment has changed forever.

The new challenge, in a world where prioritising face-to-face encounters has gone, is how to optimise the right blend of KAM resource with the right mix and balance of online customer engagement.

This means that pharma must become even more customer-centric if it is to maintain existing relationships and form new ones when opportunities to meet in person are limited.

Therefore, it is vital to fully understand who the customer is in the new integrated care NHS landscape, and map this to disease areas and therapies. It is also critical to adopt strategies commonplace in consumer marketing, such as customer persona mapping, to create segmentation that includes behaviours and preferences to truly enable customer focused engagement, on and offline, to maintain and build trust.

Strengthening existing relationships and building new ones is the big challenge facing everyone and it is impacting the planning of team structures.