China as a digital transformation sandbox: A prescription for pharma multinationals

"China as a digital transformation sandbox: A prescription for pharma multinationals" explains how pharma companies can leverage China's highly digitalized market landscape to test digital commercial engagement models before scaling them for global success, and offers suggestions on how pharma companies can carry out digital transformations. 

Viewpoints / key findings

The advance of digital technologies and healthcare consumerism are altering the dynamic of China's healthcare system. China's emerging digital healthcare ecosystem is empowering innovative commercial models in the pharma industry. New offerings, engagement models and technologies are being rapidly tested in the Chinese market, and companies are exploring digital solutions to address consumers' unmet needs. These digital transformations enable multinationals to create and test new offerings and services quickly and flexibly, accelerate the commercialization of their capabilities in China, and facilitate fast scalability of products and ideas into other markets.

Four areas of digital transformation where pharma companies can create value
  • Launch excellence and sales effectiveness: Pharma companies need to leverage big data and technology to establish a more cost-effective product launch and sales strategy. They could tap into both medical and non-medical data from various data sources. 
  • Engagement with healthcare professionals: Pharma companies in China are starting to use new technologies to transform their HCP engagement model. They can leverage cloud computing and the big data advanced analytics services provided by third party platforms, to increase the participation of HCPs in education seminars and platforms. 5G and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies also offer new opportunities to build a patient-centric ecosystem for specific diseases. 
  • Integrated care management and overall wellbeing: Transparency and accessibility to medical records will help connect every step in the patient journey, enabling precise medication and implementing digital adherence programs, thereby improving treatment efficacy in those areas.
  • Reimbursement and market access: Chinese regulators will gradually transfer to an outcome-based reimbursement model, which requires calculating the value of treatments accurately. .

Steps that pharma companies can take toward digital transformation
  • The strategy: Support digital transformation through ecosystem engagement. Pharma companies seeking to enhance their digital commercial engagement capabilities need to embrace two components in their strategy: shaping the ecosystem development and using data as an enabler.
  • The tactics: Build digital transformation capabilities customized to needs and goals. Pharma companies need to re-examine and design their technology or digital teams' operating and engagement models. They need to consider three aspects: enabling platforms, user relationships and data insights.

Companies should implement digital transformation from within. It means shifting from "doing digital" to "being digital", because successful digital transformations begin with changes in culture. COVID-19 has accelerated change in the Chinese healthcare ecosystem, and new value generation opportunities could arise for pharma companies. To benefit, pharma companies should reassess their commercial engagement models across stakeholder groups, accelerate adoption of patient-centric care models, and emphasize overall wellbeing. It will not be an easy journey, but feasible when done right. 

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