Fake it till you make it in digital health: 4 demystified truths

Fake it till you make it in digital health: 4 demystified truths

Since years, digital in healthcare is becoming the new hype for people seeking higher ranked positions or promotion.

Let’s look at why and how people tend to fake they are experts until they make it to a senior role in digital within our industry.

Truth #1: it is easy to be an expert in digital in healthcare.

That is partially true.

While our level of adoption is low and our speed of change is not even something we can comment, anyone coming from outside the industry has an edge. Suffice to say that multichannel, social media and all the buzz words we got are staying in slides, or at best in a procurement contract with a vendor that is managing everything.

The only barricade is the jargon.

We like to use a specific vocabulary to make it healthcare proof. Second, you make it expensive so that is sounds the industry is special. If you master these 2 points and you browse slideshare, quora and you visit eyeforpharma here and there, you might be able to go back to work and building your magic slides.

On the other hand, I see a change since a couple of years. Medical teams or startups realise they are the digital people we were seeking. Their job has change from clinical trials to patient recruitment to the development of digital medicines. Technologies are not that new anymore: machine learning, in-sillico testing, tele-medicine… you name it.

Last but not the least, startups came to bring agility to the equation. It is a matter of time for the industry to structure the “how” and “what” as everybody aligns so easily on the “why-s”.

Information systems folks also got it. They are looking at structuring companies through systems that bring agility. Who wants to manage hardwares and softwares when technologies floating around create so much appeal and impact…

So what about commercial and marketing people. And you guessed it, this is where most of the magic could come or unfortunately the BS too.

Simply put, we in commercial operations and marketing are lucky to face the customers (whoever they are) and hence understanding needs and connecting them with value propositions. While everybody will argue doing the same, the science of sales and marketing exists for a reason.

Now being disruptive, with new business models, driving new experiences for brands while embracing new channels and technologies for our products and services is the G spot of where we are truly expected. Here I claim that the digital tactics that we need to implement are not rocket science because of the delay we got as an industry. What is tricky: taking these slides and get them adopted as a process or a new way of working in everything we do. These is leading us slowly to the second truth.

Truth #2: I need to focus on strategy, not on implementation.


While strategies are entertaining, nice to develop and exciting to absorb, the hard part is not there. Now, most people would argue one thing: you can’t master anymore all the aspect of digital activities, as the amount of layers or stacks progressed so much that you’ll need an army internally to reproduce all the value chain.

Here again, I come back to my favorite KPI which is adoption of a tactic. I see so many time slides and presentation arguing to go left or right where we haven’t even developed a sufficient adoption on a channel like email marketing or e-detailing. It is like you look at youtube videos to motivate you to do sport, while you don’t practice it at all. It feels good but has no impact.

I would even argue that there is nothing strategic in digital for healthcare especially in digital marketing. Merely translating and sequencing tactics that have 20 years old. The true strategy is on how to drive a company to better partner with other third parties, or focusing on its core, such as medicines and medical devices.

The second aspect (strategic this one) is people. Digital tactics are constantly evolving and even if you have great vendors, you’ll need the people to get it for them to make it work. Here indeed, the vision to build-up these capabilities and processes is key. You’ll need the leaders of tomorrow.

Truth #3: If I am a leader, I’ll make it work

I hear this one often. If you know how to manage people, you’ll know how to manage a field. It is perhaps true but we have here to bring another component: the culture. There is something about the web and digital in general: you’ll know it when people get’s it. It is not something written in a resume or a defined skill. There is something about people in this field that always keep themselves surfing on the edge, testing new digital tactics on their girlfriend/boyfriend projects, continuously learning, giving back and sharing.

Of course you’ll need to have to be a true leader to drive it from a corporate perspective, but you’ll need this cultural aspect as well that forces you to destroy your beliefs at every turn when you evolve in unknown territories. There is a beautiful humility to it, followed by a whole lot sense of practicality and hands-on experience.

Having no experience or not being a subject-matter expert will just make you obsolete in 24 months.

So no, not all good leaders will make a good digital leader for a healthcare firm. There is a good reason the industry is looking outside now and hiring new faces to disrupt these beliefs, and start creating a culture.

Truth #4: Innovation is the new digital gold rush

In my recent article, I was referring to how well we are shifting from digital to innovation as a buzzword in the industry. There are good reasons for it as now digital is so established, that if feels to “operational” to raise some appetite. Innovation is then sexy. Everyone has heard of startups and if you have not worked with one, it is like missing something.

So as referred above, yes innovative partnerships is the new game. How well a company will establish these partnerships to offer value to patients, payers, partners and HCPs is key.

You’ll have hard choices too. Innovation is either iterative or disruptive. We clearly are referring to the last one when it comes to digital innovation. And it is a gamble. Firstly, the success rate… A technology that is innovative from a patent point of view is not a healthcare proofed innovation as you’ll need a lot of clinical evidence (and hence money) to make it accepted.

Digital innovation is also not compatible with the pharma agenda. R&D is taking a lot of time, and commercial is stressing sales cycles too often. You bring failure rate and experiments to the equation and your innovation department is born to die.

Ideally, you’ll want to get your innovation people out of the daily business, in a separate building or country even. You could also just partner with a big tech company and let them run the digital innovation for you. This of course, at the risk to teach them as well how the industry works.

That’s all folks.

I am an optimistic (yes I know doesn’t feels like it here) but if you know me, I truly believe that the industry is at a formidable turn and can’t wait to see who will shape the foundations of a new paradigm.

The most difficult part of my job is to make this field so easy that we don’t call it digital anymore and that more people can lead this.

We should just call it a daily business in 2019 and call the bluff when needed.

I’d love to hear from you and your experience if this rings a bell. Have you experienced or seen a “digital parade” in your company? Feel free to share.

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