The U.S. biopharmaceutical sector employs more than 810,000 workers and supports a total of 3.4 million jobs across the country (Source: PhRMA). It is not surprising because six out of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies are based in the US. Today, pharmaceutical companies are facing new challenges that were never there before. According to a report by KPMG, the 4 challenges faced by the pharma sector are:
- Inability of pharma companies to provide consistent shareholder/stakeholder value due to an array of factors.
- Stagnant growth in western markets and slower growth rate in emerging markets negatively impacting the overall business environment.
- Decline of R & D productivity with returns being less than 50% over the last 10 years.
- Rising scientific, political as well as legal risks have also taken a toll on the health of the industry. It also has to cope with the lack of trust built over the years from both consumers as well as governments.
These challenges stemmed out from the changes that are taking place in the pharma sector. It is no longer the way we knew it a decade ago. David Rowley of OPEN Health lists three factors that are influencing the pharma sector and the way the business is done.
1. Emphasis on prevention alongside treatment of diseases
Traditionally, the pharma sector was always product-centric. However, with government and health agencies stressing on disease prevention and incentivizing efforts by organizations that work towards educating the consumer. So, organizations are not just promoting their products but also promoting healthy lifestyles as a part of their marketing efforts.
- Pfizer – Get Healthy Stay Healthy program
- Merck Consumer Care – Active Family Project
- Eli Lilly – Lilly for Better Health
- Janssen – Care4Today
2. Using digital technologies to connect with stakeholders
Thanks to the Internet, information is readily available. Patients have access to innumerable apps that enable individuals to be more involved in the treatment process. We have gadgets to monitor blood pressure, sugar and apps to remind patients of important deadlines. So much so that technological companies such as Apple, Google, GE and Samsung are foraying into the healthcare domain with fancy and powerful devices. Traditional means of communication is changing. Technology is increasingly used for activities that include clinical trials, logging and sharing of medical information and so on.
3. Working with big data to follow real-world patient outcomes
Finally, big data provides an enormous opportunity for R & D as well as patient care. Electronic medical record systems enable sophisticated data sharing and processing techniques that enable medical practitioners to collaborate, share and provide better services to the end user. The enormous biological data will enable medical service providers to study, analyze data and prescribe personalized medicines. The focus has shifted to the individual who is in the center of the treatment.
Given these dramatic changes in the pharma sector, there is a need to change the way day-to-day operations are conducted in the sector and that includes training. It is no longer sufficient to have traditional classroom sessions, workshops or on-the-job trainings as done traditionally. These have to be smartly integrated with technology to provide more hands-on training that is ongoing and available just when needed.
There are many companies that have already adopted new technologies for training their workforce.
- FDA has uploaded several online courses on a range of topics that can be accessed by people in the industry, consumers as well as specialists.
- Regulations and laws are regularly updated and information is posted in multiple formats – PDF documents, videos, case-studies and so on.
- Mobile applications are being developed for the benefit of patient care givers and sales representatives to provide on-demand information on a particular drug.
- Tablets are given to sales representatives to educate doctors about a new drug or research in the domain.
E-learning is central to all these initiatives and has become the most essential and important part of the training curriculum to ensure that employees are trained regularly as and when required. Given the numerous challenges facing the pharma sector, effective training is one ways to equip employees to successfully sail through the challenges. It includes the following.
- Employee-centric training: Just as the pharma sector has moved away from being product-centric to customer-centric, so also organizations need to become employee-centric in the sense – they need to understand the varied needs of employees at various levels and provide customized training. One size does not fit all and courses have to be tailor-made to suit the individual needs and requirements.
- Use of digital technologies: Blended learning has to be adopted to include a seamless integration of classroom training, webinars, virtual classrooms, eLearning and mLearning that uses of digital technologies and gadgets.
- Managing big data: Finally, companies need to have a powerful Learning Management System (LMS) that is able to coordinate multiple training efforts from a central location. It should also be able to provide big data that analyzes the success of a training initiative and generate reports that help plan future training programs.
What has been your experience about training in the pharma sector? Do you have interesting anecdotes or examples that can be shared here? Please let us know.