April 30, 2021

Why life science teams are keeping – and expanding – their virtual strategies

Life science teams won’t go back to business as usual, even as the world returns to normal.

What have life science teams learned from a year of COVID-mandated virtual engagement? As we begin to emerge from isolation, pharma and medtech organizations find themselves at an inflection point: will virtual or hybrid engagement be your fallback, or a critical part of your future business strategy?

In the early months of the pandemic, life science teams learned they could get by with basic virtual engagement tools. But getting by isn’t a sustainable strategy, and many teams took steps to evolve how they approached virtual interaction.

So how did the most successful teams get work done with contributors around the globe, many unable to travel? Email, Zoom, Webex, Slack – all useful tools, but not terribly strategic. The ubiquitous virtual platforms are good for short messages or one-way scenarios like presenting, but not for collaborative work that delivers a product at the end of a process.

And while the tools at our fingertips are easy to use, they don’t capture nuanced, candid conversations that generate high value insights – especially the casual, peer-to-peer discussions that typically occur on the fringes of legacy in-person events. (Those conversations, by the way, are difficult for in-person event organizers to capture, too.)

So what were the key takeaways that will drive life science teams to double down on digital?

Focus on the audience

Advantages gained by teams using end-to-end virtual engagement platforms had much to do with centering the users, whether those were HCPs, patients, sales reps, or other internal and external stakeholders. By starting with what worked best for participants – anytime participation, access from any connected device, and perhaps most importantly, no need to sign into a video call – pharma and medical device teams benefited from more actionable insights, easier scheduling and logistics, controlled costs, shorter development timelines, and more diverse perspectives from a guest list that could include anyone anywhere in the world.

If KOL sentiment is any indication, the ability to provide expert input without significantly altering day-to-day activities is a powerful driver of virtual work. As a critical audience for pharmaceutical and medical device organizations, KOL preference is likely to put virtual engagement at the center of any insight-gathering strategy.

The future of face-to-face is targeted and tactical

The rise of virtual doesn’t mean an end to physical meetings, but it does enable life science teams to be more strategic about how to deploy face-to-face events – and how to increase their value with virtual elements. Prior to the pandemic, one of our clients followed up an eight-hour, in-person advisory board meeting with a two-week over-time session in order to adequately gather detailed feedback for a complex, multi-faceted clinical R&D initiative. This type of engagement is likely to become increasingly common as teams gravitate toward more agile engagement models.

In fact, our clients have indicated that the strides they made using virtual work during the pandemic will change the face of their engagement strategy. “If and when we are able to go back to onsite, in-person, live advisory boards,” said one team lead, “we will certainly use Within3 for pre-event planning, question development and post-event insight gathering and discussion”

The right tool is the one that gets the work done

The pandemic challenged many of us to complete our usual work under challenging circumstances – working in ad hoc home offices, caring for family members, and dealing with a high degree of uncertainty. Amid the chaos, life science organizations naturally gravitated to a virtual work platform that streamlined and accelerated their work.

As circumstances at work and home return to a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, pharmaceutical and medical device teams will retain whatever helps them work more efficiently. By focusing on the audience, augmenting face-to-face engagements with virtual elements, and choosing a platform that speeds the pace of work, life science teams will prioritize a virtual-first strategy going forward.

To learn how a pharma medical affairs team increased the value of an in-person advisory board with a parallel asynchronous session, read the customer success story. Or, understand how a medical device team combined real-time and over-time virtual elements to gather insights and impressions of a new portable medical device.