This blog post was originally published in RX Data News

This month our feature interview is with Floren Robinson Pressman, a Managing Director in the Life Science practice at Accenture. While a great deal of attention has been paid to the uses of artificial intelligence in areas like drug discovery, the technology is also poised to revolutionize the commercial side of the pharmaceutical business. Recently, Accenture has released a report on this very issue. Ms. Pressman was kind enough to break these issues down and go in-depth in this exclusive Rx Data News interview.

Rx Data News: In your recently released report it is noted that while AI has been pursued in the context of R&D for the last decade, the commercial side of the business has been slower in this regard. Why has this been the case and why is this changing now?

Ms. Pressman: Accenture sees three major reasons for the slower uptake:

    1. The lion’s share of pharma promotional strategy and investment has been focused on the interaction between physician and sales representative. This hasn’t lent itself to companies thinking about how to use AI technology to simplify, automate and identify deeper insights.
    2. Even as the industry has matured into multi-channel campaign management and digital engagement, it has lagged other industries in terms of the need for true personalization. Still largely believing that the “science sells”, many companies struggle to define the ROI for marketing. And because meaningful data is often sparse or hard to come by, the bulk of their investment has not been in cutting-edge commercial capabilities.
    3. As the industry further pivots toward patient services, many organizations are underfunded and still struggling to demonstrate ROI on basic service offerings. Investments in more sophisticated service models with embedded AI have largely been limited to experimental/ pilot stage or a single solution for a single brand in a single market. It is changing now, simply because the commercial side has to change and needs to more actively drive innovation and achieve outcomes such as hyper-personalized experiences, new sources of growth, and new levels of efficiency. Overall, AI can take the operational burden out of the system so that the organization can focus on the things that really matter—delivering solutions (products and supporting services) that help patients and providers improve health outcomes in more economically viable ways.

Rx Data News: What are some of the ways that Life Sciences companies can improve commercial operations through utilizing AI?

Ms. Pressman: There are many applications of AI in the commercial space that can significantly accelerate growth, profitability and sustainability. Recognizing when and where AI can be most effective is a vital first step towards applying AI in commercial. Accenture identified four applications:

    1. Intelligent automation which handles time-intensive/redundant tasks to drive increased profitability.
    2. Enhanced judgement which augments human decision-making and can drive growth by improving the quality and efficiently of business intelligence.
    3. Enhanced interaction to deliver superior customer experiences through dynamic interactions, personalizations and real-time content.
    4. Intelligent products to accelerate growth by creating intelligent / digital therapeutics while unlocking a new kind of value proposition for payers.

Rx Data News: How can AI be used to enhance judgement in marketing operations?

Ms. Pressman: AI will be leveraged to enhance judgement in marketing operations and to augment, but not replace, human judgment most notably in that there can be many complexities to each marketing decision. AI will bring with it new criteria for success: collaboration capabilities, information sharing, experimentation, learning and decision-making effectiveness. Organizations will have to develop training and recruitment strategies for creativity, collaboration, empathy, and judgment skills. Enterprises will have to develop a diverse workforce and team of managers that balance experience with creative and social intelligence — each side complementing the other to support sound collective judgment. An AI system will be able to support decisions through real-time and up-to-date data gathering, forecasting, and trend analysis. AI technology isn’t the end but only a means towards effectiveness and efficiency, improved innovative capabilities, and better opportunities.

Rx Data News: Regarding sales operations, how can AI be used to engage physicians?

Ms. Pressman: The same thinking applies in that AI will augment, but not replace human judgement and this becomes even more important when discussing the inter-related role between AI and physicians. Accenture believes that AI does have the promise to impact nearly every aspect of primary care. With AI as a technology that can mimic human thought processes by finding patterns then using what it finds to make decisions, AI for example is capable of screening patients, offering diagnoses, and suggesting optimal treatments as well as triaging patient inquires and processing patient claims. Logically thinking, with AI taking up the role of interpreting data, this could free up more time for higher value activities.

Rx Data News: How can AI help improve patient engagement and what benefits does this bring to life sciences companies?

Ms. Pressman: Accenture believes that AI will enable pharmaceutical companies to provide better experiences and information so that the patient stays on their products and in turn achieve better outcomes The promise of AI will be to improve the patient experience by anticipating patient needs which could include everything from services to content information to help them manage their condition and lifestyle; providing patients with the next-best actions that are personalized to them. AI also has the capacity to offer more convenient care. In fact patients are becoming more welcoming of technology integrated into the healthcare encounter, showing that patient preferences are leaning less toward human interaction and more toward convenient care, according to Accenture’s 2018 Consumer Survey on Digital Health.

Rx Data News: Can you provide some concrete examples of life science companies taking advantage of AI in commercial operations today?

Ms. Pressman: Earlier this year Accenture introduced Ella and Ethan, two interactive virtual-assistant bots that use AI to constantly learn and make intelligent recommendations for interactions between life sciences companies, patients, HCPs and caregivers and are designed to deliver a more personalized patient experience and better patient support. By leveraging AI, life sciences companies have the capacity to allow patients to actively participate in their own care, leading to improved care delivery and health outcomes. Two examples that come to mind are Eularis and Boehringer Ingelheim. Eularis, has developed solutions that use AI to increase sales and revenue for pharma companies. These include E-VAI, a cloud-based marketing analytics platform which can learn from the success of marketing campaigns over the past decade and effectively mimic them and apply them to new product. Boehringer Ingelheim, for instance, has launched a website for its animal health business that uses AI to optimize and personalize the experience for vets by learning users’ habits though pattern recognition technology. The site can provide personalized search re-sults based on each user’s search history and preferences (much like Amazon does in the retail space).

Read Accenture’s full report: Use AI to raise the life sciences commercial IQ

Floren Robinson Pressman

Managing Director – Life Sciences

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