Pharma companies should arm their sales force with tablet devices to track and strengthen the interactions between sales reps and healthcare providers.

In light of the increasing use of mobile phones and tablet devices (such as iPads) among physicians and healthcare providers (HCP), the healthcare industry has an unprecedented opportunity to arm sales forces with tools that drive better customer engagement with personalized content and, what’s more, to track all interactions between the sales rep and HCP.

According to a recent report by the pharmaceutical and healthcare services firm Manhattan Research, the adoption rate among physicians for tablet devices nearly doubled between 2011 and 2012, from 35% to 63%. And among those tablet owners, over half of HCPs selected the iPad as their preferred device. While the iPad alone offers a number of useful functions such as geo-location, augmented reality, FaceTime, touch screen and more, its real power comes from leveraging the iPad’s built-in functionalities to build personalized content on an integrated CRM platform to track the interactions between sales reps and HCPs. It’s easy to understand why the iPad has become the “it” device.

Recognizing the transformative impact of mobile and tablet devices, a number of pharma companies have mandated enterprise- wide integration of iPads across their sales forces. To drive engagement between the sales reps and HCPs, the iPad needs to integrate with sales force effectiveness (SFE) tools.

To do this, pharma needs to partner with a service provider to implement a cloud-based CRM application that can then be loaded with content tailored to the individual brand’s specific needs and developed by an interactive agency partner. The SFE should be an integrated CRM platform with built-in closed loop marketing to support ongoing optimization of message/experience and increase sales force productivity. The platform should also be agile and easy to maneuver, with a repository of customized assets that a sales rep can quickly access during a sales call to address questions from the HCP.

While the role of the SFE platform itself is undeniably important, where the iPad truly comes to life—and where I believe the real potential lies—is the strength of the content and architecture of the user experience. Not only should content be personally relevant, but it also needs to be intuitive and accessible to the user. In the case of SFE tools, a sales rep should be able to personalize the content of each sales call. In fact, when we talk about the concept of delivering personalized experiences, what we’re really talking about is beyond brand message delivery. It’s really about brand experience. By creating meaningful interactions between sales reps and HCPs, we are creating more accurate and reliable data that can be used to develop materials for future sales calls that drive greater engagement.

The future of SFE’s lies in the very idea of customer services and creating an integrated user experience that brings together product and services including medical resources, sampling, and practice management. At the touch of their fingers, users will have access to information that takes into account their preferences to tailor experiences, thus ensuring that each touch point between the sales rep and HCP is maximized. There’s no doubt that this is the direction in which the industry is headed, and before long the iPad will be adopted by the entire pharma industry.

As we forge ahead, we need to continue developing content that drives interaction. Without engaging content, we’ll miss the mark on the data we collect. Content that connects with users is a non-negotiable requirement needed to deliver results that drive transformative change. Do this by first understanding the needs of your sales force and then by developing marketing materials based on those insights. While the iPad is a powerful tool, it is important to remember that ultimately it is just a platform. What makes it valuable is the ability to integrate built-in functionalities with CRM, closed loop marketing, and of course a personalized approach to developing content that drives engagement.

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