Delivering a better eDetail: Strategy-led user-centred methodology in practice

Stuart Goodman, Anna Tamasi|6th May 2016

Pharma doesn’t know its customers. Sound familiar?

At Blue Latitude Health, we’ve written extensively about the fact that, whilst there is a gradually increasing recognition within healthcare that patient centricity is key, pharmaceutical companies continue to produce services, solutions and importantly digital offerings without fully understanding, or understanding at all, the customer and their needs.

We see time and time again the development of solutions that are being built purely to meet business objectives, or satisfy internal powers-that-be whose budgets and need for fast results dictate their decision-making. Unfortunately this lack of alignment with the many other stakeholders involved in the system (patient, doctor, sales rep) results in solutions that are likely to have a dramatically reduced return on investment and cause the disruptive frustration that is becoming increasingly prevalent in healthcare.

However, it’s not as simple as it sounds to develop something that meets the different needs of so many different people. Whose needs do you prioritise? How will this solution fit in amongst the many other touchpoints they have with your brand? What does success for each stakeholder even look like?

That’s why adopting a user-centred methodology is critical, and more importantly, adopting one that is led by a solid strategy.

If we delve into a very practical example of the deliverable stage of an electronic detail aid for sales reps, it’s possible to see the benefits made possible, for the customer and company alike, if strategy underpins every decision made.


Briefing phase – setting up for success

If you want to turn around at the end of your project with a deliverable that exceeds expectations, you need strategy from the start. The briefing phase is where you will put in the groundwork that will ensure all stakeholders are satisfied with the end product. It involves collecting the many different inputs – customer insight (including market research), business objectives, budget and time available, any other critical considerations – and turning these into a comprehensive and yet concise document for your team. This document will be the ‘Bible’ for your project.  

A few potential inputs and considerations that should be considered in our eDetail example include:

  1. Business objectives: what is the overarching goal for this project? How does this translate into S.M.A.R.T. objectives and who is responsible for tracking the success of these? What does success even look like from a KPI and metric point of view?
  2. Customer insight: how do our target healthcare professionals (HCPs) currently behave, and how do we want them to behave? What are the underlying motivators behind these mind-sets? What are their critical information needs, and how do they like to receive information from a sales rep? How long do reps have with physicians? What sort of functionalities are critical during their calls? How do they like to consume and exchange information, and store knowledge received?
  3. Alignment with overarching brand and/or campaign strategy: how does this eDetail fit within the many other touchpoints the customer has with our brand? Are we telling a consistent and integrated story across all channels? What’s in the pipeline that we need to consider for the future?

Even at a glance it’s possible to see just how critical having a solid strategic plan is – without it, you risk heading down a track that only offers irrelevance, misconceptions and frustration for the customer.

Development phase – understanding what works and what doesn’t

You would be forgiven for thinking that the remit of strategy stops at the door once a project goes into development, as this is often where key stakeholders such as clients and strategic planners lose their close exposure to what’s going on. However, whilst this phase is dominated by the creative services and user experience (UX) teams, it’s incredibly important for strategy to remain involved.

The development of an eDetail is not a simple process, and almost never one that is successfully achieved the first time round. That’s why wireframing, prototyping, testing and other iterative processes found in a UX methodology are so vital – they help build a validated solution that is based on data and not opinion. And yet, what if the evidence we uncover throughout these solutions changes some of the fundamental components of the brief?

For example, what if we reveal that reps actually prefer to have a smaller eDetail with limited content for prompting only, to empower rather than direct their conversations? That 100+ page monster you were looking to build suddenly doesn’t seem so appropriate. Or what if that key website you were planning on sending them through the eDetail suddenly gets shut down? Where’s the next best place we should be sending them to?

The insights don’t need to be as drastic as this, but the principle remains the same. Strategy needs to remain involved in the development phase so as to ensure that the project is able to pivot in the right direction as it continues to progress.

Launch phase – executing with excellence

Deployment of your eDetail. This is where all the hard work comes together (and hopefully pays off if your multidisciplinary project team have all effectively played their part). And yet even at this very last stage, we see strategy being the lynchpin for a successful launch.

Whilst most likely already tackled earlier on in the project flow, we now need to consider how to roll out the eDetail. What does this look like? For a regional team, which markets will you prioritise and over what time frame will you distribute? For a local team, how do you communicate to your reps that a new eDetail is available, and ensure that they’ve set it up and are using it correctly? These are questions that can only be answered through proper consideration and coordination with other stakeholders.

Last, but by no means least, is the analysis and interpretation of data coming out of use of the eDetail. This data will inform the KPIs you established during the briefing phase, and when collated with other information such as uptake, qualitative feedback, cost-effectiveness will inform whether your project has been a success. Importantly, it will enable you to make informed decisions about what needs to be changed (if anything) to improve performance, or establish baselines for future projects.

The point of difference

In an age of digitally-empowered and time-poor physicians, providing generic or ill-informed digital solutions is a fast track to losing customer engagement and loyalty. In order to provide genuine value, pharma companies must use a strategy-led UX methodology to ensure they are addressing their customer’s needs as well as their own.

Executing successful strategy-led eDetail launches, and indeed many other projects where we solve real (and not perceived!) problems for our customers, is our point of difference here at Blue Latitude Health. Get in touch at

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