Digital transformation: The pharmaceutical sector is changing

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is affecting all industry sectors, including the pharmaceutical one which has been slow to integrate digital technologies. This delay can be explained by the sensitive and highly regulated nature of the business. However, for the past two years, this sector has been undergoing a digital revolution to address the health crisis and make its services more accessible.    

In this article, we will discover the business growth opportunities that digital technology offers to pharmaceutical companies.   

Pharmaceutical Industry Overview   

In a country driven by innovation, the pharmaceutical industry is one of the main sectors of the Swiss economy, with leading groups such as Novartis and Roche.   

In 2020, according to an Interpharma study, the pharmaceutical industry represented 5.4% of the gross value added created in Switzerland. It has contributed to the creation of 47,500 direct jobs and has also indirectly enabled the creation of 209,000 jobs in other sectors, due to its need for intermediate services.  

Interpharma also highlighted that the pharmaceutical sector accounts for 45% of exports in Switzerland, which is more than their export of chocolate, cheese, and watches combined, making it an important economic sector in the country.  

Now let’s talk about the online sale of medication. Indeed, all pharmacists registered with the National Order of Pharmacists, have had the right to sell medication on the internet since December 2012. However, this online practice is highly regulated.  

An online pharmacy is an extension of the pharmacy. The rules imposed on pharmacists are the same as those in a pharmacy. In other words, the pharmacist who owns the pharmacy is responsible for the content that the website publishes and for the conditions of the online sale of medication.  

With more than 260,000 health apps worldwide and 70% of patient organizations using at least one app to manage their health (according to a Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions study), the pharmaceutical e-commerce market is undergoing a major transformation. The health constraints linked to Covid-19 have notably encouraged pharmacists to become local e-commerce players by selling essential medications online, while ensuring the security of distribution, with the help of digital tools such as e-commerce websites, mobile applications, etc. 

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Let’s take the example of Pharmao; an application launched in 2016. It now includes more than 365 pharmacies across France. The concept is simple: just choose your pharmacy and scan your prescription or select your pharmaceutical products, then you can have them delivered directly to your home address. For the public at large, the service’s free availability and simplicity are key benefits. In addition, it offers a variety of services, from creating a customizable click and collect service to online pharmacy appointments and consultations. Although home delivery is provided and sales are made online, proximity to patients in the pharmacy remains a priority. A chat room also allows customers to stay in touch with the pharmacy of their choice.   

The challenges of pharmaceutical digital transformation:   

  • Patients are the primary target of digital:   

Almost all pharmaceutical companies are already using digital tools for patients. The challenge is to identify the real needs of patients and to choose the most appropriate communication channel according to their profile. Indeed, a patient-centered approach is essential. The knowledge gained from listening to them can be used at every stage of the process, from discovery and manufacturing to post-marketing therapeutic management. By engaging directly with patients and involving them in the entire pharmaceutical value chain, pharmaceutical companies can reinvent their business and operational model to revitalize the industry and remain relevant, profitable, and sustainable.    

  • The digitalization of the relationship with healthcare professionals:  

Healthcare professionals are no exception to the current shift towards digital tools.   

Today, manufacturers use different channels to communicate with prescribers, whether it be e-mails, websites, social networks, web conferences, or applications.  

The Merck laboratory is now a leader in its use of digital for healthcare professionals. In fact, in addition to having the best-known medical information and training web portal in France called Univadis, Merck also offers a website, MSD Connect, that is dedicated to facilitating interactions between doctors and laboratories. Furthermore, Merck has now developed Comuniti, a social network that is entirely dedicated to healthcare professionals.    

  • The human aspect must remain present:  

Pharmacists must retain their essential role and maintain a human connection with their customers. Digital technology must therefore be used to help pharmacists to confront the growing market competition while maintaining a close link to their customers at the same time. The evolution of e-health must not drive patients and customers away from the pharmacy or affect their relationship of trust. The challenge here is to connect these two worlds in the best possible way to satisfy patients’ needs by simplifying certain tasks and saving them time. 

Digital communication in the pharmaceutical industry  

The health crisis has impacted pharmaceutical companies and health actors have turned to digital communication to meet the new expectations of patients. Here are some of the digital healthcare trends on the rise: 

  • Communicate with short and relevant content that is easy to assimilate 

With the rise of the Internet, which has created an infobesity of information on the health sector, “snack content” has been democratized. It aims to facilitate the assimilation of information, especially in the context of the health crisis. Snack content is micro-content that has the key objective of generating interest in a few seconds via a video, a visual, or a GIF. It is best when you wish to communicate short, relevant, and attractive information.   

In 2021, the content remains king and is the key priority of digital marketing across all sectors, including the health sector. It is important to have a strong content strategy to highlight expertise around different themes, differentiate from the competition, generate traffic as well as increase engagement, and encourage interactions.   

To do this, we recommend that you focus on educational content that can answer frequently asked questions. Address topics via white papers, eBooks, and podcasts with doctors and specialists. Cover specific problems through key case studies and blog articles with health tips, etc. The key is to produce content that is quick to access, easy to understand, and useful for the user.  

If you operate in the pharmaceutical sector and are looking for help to set up your digital content strategy, click the link below to get in touch with us today:  

  • Marketing automation  

Marketing automation allows you to automatically program certain marketing tasks according to predefined scenarios or according to certain activities of the Internet user on the website. Often integrated with email marketing or CRM solutions, it allows companies to meet the increasing requirements of personalization. Marketing automation has many advantages, including time-saving, an increase in customer satisfaction with quick responses, and an expansion of the customer database.   

A healthcare company can use a scenario based on the patient’s buying journey. This journey is composed of 4 main phases:  

  • The discovery phase  
  • The evaluation phase  
  • The decision phase  
  • The loyalty phase  


Once installed, the marketing automation software will be able to segment your contacts according to these four phases, and then adapt the content communicated according to the stage the contact is in. With this technique, pharmaceutical companies can send targeted and personalized content and offers to the right contact at the right time.  

At Eminence, we provide you with the latest marketing automation technologies, thanks to our partner SALESmanago, who are one of the leading marketing automation providers in Europe.  

  • The health podcast: a trending format  

Since 2019, there has been a rise in the number of podcast series on audio streaming platforms (such as Spotify, Deezer, Apple, etc.).  

The world of healthcare is no exception to this trend. There have been several podcast initiatives in 2020 related to medical news and patient support. Many healthcare companies are turning to this mode of communication to tackle different topics in the field, including the daily life of patients, their practice in healthcare, health tips, and digital innovations in the health sector.  

This content format also allows companies to shed light on a specific health topic, broadcast patient testimonials on disease management, give healthcare professionals a voice, and provide people with insightful advice in the healthcare sector.  

People interested in your podcasts can subscribe to your networks, which will allow you to grow your community. An interesting health podcast can reach and gather a highly qualified audience. However, don’t forget to promote your content well on the different social networks to increase your visibility. 

  • Gamification:  

In recent years, gamification has also become a rising trend in the healthcare sector.  

Whether it is to highlight prevention, offer patient support, or training for health professionals, gamification can be used to communicate different aspects related to health. The main ones are Serious Games, these are a subgenre of serious storytelling, where storytelling is applied outside the context of entertainment. The goal is to combine a serious subject on learning, communication, information, etc., with a playful means, inspired by video games and the gaming world.  

Pulse was one of the first Serious Games in the medical field. Designed in the United States, it allows nurses and doctors to be trained by putting them in the situation of treating a patient. Other Serious Games have since emerged in France, such as SimUrgences, designed for emergency physicians and cardiologists to manage cardiac emergencies.  

The digitalization of the pharmaceutical industry is still in its infancy. With the behavioral changes that have occurred in the past few years with the health crisis, digital solutions offer a strong potential for the various players in the healthcare field. If you are interested in the digitalization of your pharmaceutical company, you can contact our experts today by clicking on this link: