NEW YORK: Pfizer, the healthcare giant, is increasing its use of digital tools from data analytics to tablets as it responds to changes transforming the pharma industry.

The company is currently integrating its analytics systems on a global basis, covering everything from in-house information to secondary market research, category statistics and management science.

"What I'm seeing, from an organisation perspective, is more of a focus on understanding what the data are telling us in order to use resources in the most efficient and effective way possible," David Kreutter, Pfizer's VP, US commercial operations, told MIT Sloan.

"We're at a point where we can't ignore any data telling us about the effectiveness of our business strategies. The stakes are just too high, and the resources to allocate aren't the same as they were before."

More broadly, physicians now have access to vast amounts of material online, as do consumers, with major knock-on consequences for all pharma manufacturers.

"Physicians don't need a sales representative to deliver a package insert for a product," Kreutter said. "Patients have become more empowered and more accountable for their own healthcare. The whole industry, the whole healthcare ecosystem, is in flux."

Another factor behind the wider trend of moving away from monitoring the outcomes of promotions and towards shaping execution and decision-making using data analytics and digital tools is the sheer volume of information available.

Kreutter said: "As we've evolved from a paper-based interaction model to a digital-interaction model and a multi-channel model, we're getting a huge amount of information from our interactions with our customers."

For example, when physicians visit Pfizer's website, it is able to assess the exact content they read, and for how long, but the challenge lies in translating such insights into tangible metrics.

"That's really what we're trying to focus on now: can we detect patterns early-on, or at least much earlier than prescription writing, that will allow us to adapt more quickly to our customers' needs as well as to the competitive environment?" said Kreutter.

In a further demonstration of the impact of new technologies, Pfizer has equipped members of its sales teams with tablets when presenting to physicians, enabling the company to guarantee they utilise the most up-to-date materials.

Kreutter said: "Tablet PCs help Pfizer track how sales representatives are delivering the recommended content ... Now that we're in a digital operating model, we have an opportunity to ensure greater compliance controls and detailing effectiveness."

Data sourced from MIT Sloan; additional content by Warc staff