13th annual Pharma Japan Conference Virtual

Sep 1, 2020 - Sep 4, 2020, Digital Conference, Networking & Exhibition

Where Japanese pharma will decide their future. The healthcare landscape is evolving and pharma must evolve with it. That’s why we have ensured that our agenda features great insights on how to achieve high effectiveness with limited time and resources

The key to digital innovation: The human touch

Takeda is building on strong stakeholder relationships it has nurtured patiently over time to co-create solutions during COVID-19



In a country sitting on top of four tectonic plates, Japanese companies are perhaps more ready than most to respond to natural disasters. 
 
As COVID-19 spread across the region, disaster readiness paid off. With pandemic scenarios tested in annual exercises, Jovelle Fernandez, Head of Japan Medical Office at Takeda Pharmaceutical, had a plan to reach for. But no plan can anticipate every eventuality and responding to events with flexibility and imagination also proved important. 
 
One aspect of the COVID-19 crisis that caught everyone off guard was the extent and scale of the impact of social distancing. Teams working in a fast-paced environment form grooves and rhythms for communication and rapid collaboration. For Fernandez, it was an immediate priority to find creative ways to recreate this atmosphere. 
 
She’s taken several steps to replicate a regularity of interaction within her team, from virtual coffee hangouts, making herself available for 1-1s and appointing people to regularly check-in with peers and help keep spirits high. It’s also been a key priority to clearly communicate essential updates on company adaptations to COVID-19.
 
“We have to prioritize the safety of not just our employees but also the external stakeholders we engage with, and to ensure that we aren’t in fact being a burden.” 
Ensuring the way Takeda engaged externally was sensitive to stakeholder needs was just as important. Sensitivity and empathy towards the issues that an individual might be contending with during a crisis is a critical attitude when it comes to engaging your stakeholders, says Fernandez. “We have to prioritize the safety of not just our employees but also the external stakeholders we engage with, and to ensure that we aren’t in fact being a burden.” 
 
In the rapid rush to digital engagement, driven by the need to stay present as in-person channels closed, many across industry made the mistake of inundating HCPs with requests for virtual meetings. This of course came at the exact moment when HCPs were overwhelmed with dealing with a healthcare crisis. 
 
Offering value to external stakeholders 
Discovering relevance and creating value through remote, largely digital interaction, has been the top priority for externally facing teams across industry. While projects that demand face-to-face interaction are off the table, new doors have opened. 
 
Fernandez highlights several important new areas of opportunity for collaboration, including greater use and uptake of telemedicine, the chance to help stakeholders engage with changing patient needs and the increased demand from patients for trusted sources of disease information. 
 
The area of hottest interest has been telemedicine: an area that until now has been heavily restricted in East Asia but there is increasing potential to pursue it in Japan. While telemedicine reimbursement was previously highly restricted on national insurance, attitudes are now changing. 
 
The pandemic has eroded resistance to remote healthcare, there is now a good opportunity for the industry to re-evaluate opportunities and explore ways to prove value, she says.
 
Creating Partnerships 
Delivering value through digital innovation can only be done if it is built on solid partnerships, says Fernandez. Without strong relationships with the external stakeholders that you are designing for, you can never be sure that you’re solving a genuine need, says Fernandez.
 
Sometimes, this also means letting go of your darlings. “I'm not shy of pulling out of a pilot if I believe we provide a burden rather than a support to the patients,” Fernandez says. 
 
“Even though we need to act with that sense of urgency, we also need to be aware of the importance of cautiousness and not lose touch with our main objective.”
 
“I want to make sure that we [ask] ‘is this something that is needed? Is this really something that could be possible? Is this really something that will fill a gap?’ It’s important not just to impose [a solution] or say, ‘we have to do this because we believe that's needed’. Instead, always be in listening mode.”
 
Nimbleness means balancing urgency with caution 
When trying to innovate digitally in Medical affairs, Fernandez believes there is a lot to learn from the role of the surgeon - her profession by training. In many instances the surgeon has to act quickly to provide the solution, and they cannot do the surgery alone. They need someone to hand them the scalpel, to help monitor the vital signs and so on. 
 
“I need people around me and I need to listen to what they're saying,” says Fernandez. “Even though we need to act with that sense of urgency, we also need to be aware of the importance of cautiousness and not lose touch with our main objective.” 
 
Creating effective partnerships in digital innovation is also driven by sincerity. A big factor in why Fernandez’s team have been able to stay engaged with external stakeholders during COVID-19, she believes, is because the relationships have a long legacy based on trust and solid values. 
 
“We built our credibility and trust because we were working and continue to do our job responsibly based on values,” says Fernandez. “That's very, very important, rather than being seen as somebody with a hidden agenda, you have to put credibility at the forefront.”
 

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13th annual Pharma Japan Conference Virtual

Sep 1, 2020 - Sep 4, 2020, Digital Conference, Networking & Exhibition

Where Japanese pharma will decide their future. The healthcare landscape is evolving and pharma must evolve with it. That’s why we have ensured that our agenda features great insights on how to achieve high effectiveness with limited time and resources