How the pandemic has changed one pharma company

A fresh perspective - how the pandemic changed one pharma company

Lee Gittings, Psoriasis Business Unit Director at LEO Pharma, answers Pf’s questions and shares how the pandemic has changed one pharma company from the inside out.

How has the pandemic affected your organisation?
On 16 March 2020, in response to COVID-19, we instructed all our UK field teams to cease traditional face-to-face activity with our HCP customers. Life has never been the same since. After an intense period of training, coaching and practice, we were ready to go live with virtual customer engagement on 1 May. Naturally, the teams were nervous about the new and challenging environment but as feedback from the early calls started to come in, the momentum and excitement grew. Since then, we have exited 2020 delivering an overall increase on our total calls in 2019 by 2%. This has been through a mixture of telephone, remote and face-to-face activity, as we have adapted to our ever-changing environment.

Covid has challenged many organisations worldwide and, whilst on this front we are not any different, I believe that the way in which we have come together and flown in the face of the everyday challenges, big and small, is really something to be proud of. The pandemic has accelerated an evolution of digital and multichannel activities at a rate that we had not anticipated. The whole organisation came together to rise to the challenge and we have become a more effective and efficient business as a result.

“Covid has shown us what this industry is truly capable of when it works in alignment and in collaboration with the NHS”

What were the greatest challenges you faced initially?
Our biggest challenge was that we did not have remote calling capabilities in our field force. The NHS had to transform overnight to deal with the pandemic and the best thing we could do was stay away from our customers for the short term. This was at odds with our whole ethos and raised many questions, including ‘What does our field force do if it is not seeing customers?’ As with many industries, there was uncertainty around how long this pandemic would last and what the impact would be on our business and, most importantly, our patients. Initially, our internal digital infrastructure was not ready to deal with the level of remote activity we needed to sustain our customer engagement.

What steps did you take to overcome these challenges?
A Covid task force was assembled overnight with one key objective – to adapt at pace to our new external environment. As a result of our fast action, our IT system was upgraded to a more sophisticated package, with the tools to propel our remote calling capabilities. We shared our knowledge and best practice across the organisation to ensure we supported our teams, customers and patients. We upskilled our teams on NHS knowledge, account planning and remote calling capability. We dramatically accelerated the development of our digital campaigns to make them relevant to the current climate and to support the NHS.

What feedback have you received from HCPs and patients on the changes you made?
The feedback once we were able to interact with our HCPs again was overwhelming. They appreciated that we had stepped back when required and engaged reactively to support them. Our enhanced digital materials and assets were very well received. Primary Care HCPs could not thank us enough for our online education and the feedback was very positive. Secondary Care HCPs congratulated us on what we had achieved and told us they had got a lot out of the meetings and conferences we organised. We had delivered on our commitment to be partners to the NHS in dermatology and ensure an undisturbed supply of treatments to our patients.

How did 2020 shape your plans for 2021?
2020 was a challenging but rewarding year. We have adapted, innovated and grown in terms of our collaborations and cross-functional working. Covid has shown us what this industry is truly capable of when it works in alignment and in collaboration with the NHS. In 2021, we hope to continue to utilise various methods of HCP interaction, as our field force has now evolved to a hybrid structure. We have also launched our sustainability strategy, where LEO Pharma teams across the global organisation are committed to sustainability pledges, from reducing plastics to driving fully electric cars. Our Covid learnings have provided us with an array of channels to empower our interactions, both internally and externally, to ensure we accelerate our growth as a leader in medical dermatology towards our 2030 strategy.

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