Digital health and technologies offer a wealth of opportunities, but digital needs to become part of a company’s DNA to achieve transformation. Rodamni Peppa, Boston Scientific’s vice-president for business strategy & commercial excellence for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, gives insight into a four-year digital journey with Dr Paul Tunnah at the 2021 Frontiers Health conference in Milan.
Digital transformation has long been heralded the future of health. Supercharged by COVID-19 necessity, it has become the buzz phrase that slots swiftly into any debate about the future of pharma and healthcare.
Although it features in every forward-thinking analysis and wish list, it is rare to get an insight into what that means across a company, from factory or laboratory floor to boardroom and how a company’s mechanics – often established over decades of practice – can be re-tuned for a digital age.
The internal overhaul is often the missing piece in digital calibration. Boston Scientific’s vice-president for business strategy & commercial excellence for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Rodamni Peppa reveals that it is not as simple as flicking a switch to light up performance. Instead, it takes strategic thinking, practical assessments, meticulous planning, engagement and hard work across a range of metrics.
“My job in the last four or five years has focused dramatically on digital; how do we bring the right messages to the right customers at the right time, and there was no better tool than digital to bring that forward,” says Peppa.
“Digital transformation is anything digital that could impact the value chain of an organisation from R&D across to customer service. So, any tool, any technology that brings disruption and a different and more efficient way of doing things in any of these areas that a company operates is what I call digital transformation.
“Digital health is how you can impact healthcare, how you can treat patients better, how you can treat more patients and bring better outcomes through the use of digital means.”
It’s a laser-sharp focus, one that has been honed at the coalface of change where the new words of digital transformation must be put into practice.
With its heritage of innovation and leading-edge technology in creating medical devices packed with scientific elegance, it’s easy to think that Boston Scientific would have a head start.
“We are making minimally invasive state-of-the-art technologies, so innovation is part of what we do every day, it’s in our DNA, but digital innovation is not something that was as natural for us” observes Peppa. “We were born to make amazing technologies that bring huge impact on people’s health, but we were not born with a digital native mindset. That is coming in right now within the organisation, and it’s an impressive journey to see how it expands across the organisation.”
The first digital advantages were scored in sales and marketing by deploying new routes to engage with customers, she adds, and they were soon infusing benefit across the business.
“The more you start operating in that digital mindset, the more you start opening up the possibilities of digital health,” she says. “You start thinking about interacting with your customers in that digital manner – mixing that with a lot of face-to-face – and then you start looking at ways that digital can influence your products.
“Digital can influence your offerings, it can augment them, it can support them, and you move into how you provision health and how you empower your products more through digital means.”
For Peppa, influencing mindsets and changing behaviours has been a critical element of Boston Scientific’s digital success as it enhances agility across every sector.
“The other important thing that it brought was an upskilling of the organisation,” she adds. “People started asking about digital, asking for courses and development opportunities around digital sales or digital marketing or digital R&D. That brought a lot of self-learning in this space.”
An upskilled workforce and a digital mindset synchronised to business objectives brought rewards in multiple fields of endeavor, from inter-functional harmonisation to an energised approach to sales and connecting with customers and patients.
“On the digital and sales side, the most exciting piece we’re bringing is this concept of customer centricity through personalisation,” she explains. “Bringing together technologies like customer data platforms and artificial intelligence that runs on large data sets , combined with frontline tools, allows for correct information to be given to our customers on a particular product, potentially doing business and interacting through e-commerce like we have in our United States team right now or driving ultra-personalised blended learning on our products for our customers.”
Peppa continues, “The possibility to order our products online, to have virtual education through webinars, through blended learning, all that combined with a good back office system that allows correct selection of what is better for each customer is what I call customer-centricity enabled by digital.”
But digital’s headlong rush has created significant challenges in accessing and connecting with fragmented healthcare systems that are going through their own technological upheavals and recruiting skilled workers.
“Life sciences will need more and more skilled workers whether they are data scientists or digital producers or digital marketers,” says Peppa. “People who know how to operate in blended customer journeys are rare to find – that’s my number one challenge as I think about scaling up internally.
She continues, “Externally on the digital health side, I see a big challenge in the fragmentation of our healthcare systems and how difficult it is to propose solutions that can be truly universal because different hospitals within the same region of a particular country can be fundamentally different in the way they manage their healthcare in the background.
“But I do see massive receptiveness on the side of our customers for blended interactions with us on digital sales and marketing. I think the market is ready there and customers and our patients are ready to interact more this way.”
Peppa’s aim is to propel digital transformation beyond the slogan into genuine healthcare system and patient outcome improvements, moving the dial to preventative health at a time when – irrespective of COVID-19 – healthcare systems are facing mountainous challenges from ageing demographics.
“I also see patients’ need for information and awareness being catalysed in ways that have never been catalysed before,” she adds. “I see patients taking responsibility for their own fate and supporting the health care systems that are tired right now in managing a demographic with evermore increasing patient populations with poly pathologies.”
“A very well-equipped and empowered patient that can work with the health care system and not expect everything from the health care system, is a key, exciting opportunity that I see. And industry, whether we are a producer of devices or pills, or in life sciences services, could play a dramatic role in supporting that disruption,” concludes Peppa.
Rodamni Peppa is vice president Business Strategy and Commercial Excellence for Boston Scientific in EMEA. She is currently based in Italy where she leads a large team focused on defining the EMEA Strategic Plan as well as sales and marketing excellence initiatives. Her new challenge is to bring Boston Scientific into a new era of customer centricity. Her team leverage today’s digital transformation capabilities to deliver personalised and digitally enabled customer journeys that seamlessly link the online and offline sales and marketing channels while boosting company productivity.
Eloise McLennan is the editor for pharmaphorum’s Deep Dive magazine. She has been a journalist and editor in the healthcare field for more than five years and has worked at several leading publications in the UK.