Springer Healthcare

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Developing an app-based solution for Pharma Sales

  • Client
  • Objective
    • Designing and producing an app-based solution to improve pharmaceutical industry sales
  • Work type
    • UX Design, Pharma, application, local team
  • Timeline
    • Sep 2012 – Sept 2013
  • Team
    • Front End Developer/UX Designer (me)
    • UI/UX Designer
    • Project Manager
    • 3 person development team

Introduction

I was originally brought onto the Springer Healthcare software development team in September 2012 as a Front End Developer, responsible for coding interfaces for projects using HTML, CSS and Javascript. However, during my time working from Springer Healthcare, I was enrolled in a two day UX course from Userfocus, with my colleague, Robin Hayward, the UI Designer on the team. From this, we learned the basics of how to conduct User Research and how to use the findings to inform the production process.We then used what we learned on our next major project, creating the MediLib product.

Medilib was created with the idea of facilitating the sales process of major pharmaceutical companies, by providing materials that educated Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) about their products, while also providing materials that allowed the HCPs to learn latest developments, thinking and opinions in the field of medical science.

Understanding the Pharma Sales industry

Part one

In order to get a picture of how the sales process worked, Robin and I set up a programme of research.

Research

We needed to talk to people who had experience of the Pharma Sales industry. As we didn’t have direct contact with the clients themselves, as sales of our product went through our own Sales Team in Springer Healthcare, we reached out to contact actual Sales Representatives. However, we had some difficulty getting hold of working Sales Representatives, and so worked with members of our own Sales Team, some of whom had previous experience working as Pharma Sales Representatives themselves.

Our analysis of how to conduct user interviews, weighting input from different subjects

Our analysis of how to conduct user interviews, weighting input from different subjects

In the end, we got to talk with four current Pharma Sales Representatives, as well as six other colleagues, who had previously worked in that role. We asked them questions, including the following, to get a picture of their working life and the challenges they face:

  • Could you describe a typical day in your job? – getting background on their working practices, as well as analysing areas where problems might occur, or how we could provide something that may advantage them.
  • Could you list five of your daily core goals? – understanding the key objectives of their work, and measuring how successful they are in achieving them.
  • What are the things you currently find frustrating? – focussing on the problems they face, which we could produce solutions for.
  • If you could change something, what would it be? – Getting further insight into what they view as problems, and deriving the user needs from their suggested changes.

Discoveries

From this, we made a number of discoveries:

  • Sales Representatives have to employ complex tactics to encourage Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) to buy their products – In many countries, outwardly advertising drugs and other products to Healthcare Professionals is not allowed, and so Sales Reps have to promote their products by providing the HCPs with literature that updates them on the latest developments in their field, with editorial content that promotes the Pharma companies’ products.
  • The experience is very different in different countries – In countries such as the USA and UK, HCPs have little time to spend with Sales Reps, and are quite skeptical about them. In other countries, such as Mexico, the publications provided by Sales Reps are quite valuable to the HCPs, as they may be the only updates they get on the latest developments in their field, and so they have more time and attention to spend with them.
  • Drugs have a “sales lifespan” – New drugs will be more interesting to HCPs than drugs that have been around for some time, and so promoting them will be easier than promoting older ones.
  • Sales Representatives have to navigate complex legal requirements – as well as providing information on the benefits of a new drug, Sales Representatives have to also provide information on side-effects and liabilities associated with the drugs which they are trying to sell.

Communicating our findings

Infographic showing some of our key findings

Infographic showing some of our key findings

My colleague, Robin, put together our findings into the infographic above, which helped us not only communicate our findings to stakeholders, but also printed out into an A1 size poster, which we could place on the wall of the office, ensuring that our findings were kept in the mids of our production team as we worked on the project. Alongside the infographic, I also created some personas, to help summarise our findings in more detail, based upon the different roles and territories which our users occupied:

The combined personas showing different requirements based on user roles and location

The combined personas showing different requirements based on user roles and location

The personas and infographic on the wall of the office

The personas and infographic on the wall of the office

Taking these findings, we then held a day’s worth of exercises with stakeholders and the production team, exploring the requirements fully, and starting to define solutions for the user requirements:

Using an empathy map to help stakeholders understand the standpoint of a specific user types

Using an empathy map to help stakeholders understand the standpoint of a specific user types

Understanding red routes - key user paths which are important to the specific user type

Understanding red routes – key user paths which are important to the specific user type

Having gained a better understand of the specific needs of each user type, we held ideation sketching sessions, asking everyone involved to sketch out solutions that might assist with the user requirements. We then combined all the findings, along with the explorations and solutions during the workshop, and devised an overall production strategy:

Devising a production strategy

Part two

In order to provide a complete end-to-end solution to address user and business needs, we split the solution into three stages, which would provide a way of ensuring that Pharma Sales could get information in front of Health Care Professionals more easily:

  1. Creating a web interface – this would provide a simple way for Sales Reps to deliver materials to HCPs, just by providing a link.
  2. Developing a back-end system – this helps Pharma Sales Managers keep track of Sales Rep performance, and a system from which they can continue to contact the HCPs
  3. Design a library app for mobile devices – finally, this provides a way for Sales Reps to show content to HCPs in person, as well as providing a way for HCPs to easily access information after the Sales Rep has left.

Creating a web interface

The web interface, or “ePrints standalone page” as we called it, being fairly easy to prototype and produce, provided an good starting point for us to test our assumptions, and create something which could be used by Sales Reps fairly quickly. We designed it fairly quickly, creating a framework which could be built on over time, adding more functionality over time.

Whiteboard showing design planning for the standalone page

Whiteboard showing design planning for the ePrints page

UI design for the standalone page

UI design for the ePrints page

In order to access these pages, the Sales Rep would leave the HCP with either a code, written onto a card, or sent via email. This would allow the HCP to access the information at their leisure, reducing the pressure of trying to provide information during a short visit.

We built a prototype, and tested it repeatedly during each iteration, allowing us to improve our knowledge of the user requirements and ensure that we were building the right thing. We also added more functionality over time, providing not just text and a link to a document, but also video, interactive elements such as quizzes and more to help make the page more engaging.

Developing a back-end system

To help Pharma Sales Support Staff control each standalone page, as well as monitor use, we then developed a “back end” interface as a content management system, which we called “MedEngine”.

Planning the MedEngine user interface on a whiteboard

Planning the MedEngine user interface on a whiteboard

An example screen design from the MedEngine product, showing an overview of sales reps and products on offer

An example screen design from the MedEngine product, showing an overview of sales reps and products on offer

This system would allow Sales Support Staff to understand which pages had been accessed, had items downloaded or used on the page, thereby measuring success of the Sales Reps. As restrictions existed in many countries around how much a Sales Rep could give to HCPs in monetary value, in order to prevent bribery, it also ensures that HCPs do not receive too many items by removing old ones and adding new ones.

Designing a library app

To further improve the experience, we designed a library app for use on mobile and tablets, named MediLib, which allowed Sales Reps to showcase information to HCPs, as well as provide a leave behind library of items, which the HCP could browse freely, but also have access controlled by support staff

A sketch of one screen from the MediLib library app

A sketch of one screen from the MediLib library app

UI design from the MediLib iPad app

UI design from the MediLib iPad app

This system allowed HCPs to access information, even while offline, with regular updates to ensure that content access was kept up-to-date.

Conclusion

Part three

The combined approach allowed us to do the following:

  • Quickly putting up a solution, which could be tested and improved, and added over a period of time, to ensure that we had a modular product that could fit the differing needs of various customer Pharma companies.
  • Ensure that Sales Reps could get promotional materials in front of HCPs quickly and easily, without damaging their relationship to the HCP, and providing value that could be quickly and easily seen.
  • Provide a method to build a relationship with the HCP, thereby ensuring further sales in future
  • Become a “best in class” product solution in the field of Pharma sales.

For more information about this project, or to discuss this further, why not get in touch?

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