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Pharma and AI: What does it mean for Medical Sales?

Posted on: 06 Jul

It’s no secret that the Pharma industry has been making huge strides in recent years. With ever-newer technologies empowering and enabling researchers and scientists to make breakthrough in everything from gene-editing to nanotechnology, we’re living in a golden age of medicine, and one that is developing and growing all the time. 

One of the newest developments in the market- and one that is set to transform not only medicine, but our society as a whole- is that of AI, or artificial intelligence. Though it’s been around for a few years, we’re still learning just what it can do, and how it can help us discover new insights, make new breakthroughs- and even help people to sell products more effectively. 

With the potential to boost profitability by around 38%, and with annual investment in AI startups rising sixfold since the turn of the century, what does this mean for Medical Sales Representatives? 

What’s happening in the market?

AI has made inroads into several different aspects of the Pharma industry since becoming economically viable to use. With the ability to analyse vast amounts of data from clinical trials, or feedback from medical devices or apps used by patients, AI can discover previously-unseen patterns, make diagnoses before doctors or even use smart learning in devices such as contact lenses to warn a patient of an impending spike in glucose levels before they realise it themselves. 

In addition to this, companies are making the most of the accessibility that AI machines can offer, with established companies like Novartis and start-ups like developing apps that can help guide patients through after-care, providing them with a ‘virtual nurse’ which in turn saves clinicians 20% of their day.

Naturally, both Biotech and Pharma companies are racing to get their products on the market- and not just for smart wearables. In April, Babylon Healthcare- which lets patients consult with doctors using an app rather than booking in an appointment- made a deal with Chinese company Tencent, which would enable it to deploy its healthcare technology on WeChat, the most popular messaging service in China, with more than 1bn users. Clearly, AI is making it easier for patients to communicate with each other, and with doctors- which, in turn, makes the Medical Sales Representative’s job a little more difficult. 

How is it going to affect Sales Representatives?

For years, Medical Sales Representatives have been dealing with access challenges, changing economic conditions and more regulations than ever before. Though there have been fears that the rise in ‘smart’ technology could replace the expertise of clinicians and the need for sales reps, the real value in AI lies in enabling Medical Sales Representatives to do their job more efficiently in a shorter period of time, and expanding the market.

Indeed, the explosion of AI-related products for a huge variety of treatments onto the market offers clinicians and GPs the chance to monitor and treat their patients more effectively and cheaply than ever before. This, combined with rapid market expansion, will make for a huge boost to Medical Sales Representatives, as well as allowing them to explore selling different products and diversifying into what is effectively a whole new market niche. 

Streamlining the sales process

It can also help in another way. Today, sales reps are more squeezed for time than ever before, and are struggling to make connections with the right people: in today’s competitive market, only 44% of physicians meet with Sales representatives. 

AI could therefore be a goldmine for reps wanting to improve their sales and boost their efficiency in the market. On a more practical note, the rise of more advanced technology means that reps can also use a whole range of channels to engage their customers. To that end, more and more companies are starting to implement AI sales strategies to give their representatives the boost they need. 

Today, technology can help prioritise pre-call planning, make recommendations on what type of leads a salesperson should be pursuing, and automatically do the administrative tasks that often take up so much of a salesperson’s time, letting them stay in the field longer, building up relationships with their clients before sending them an automatic follow-up email.

Work smarter with IQVIA

As AI evolves, the role of the Medical Sales Representative will also undoubtedly evolve to keep up with it. Make the most of the changing market: find your ideal job in our list of vacancies, or discover more about the industry in our knowledge hub.