The life sciences industry is undergoing widespread digital transformation — so why has its promotional content review process been left behind? 

In life sciences, the traditional model of creating a single campaign delivered face-to-face by a sales rep is dramatically changing. Health care providers and patients are looking for more personalized engagements with life sciences companies, with the right message being delivered at the right time and in the right channel. Some health care providers want digital content and personalized self-service portals. Others prefer receiving material in person, or value highly specialized medical information.

Life sciences marketers are looking to meet these differing customer expectations, while providing compelling and customized messages across channels. Their investment in digital, in particular, is notable. Research found that, on average, pharma brands allocated 66% of their marketing budgets to digital in 2020.

Enhancing the process

Unfortunately, life sciences marketers face a huge challenge when it comes to meeting the high demand of their customers for content. While agility and speed are the buzzwords of the digital era, existing processes for reviewing and approving life sciences promotional materials remain firmly rooted in a bygone age.

The current medical, legal and regulatory (MLR) review processes are overly manual and oftentimes painfully slow. According to a benchmark study, it takes the average midsized to large pharma company 55 days for a document to progress through the MLR process and be distributed to customers. This lengthy and inefficient review cycle is a huge drain on resources and budgets. What’s more, when expert reviewers spend their time checking spelling and grammar mistakes, and missing claims references, tension builds across the team, leading to a breakdown in collaboration and eroding the culture. 

Clearly, there is an urgent need to overhaul these processes — as marketers desire to move toward agile, modular content that can be personalized across customers and channels. The current MLR process isn’t designed to support this approach, but it could be. Life sciences companies need to embark on an MLR transformation, in conjunction with their broader digital transformation initiatives.

EY Smart Reviewer

Recognizing the need for MLR transformation, EY professionals developed a suite of service offerings to support teams with this shift. Among these is EY Smart Reviewer, a solution that integrates artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language processing into modules developed specifically for the MLR process of life sciences companies. EY Smart Reviewer improves the accuracy, efficiency, and speed of the life sciences promotional content review process.

Using a risk-based decision framework that was co-created with medical and compliance professionals, EY Smart Reviewer acts as “front-of-house quality control” once content has been created and prior to the MLR review. It checks documents for accuracy and consistency of language, making certain that compliance requirements are met, and the quality of the material is high. The solution is compatible with existing content management systems, such as Veeva Vault PromoMats, Aprimo, and Adobe and is hosted on the EY platform using a secure, cloud-based, expandable global infrastructure.

Risk categorization, escalation, and metrics

As well as improving the promotional content review process, there is a need for life sciences marketers to better categorize the risk levels of their content. For example, the development of a visual aid featuring new clinical data is of a higher risk, while an email communication that contains a limited amount of information, derived from existing approved content, is a lower risk. Nevertheless, both pieces of content often go through the promotional review process in the same way — even though the time of the MLR experts would be far better spent reviewing the visual aid, rather than the email.  Using the risk framework developed in EY Smart Reviewer can help reduce the number of MLR meetings and develop more efficient workflows for different types of promotional content.

Another important consideration is metrics. Often, life sciences marketers and promotional review teams are not setting goals around what “good” looks like in terms of how long it takes to review and approve promotional materials and whether the promotional materials drive the intended objective.

A robust metrics plan looks at process efficiency metrics and customer satisfaction (both internal and external), along with impact metrics. Examples could include the number of days it takes to approve a piece of content and the quantity of materials that are produced over a specified period. Marketers should also conduct surveys about the quality and effectiveness of the content, measuring satisfaction levels among the MLR team, as well as among the salesforce, health care providers and patients.

Promotional content review Transformation will not only save costs and improve efficiency, but with the right metrics and reporting in place, it can become a competitive advantage for life sciences companies, enabling them to get their products to market faster, build trust with health care providers and patients and deliver better health outcomes.

Source: EY Smart Reviewer