Novartis Executive Director Carlos Eid About AI, Omnichannel Myths & Innovation in Pharma


January 31, 2024. Giosg, the leading tech company that combines interactive website content such as live chat, AI, video bots, and interactive elements in one platform, announces the release of an exclusive interview and podcast episode with Carlos Eid, the Executive Medical Director at Novartis.

In a brand new episode of the Digital Customer Experience podcast by giosg, we had the unique opportunity to interview Carlos Eid, the inspiring Executive Medical Director at Novartis.

The conversation consisted of a deep dive into the role of AI combined with human elements in the healthcare industry, omnichannel myths, and more of Carlos' impressive experience and insights.

Carlos Eid: A passionate musician, dad, Medical Doctor and Executive Director

Carlos began to tell us that he wanted to become a doctor to have an impact on patients' lives. And now, thanks to the industry he's working in, he’s able to have an impact on a wider scale and feel satisfied every day. 

People who don’t know, what does an Executive Medical Director do?

"It's a lot about handling everything related to medical affairs across international markets. It's medical education, partnerships, working closely with societies, centers of excellence, and a lot of things that are related. It's hard to list everything, but it's actually about taking charge of the Medical Affairs for cardiovascular, currently in the international markets."

With your 13 years in the pharmaceutical field, what has been one area or one aspect that you're particularly passionate about and why?

"One area that I've been particularly passionate about is Field Medical. Some call it MSL field medical excellence or field medical operation, but it was actually the role I started with in pharma. I have a lot of respect for that role. And I feel that there is a lot of untapped potential."

"There's a lot of potential with MSLs globally and in the different companies to deliver impact and to bring value and improve patient outcomes. However, personally, I don't feel that everyone is really grabbing this potential and really utilizing it properly."

In which key areas do you see untapped potential or opportunities for improvement?

"I'm going to give a bit of my perspective from when I was an MSL. One is that we need to make the hard choices. And by making the hard choices, it comes from terms of resourcing, like really bringing the MSLs early into the lifecycle of the drug or the pipeline to really prepare the market to have those conversations."

"Whether it was with HCPs, with payers or societies, to really bring the knowledge and the technology that is being used, and the understanding of that disease area – and also the mode of what the action may be."

"There is a proper understanding of the unmet needs and the specific patient profile so that you know everything will be ready when that drug is launched. That's one area making that decision on investing early on in this role of the MSL."

"The second one is how do we view engagement through a new lens? We often see that you create a brand strategy and then you go into a medical strategy – and then you go into a field medical strategy. And by the way, there should be only one strategy, and then you get tactics."

"How can we have the patient in the center and have the engagement as a continuous journey, starting with the impact that you want to create for the patient outcomes?"

"With the strategy comes tactics, engagements, and then you check your impact. You evaluate and then you go through that cycle again. So this is another area that needs progress. Let's say established in terms of our engagement, incorporating tech and AI."

"We're losing a lot of insights of information and proper ways of engaging with customers when it comes to improperly incorporating tech and AI into the work and empowering our MSOs with the proper tools and engagement."

"For example, proper tools to identify experts, proper tools to really engage with experts remotely or to gather the insights appropriately and share them internally – and act on them. There's a lot of potential to make their lives easier, and really empower them that we're still not incorporating properly.

"The next point is developing upskilling and retaining talent, and this is something I really love to talk about because a lot of times people think that MSL is an entry-level role. This concept that we have placed in the minds of people that an MSL is just an entry-level role and they need to aim higher on what they need to achieve next. This is very disturbing."

"In my opinion, and to this date, the MSL is the most important job in the company. Because they're the eyes and the ears of the company."

"They are with the customers, they are listening to the customers, they are seeing the customers and can really bring valuable insights. They disseminate valuable information. So what more do you need to be a successful company?"

"The last one is, kind of mentioned previously, how do we track the progress and measure the impact of MSLs? This is also very sensitive for me because I still see us looking at a number of events, number of visits, number of interactions, number of phone calls, and number of emails.

"This is so frustrating, because quality is not quantity, and we should move away from just looking at these quantitative measures of operations to value our MSOs and say if they are valuable and impactful or not."

"We must go further and think about the impact we want them to create and are they creating that impact even if it's long term. Because this is the only way we uncovered the value of our MSLs."

The most common buzzword that I hear with all our guests is omnichannel. Omnichannel strategies, omnichannel approach, omnichannel this, and that. What are the common myths that you'd like to debunk?

"The first myth is that you don't need omnichannel to survive."

"If you can't have a full-blown omnichannel strategy, it doesn't mean that you will fail miserably. It's just that it's our nature. There was the hype of omnichannel – and then the hype of AI."

"It's like Adidas releasing a new kind of clothing line, and then everybody wants to be wearing that clothing line."

"I think the problem is they never ask themselves – do I need those clothes?, and I think that's the problem we're falling into, that we jump on to solutions before making sure if we have the needs, and if we have the means to address those needs with those solutions."

Another myth is that people think omnichannel is multi-channel.
And I think it's very important to differentiate between these two.

"Multi-channel is having as it says, multi-channel. So let's say I sell cars, I have a website. I have an Instagram page, I have a Facebook page. I send newsletters via email. I have a customer service representative in the showroom who can be available on all channels. That's sort of multi-channels."

"Omnichannel is how I can take you on a seamless journey throughout the different touchpoints that you are embarking on as a company."

"How can I take you to the different touch points where you get the information that you want in the way that you want, through the channel that you want at the time that you want?

At the same time, I'm able to gather insights from you on what you're doing, what you're choosing, and what is your preference. What time do you like to receive your emails is one example.

I get that information and then I provide it, it's like a two-way thing to take you on a sort of seamless journey."

"My takeaway message – start with the customer in mind and not the solution."

"That's where I'm going towards as we move further into the AI topic. How can we maintain a human element in the healthcare professional engagement, especially beyond digital interfaces?"

"No matter how much pressure will come in terms of how can we maybe save costs? How can we replace some? And also, to be fair, it's not only about saving costs, but being more efficient. There are a lot of things that you can automate, and a lot of things that AI could definitely help with.

You get faster insights and faster solutions. You can maybe even have faster trials or data generation just by leveraging AI and AI helping you identify the right sites and the right profiles. I'm not undermining AI. It's going to be amazing in the way it helps in healthcare.

My problem is that we cannot go with a one-size-fits-all. That doesn't mean that AI can help with everything. We need to leverage AI where we feel that AI will provide value. 

"It needs to be a blend of human expertise and AI to really come to the perfect mixture or combination that will be impactful."

"It's not that you can just replace all the touchpoints with machines. I get frustrated calling your bank trying to speak to somebody and sometimes I say, after 15 minutes on the line trying to speak to a representative because sometimes you need a human."

You need a human who understands what you want and can get you to the solution without having to go to 15 minutes of a call. And then at the end, it tells you I did not get what you want to go back to the main menu, press zero. So it's frustrating.

"This is why I always say that, let's find the right mix. And let's empower our people with AI as a support, rather than having it replacing all that."

Now, what strategies do you believe are the most effective in bridging the gap between the pharma industry and customer engagement?

"Listening. This is everything I'm going to whoever's watching that forecast and he's watching this guy that they've met for the first time and this medical director who's talking and talking and talking, if you just want to go back with one word that might have an impact on your future business, is listen, just listen.

Don't assume what the customers want.

Sometimes we assume too much. I'm perfectly sure that a doctor who's sitting in his clinic, seeing 20 patients a day barely has 10 to 15 minutes per patient. His phone doesn't stop ringing. His family is asking when he's coming back home early for dinner. His secretary keeps asking him if he can take on more patients who are just walking in.

You need to know your customer. Live with your customer. Breathe, and eat with your customers to really understand what needs they have and how you can address those needs. This whole brand might be perfect.

But is it the right time? Is it the right customer? Is it the right space that you're using it in or is there maybe something else that you could do to really support your customers and make the decisions and improve patient outcomes?"

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