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Winter Seminar 2021 - event review

December 17th, 2021

After a long break in face-to-face meetings, and in what may have turned out to be a small window of opportunity, the BHBIA held our 2021 Winter Seminar.  Gathering at The IET in London we planned what we hoped would be an interesting and enjoyable day for our delegates, as we explored the topic:

Are we nearly there yet? The journey to the new normal

Opening speaker, Sarah Rickwood

Our business agenda commenced with a presentation from Sarah Rickwood of IQVIA. Sarah's presentation looked at what Pharma’s post-pandemic destination might be and how we might get there.  In this she reflected on the impact the pandemic has had on the healthcare landscape and a what will shape the global prescription market over the next decade.

After a detailed analysis of markets, therapy areas and regulatory developments, Sarah reflected a what this means for Business Intelligence in terms of our response for the future.  Her view was that some activity will remain in areas we are reasonably used to covering such as patient journeys, customer engagement and value assessment.  But new areas such as sustainability, carbon footprint reduction and digital and genomic healthcare will become increasingly important in the future.

Following on from Sarah’s broad view of our journey we focussed in on the situation today and how our customers are feeling.  This session, chaired by Esme Barrow-Williams from HRW, engaged with Dr Farooq, a GP, and Dr Ismail, a Consultant Rheumatologist to get their perspective on the route the NHS has taken and what it is like working at the ‘coal-face’ of patient care.  Thanks also go to Medicys for recruiting the doctors for this discussion.

The audience were fully aware of the changes that have impacted our healthcare professionals but this discussion demonstrated the reality for those working in the NHS.

Esme links up our two HCPs with the audience via Zoom (faces obscured to protect personal data)

Both doctors were impressed with just how quickly things can move in the NHS when they need to.  A swift move to online consultations was made when the pandemic hit and the need for ‘red-tape’ significantly reduced.  And while both felt that virtual consultations have advantages, and are here to stay, both also felt they may not be the best for all patients.

Our doctors gave examples of the limitations of the current NHS environment, citing areas such as technology problems and limitations for certain patients such as the elderly or those whose first language isn’t English.  Both highlighted that clinical issues had possibly been missed during online consultations.  They were clear that sometimes they do need to see the patient to get that overall impression of how they are feeling.  It’s not just about examining the condition they are diagnosed with.  Mental health issues presented a particular challenge in this area.

In addition to the more obvious issues both noted that the medical profession was simply not trained to consult in this way and that this working style puts different pressures on them as they manage their patients.  Notably Dr Farooq commented that whilst virtual consultations delivered much more flexibility, he personally felt that his life had become almost ‘open access’ with boundaries having been broken down.  For him this doesn’t seem sustainable going forward and will need to be addressed if this new working style is to continue.

Challenges aside, both felt that virtual consultations were here to stay and that there are advantages to this.  Going forward our Rheumatologist felt that 70% face to face and 30% online would be a good balance.  Interestingly our GP put the numbers the other way round with a much higher emphasis on virtual.  He felt this would be more efficient in the primary care setting.  Both could see a silver lining to the pandemic cloud in that the situation has made their teams really pull together and because of this they had made it through to where they are now.

Our HCP discussion gave the audience plenty of points to reflect on and fed well into our panel discussion, chaired by Board Member Rob Heathcote. This was the last session of the day and focussed on the question ‘New destination, recent destination or favourite destination?’ specifically for Business Intelligence.  The discussion was wide-ranging but the overriding theme was that here was an opportunity for change and if we don’t take it now, we never will!

The panel – in which Sarah and Esme were joined by Paul Dixey of Novartis, Matt Beckett, CSL and Gareth Nicol, Cello Health Insight, discussed some of the changes that had been made to keep the business of BI going.  The pandemic brought some specific weaknesses to light which companies had to act quickly to address.

Rob Heathcote leads the panel discussion

One element that will impact many Pharma companies for some time to come is the hole that will exist in key data sources.  Not only was the start of the pandemic a difficult time as companies were hungry for data, which didn’t exist, but also there is now a hole that will carry on in the data and will impact analysis for some time to come.

The panel touched on the tools used in our industry, particularly, to carry on conducting interviews and for liaising with staff.  Whilst tools were in place it became clear that there could be better options available and, as a result, companies now feel better equipped to carry out day to day business.

Staffing was also discussed as an issue and, in many ways, this was linked to the topic of tools for the job.  Many young people have come into our industry and the way we work today is normal as far as they are concerned.  We need to ensure this group feels valued and have the opportunity to develop to ensure we have a skilled and engaged BI workforce for the future.

Unsurprisingly pharma BI was not left untouched by the pandemic and, from the input of our panel, the answer to our question ‘New destination, recent destination or favourite destination?’ is that we’re not going backwards, we’re definitely heading in a direction which will be different and hopefully better for our industry.

Throughout the day our audience were keen to ask questions of our speakers which led to lively debate across a variety on topics.  It was great to see everyone so keen to be involved in the day. Comments from the delegates included:

Sarah Rickwood's presentation was very insightful. The discussion with the healthcare professionals was extremely interesting as it focused on HCP experiences and how things changed for them. And the panel discussion highlighted many aspects that were similar across the board for many within the industry.

"All three sessions were very worthwhile and engaging - great presenters and great topics."

"Getting a wider market perspective on business intelligence issues and future trends (was valuable)"

The business of the day concluded with an update from Wilf Iliffe on the 2022 BOBI Awards, which are now open for entries and we were delighted to announce the 2021 winners of the John Aitchison Award for Outstanding Contribution - Marie Harrison and Ian Crouchley.

Business session complete we were treated to the traditional Christmas lunch where members could take the opportunity to catch up face to face with old friends and colleagues.  

Throughout the day and the lunch, we ran a silent auction which raised £597 and we offered a JustGiving link via which charity donations could be made.  Via the link and the Silent Auction, we have so far raised a total of over £800 for The Carers Trust, which supports unpaid carers in the UK. Thanks to all those who supported this - if you missed the opportunity it's not too late to make a donation now.

The BHBIA would like to once again thank all of our speakers at the 2021 Winter Seminar and to extend our thanks to all of those who attended the day.  It was great to see everyone face to face and we now look forward to our programme of events for 2022.

These comments from delegates sum up feelings about the day

"It was a very valuable meeting - great to meet up face to face and felt very worthwhile. I think this was one of the best I have been to in recent years. "

"A chance to meet up with clients and industry colleagues for the first time in 2 years. The content was also very well positioned and relevant."