Written by: Angela Pecoraro, Senior Consultant, AIMS International Italy

Digitalization has today become a must for the survival and further development of both private and public organisations and most of our clients are confronted with this issue. While some have been slow to recognize this trend, companies like MSD have been focussing on digitalization for the past 5 years.

To understand the situation today and measure the effects of the digital transformation on the organisation and its people, we have spoken to Ilaria Catalano, Executive Director of MSD and “digital guru” for the pharmaceutical industry in Italy.

Transformation, digital acceleration and artificial intelligence: what are the results after 5 years?

Today MSD Italy’s DNA is digital: many of the processes and internal activities have been digitalised and integrated in an innovative and impactful portfolio of services and solutions, combined with advanced medico-scientific information about the pharmaceutical products: a digital ecosystem of services and products providing real benefits all along the path from diagnosis to cure.

Winning the “AboutPharma” Digital Award 4 years in a row has established MSD Italy as the “Best Digital company” on the Italian healthcare scene. And last year, MSD received the “Best Social Media Company” award, which rewards the pharmaceutical company with the most efficient digital and social strategy, confirming the exceptional work done by MSD in multimedia innovation over the last years.

How has the organisational structure of the company evolved, allowing for the efficient fulfilment of the process?

The organisational and business model have been modified in such a manner that the concept of innovation now not only includes research and development of new pharmaceuticals, but also covers the creative development of a large selection of channels, technologies and digital communication platforms serving doctors, patients, pharmacists and healthcare program managers. A dedicated Customer Engagement structure, the digital heart of the company, has been created. It is integrated with the business, with diversified skills, but most of all an “agile” and integrated approach to work. Digital evolution is a complex undertaking, which requires not only a vision and structured roadmap, but also resources, investments and change management to bring about an optimisation of current activities and processes, and most of all results.

The next step to remain competitive in the future will certainly be the prediction of trends. How is MSD responding to this challenge?

Besides technological development, it is important to create communication instruments that can be understood and used by all: healthcare institutions, patients, hospitals and healthcare operators, to improve life and to create added value. The use of these new digital technologies will allow the pharmaceutical sector to expand its scope with the creation of integrated services bringing high value to users and to move towards a new bi-directional and certainly more social world. A first experiment in this direction was the development of a chatbot aimed at doctors and dedicated to certain pathologies on our “MSD Health” digital platform. We combine the use of a chat interface with AI to read the natural language of the user and respond in kind. Physicians can use this instrument freely, accessing the chatbot via Facebook’s Messenger service and gather information and updates on subjects like immuno-oncology, antibiotics, the vaccine against the Papillomavirus, diabetes and infections, but also about the interaction of different drugs. This service is available at any time, 24 hours a day. We have also participated in “Chat Yourself”, a chat for patients suffering from Alzheimers, directed at those manifesting the first signs of the disease. Artificial intelligence collects the information relative to those people, also from social pages and it uses this information to better the life of these patients.

If you would like to know how professionals at MSD have become “digitalised”, make sure not to miss out on the next episode. Be sure to follow AIMS International.

Written by: Angela Pecoraro, Senior Consultant, AIMS International Italy