My Key Takeaways from the Salesforce Pharma Symposium

As one of the few agency representatives in the room, I had the unique opportunity yesterday to participate in an Executive Symposium at Salesforce NYC headquarters, discussing the future of pharma. Focusing on digital transformation and the patient experience, we were able to hear from patient advocates as well as innovation, digital, and technology leaders across the industry.

Key topics covered were as follows:

  • How can pharmaceutical companies strengthen existing capabilities and revenue streams, while moving into new markets?
  • What role will digital innovation have in addressing these challenges?
  • How will companies use digital transformation and digital health to guide and help patients along their healthcare journey?

A few themes stood out to me, in both the topics addressed by speakers and in talking to symposium attendees, as I delve into below.

A 360 View of Patient Data is Still a Challenge

Having a complete view of patient data is still challenging, and there’s no perfect solution for closing the loop, especially in marrying the data with provider information. Organizations collect information about patients at different touch-points but still struggle to connect sources of data into a single platform to get a holistic view. Consider many organizations are not collecting patient data in one database, then factor in Black-box EMR and EHR systems, and the problem is only compounded. Carrying data from Clinical to Commercial is not being handled as well as it should either, given some of these obstacles, causing marketing teams to lose valuable patient insights. AI and Blockchain can certainly play a role; while AI is already being used for clinical trial recruitment in some capacity, there was a resounding silence in the room when Blockchain came up. Unlike Financial Services, it seems like no one is really using it, or at least using it effectively, in the Pharma space.

Trust and Experience

There are lingering trust and experience factors when recruiting for clinical trials. Why should a patient trust a big pharma company and divulge their information? In addition, once in the system, once patients have gone through the sometimes puzzling and confusing clinical trial digital enrollment experience, things can drag and feel more like “airline travel” as cited by Craig Lipset in his presentation, as opposed to the white glove service it should be.

As Cindy Chmielewski, a patient advocate previously diagnosed with multiple myeloma pointed out, early on in her diagnosis she was questioning whether she should trust a website and the company behind it. It wasn’t until she embraced Twitter “…thanks to Hoda and Kathy Lee” that she realized the advantages technology has in helping guide her throughout her journey.

Security and Data Ownership

Security and ownership of data are more important than ever. On the one hand, we’re trying to make the patient experience across all channels, both digital and offline, as seamless and easy as ever; on the other hand, more and more guardrails need to be put in place, from security protocols in GDPR, legal opt-ins and more limited tracking, impacting how marketing campaigns can operate and truly succeed.

How Does Salesforce Help?

Interspersed into the overall narrative were subtle spotlights on Salesforce tools and platforms, as you would expect. I give the company a lot of credit, they are really doubling down on helping pharma companies conquer some of these obstacles. From new solutions like Health Cloud, the latest iteration of Community Cloud, and to tight integration with Einstein AI, Veeva, and more there are certainly huge advantages to the platform. Not to mention, they are one of the few HIPAA-compliant CRMs. I like Marketing Cloud as a standalone solution, but when it’s working together with Salesforce CRM, being positioned as a big piece of the puzzle for B2C Marketing Automation, it still feels like a third-party system (speaking from experience); I’m hoping the acquisition of MuleSoft last year should alleviate this shortcoming.


Overall, we’ve certainly come a long way in the past several years in terms of how technology can enable and improve the patient experience. Security and privacy will only continue to play a big role, and finding the right balance is key. At XDS, We’ve been helping our clients solve and tackle these key areas and hurdles, and there’s plenty more work to do. While platforms and technology continue to evolve and bridge the gap, so do security and regulations, keeping us on our toes as marketers and technologists, evolving our experience design approach and solutions. We certainly feel fully equipped and able to help companies navigate the current landscape here at XDS, having just turned 2 (read about reflections and learnings here) and with a slew of varied clients each facing their own challenges in the space.


Shai Reichert – Co-Founder, Technology & Operations

Shai is a technologist, marketer and strategist who has been seeped in digital throughout his entire career, from working at Startups and agencies to fortune 500 companies like Comcast. When he’s not chasing his kids around, at XDS he focuses on creating best-in-class technical solutions and digital marketing stacks for clients like Shockwave Medical, Rubius Therapeutics and more.