Breaking Down Barriers and Forging Connectivity

There are many reasons that people dedicate their professional lives to the healthcare, pharma, and biopharmaceutical industries, but the resounding commonalities are the desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves and the opportunity to either contribute to the next big breakthrough in medicine and/or just be a part of improving people’s lives. This contribution can happen in many ways, equally important and all necessary to achieving the ultimate goal of making people healthier—identifying molecules, providing care, ensuring appropriate reimbursement is put in place to get medicine into people’s hands, educating providers on medication benefits, and the list goes on.

As with any industry, the key to success is working together to make sure that all dots are connected and alignment is maintained throughout all aspects. We know that our industry is notoriously behind the times as it relates to technology due to the significant regulations and privacy requirements we must meet. As a result, true collaboration among the many key stakeholders often suffers. That said, it’s time for true transformation to be facilitated through the sharing of ideas, data, and point of care insights among biopharmaceuticals stakeholders, payers, and providers. This transformation begins when all three are brought together, with technology facilitating the discussion.

Collaborating Around Technology

So how does it work? For starters, it is already taking place. Social media is revolutionizing how people connect, communicate, and interact in today’s digitally enhanced world. Our industry is no different, with social media serving as a trusted and utilized technology for providers:

  • 87% of physicians ages 26 to 55 and 65% of physicians ages 56 to 75 are using social media.1
  • 67% of physicians reported using some form of social media for professional purposes, whereas 87% reported using it for personal purposes.2
  • 58% of physicians perceived social media to be beneficial, engaging, and a good way to get current, high-quality information.1
  • 60% of physicians say their most popular activity on social media is following what colleagues are sharing and discussing.2

Further illustrating the point that social is bridging silos is Twitter’s healthcare hashtag ontology that facilitates online provider and payer collaboration by providing opportunities to share and learn. This structured method of organizing information makes it easy for physicians and even patients to search and contribute to topics that are of interest to them—in a universally accepted and adopted way.

Pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical organizations can use these and other gated digital channels to become part of the conversation by understanding what is being discussed, identifying informational needs, and addressing those needs within their communication strategies. We know physicians are seeking new information to help them better treat their patients, but they don’t want it forced on them—they want it delivered to them in an non-intrusive way and they want only what is relevant to them and their patients.

The delivery aspect is straightforward: Bring to them information in places where they are already engaged and connected. The message that will be effective requires more thought, and the only way to know what information physicians need is to find out directly from them.

Data Collection and Analysis

Information needs can be uncovered by data collection and engagement across various touchpoints, with virtual advisory boards, MSL engagement sessions, and organic social discussion analysis among them. Tools and technologies that power these touchpoints create a vast opportunity to learn what physicians and payers are discussing and where there are informational gaps.

Virtual advisory boards and digital MSL engagement sessions are desirable options, as the learning objectives can be weaved into a pre-determined question set. Sessions are held at the convenience of the participant, overcoming barriers to scheduling and the cost of travel. Also advantageous are the balanced contributions from participants in a digital setting, thereby preventing one or two participants from dominating the conversations. Participants are able to “sit and think” before responding, resulting in more thoughtful commentary and more meaningful peer discussion.

Organic Conversations Uncover Insights

Organic discussions occurring through digital means are attractive as they are open-flowing conversations among colleagues in their element. True to the phrase “we don’t know what we don’t know,” organic discussions can lead to uncovering unpredictable insights that may not have been captured through the use of a structured question set.

The outcome of this information gathering is a robust understanding of the conversations that technology is powering, allowing marketers to pinpoint the informational needs of their audience.

As an illustration, there was recently discussion surrounding treatment options for a 50-year-old man diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 10 years ago, and currently experiencing fasting blood sugar in the 200s range within Doctor Unite, a specialized online medical community exclusively for verified primary care and family medicine physicians. While the collaboration was primarily focused on treating this specific case, there were valuable insights to be gleaned:

  • Member, Doctor Unite: “Likely will need insulin now as do most type 2 diabetics with long standing DM; stop the Drug X and Drug Y and begin basal long-acting, once-daily insulin; increase exercise to five times a week or more if possible; do not mention his weight, but if high, could also consider diet review and use of Drug Z in lieu of insulin but it may be more expensive, so depends on ability to pay.”
  • Member, Doctor Unite: “First, find out how much he is presently paying for his meds. Second, could he afford Drug A or Drug B. Third, if he cannot afford Drug A or Drug B, find out if he could afford basal and short-acting insulin. Whether or not patients can afford their drugs is a very important part of diabetes management.”

This example recognizes an important consideration that medication cost plays a role in treatment plans, and prescribers must be educated on support programs that are available to patients.

After informational needs are identified, technologies are the ideal place to distribute the education and content the audience needs. Most importantly, physicians and payers have the opportunity to engage and interact with such content, continuing the conversation and allowing marketers to evolve their message accordingly.

Real-time data collection, behavioral pattern insights, and innovative digital market research tools power transformation within our industry, forging connectivity and breaking down silos to improve patient care. Brand marketers should gravitate towards the conversations and collaboration that is afforded to them by technology and digital means. The outcome of truly understanding what key decision makers need, and then addressing those needs by becoming a trusted contributor, is powerful.


  1. CDW 2014
  2. Quantia Research 2011
  • Dr. Theodore F. Search, PharmD

    Ted is Founder and CEO of Skipta, which comprises more than 30 specialized medical communities with more than 800,000 healthcare professionals as members in the U.S. He is an innovation advocate, tech guru and an expert on “virtual professional networking.”


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