Engaging with HCPs on Their Terms

The doctor won’t see you now. Yes, taking one overused and cliché phrase and turning it on its head has become an overused cliché itself. But, it remains true. According to ZS’s 2017 AccessMonitor and AffinityMonitor findings, only about 46% of physicians are “accessible” (meaning they will meet with 70% of the reps who call on them). For years, the industry has been discussing what to do about these “no-see” physicians. So, moving beyond the clichés, how can pharma effectively engage with physicians in 2018?

What Physicians Want

“Traditionally, data and new information was the most valued commodity, but what is now most valued is the way we access information,” says Lee Fraser, EVP, Chief Medical Officer, Digitas Health. “Reps who show HCPs better ways to find information, easier ways to navigate it, and simple means to share what they find, are much more relevant to emerging HCPs. When once the information in the text book was the thing that was most prized by med students, it is now the act of sharing a link to a site like Sketchy Medicine that carries value.”

But, new information isn’t all bad, especially if pharma can provide access to data that HCPs can’t get or don’t have the time to look up.

“Even if they’d like to, physicians are unable to fully observe their real-world patients and must instead compare them with patients participating in clinical trials,” explains David Ramlal, Senior Director, Strategy, Targetbase. “Yet, that comparison is critical to both the patient and the physician in order to create desired patient outcomes. By using a feedback loop and other data-gathering techniques, pharma marketers can facilitate beneficial and real-world information-sharing directly from patient to physician, and substantial gains can be made for both audiences.”

Even taking a common resource that all physicians already have and boiling it down to a handy guide can prove useful.

“Quick-reference tools, such as pocket guides, developed from full-text clinical practice guidelines (CPG), are a valuable way to reach even the busiest of physicians,” adds Kathryn Wyckoff, Director of Marketing, Guideline Central. “When polled, 75% of physicians reported that they find it extremely valuable for pharma reps to provide these CPG pocket guides.”

Rethinking the Sales Rep Approach

Beyond arming reps with new tools and information, pharma should also augment its sales force by providing HCPs with access to different experts.

“The practice of medicine is rapidly changing and becoming more complex,” says Anita O’Connor, President and Co-founder, ETHOS Health Communications. “This shift requires increased interaction between medical science liaisons and physicians to provide a more valuable scientific interaction, increased peer-to-peer educational initiatives, and deployment of tailored messages using non-traditional communication methods to reach physicians with meaningful information.”

Considering patients are at the heart of everything physicians do, sending patient service reps to HCPs can offer another resource.

“Patient service reps focus on the patients, not promoting brand messages or product benefits,” explains John Gerow, Service Team Strategy Partner, Ashfield Healthcare. “Depending on the needs of the brand, each call is slightly different, but typically includes patient access to medicines, vouchers, copay cards, patient samples, disease information for patients, and support materials to help patients manage their disease.”

And as health tech is subject to price pressure and commoditization by physicians and health systems like never before, pharma should also think about a shift to value-based marketing.

“Value-based marketing appropriately arms physicians to champion health tech products as a win-win for clinicians and administrators,” says Evann Rodgers, PhD, Scientific Strategist, VIVO Agency. “It takes a variety of forms from evidence-based care models, value calculators, or shared-risk models, to a clear value proposition of why they are a better long-term partner.”

Another change: Targeting healthcare professionals other than physicians.

“Formerly a secondary audience in primary care, nurse practitioners and physician assistants now have a starring prescribing role,” says Lori O’Neill, MS, RD, CDE, SVP, Director of Market Access and Payer Marketing, Harrison and Star. “As physicians become increasingly focused on the business side of healthcare delivery, the NP and PA must become pharma’s primary target for interaction in the primary care setting.”

Personalizing Non-Personal Promotion

Of course, marketers long ago turned to non-personal promotion as a way to engage with HCPs outside of the office, but even the methods for doing so today must change as younger, more digitally native doctors are on the rise.

“Look around, with everything we encounter we expect personalized experiences,” explains Donald Hanson, VP, Client Services, Intouch Solutions. “But, HCP preference for content doesn’t just have to be derived—we can let them make choices. By providing opportunities to HCPs to state their preference and prioritize which, when, and where content is delivered puts them in control of the information they desire.”

But providing a more personal experience also means better understanding who each HCP is as person.

“Personalizing the experience means asking the right questions—and then activating the answers on the appropriate channel,” explains Marissa McNally-Costello, Director of Brand Planning, Cambridge BioMarketing, part of UDG Healthcare. “We recently conducted a survey to explore how to reach hospital staff as pharma interactions with institutions become more restricted. Surprisingly, the data showed that a large number of Pharmacy Directors preferred new outreach to come directly from reps via LinkedIn, a platform that’s not typically considered a ‘go-to channel.’”

And as physicians find themselves with precious little extra time, they also appreciate reducing content down to its essentials.

“Development of microcontent is an ideal way to provide HCPs pre-digested information that saves time, keeps them informed, and allows them to share learnings easily,” says Michael Collinson, Global Digital Lead, Cadent Medical Communications, a Syneos Health Company. “Planning with EHR platforms via branded, educational, or patient-support tools is another great way to engage providers. And community-based crowd-sourced case review platforms such as Figure1.com have done well because content is peer-generated, highly relevant, and they offer a ‘stage’ to share expertise.”

But, when in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to stick with what you already know works.

“We find our clients have the most success when they start with the basics by first building a plan, and then reaching HCPs in forums where they are already engaging,” explains Julie Artinian, SVP, Group Account Director, Lockwood. “Maximizing time with HCPs at congresses, advisory boards, in online forums, and on social media not only creates efficiencies for clients, it also meets the HCPs where they are ready to and open to engage. Basics are the new black.”


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