Since late last year I have focused this column on helping you, the PM360 reader, better understand the quickly evolving world of electronic medical/health records (EMRs and EHRs) and e-prescribing. More importantly, I have been dedicated to the idea that these technologies and systems provide exceptional platforms for communicating with both prescribing healthcare providers (HCPs) and with the patients that they and our pharmaceutical clients serve. Your response as readers has been overwhelmingly positive, and I appreciate the comments and questions that I have received both directly and through the many employees of our company who work with clients and prospective clients each day.
With this October issue, I thought it might be a good idea to answer a few questions that might still remain in the minds of some people about EMRs/EHRs and e-prescribing as a messaging platform for pharma. If any of these come up as your company is deciding on your 2014 budget, feel free to use this data to help you make the case for your wise investment decision.
Is it too early for us to use EMRs in our messaging platform?
This is a question we hear from time to time, although it comes up much less often now than in the past as marketers have become more educated about the subject. But for those who are still on the fence about their need to engage HCPs and their patients with this platform, let me answer it with a question: Do you need to effectively engage HCPs that fall into the categories shown in Figure 1?
This data comes from the CDC, covers essentially all HCPs, and is almost two years old as I write this! Adoption has continued at a rapid pace, so if you think the EMR/e-prescribing platform is still “too new,” we respectfully suggest you reconsider that position. This is a widely used platform that can engage both HCPs and their patients very effectively.
There’s so much to learn. Where should I start?
Yes, we absolutely agree—there are many EMR and e-prescribing companies, and it can be confusing, at least when you are first getting started. But once you get past the initial numbers it’s not as difficult as it might seem. We suggest you keep these points in mind:
- While there are many suppliers of EMR software, not all of them are ready to work with pharmaceutical companies to engage HCPs and patients. Generally speaking, companies that are willing to engage and that have platforms ready to help you deliver your message will have resources dedicated to interacting with you and advising you, often through a company that aggregates several suppliers into a single communication opportunity for you and your brand.
- Even though there are some large suppliers that are not yet ready to work with pharma (primarily in the acute care environment), you can easily reach hundreds of thousands of HCPs and millions of patients using today’s currently available programs. And the number of suppliers that do wish to work with pharma to educate HCPs and patients continues to grow.
- You can work with and deliver your message through many different EMR/EHR and e-prescribing companies without having to contract with each one directly. For example, our company is actively engaged with over 140 different EMR/EHR and e-prescribing suppliers. This means you can engage this communication platform without having it be an overwhelming task that takes up all your time and energy.
Do metrics and measurement methodologies exist?
A common concern with newer forms of HCP and patient engagement is how the marketing team will measure their program results and prove that they made good use of their budget. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen new communication opportunities that try to justify program or campaign results with numbers that fall short of providing an ROI for the investment. Thankfully, most programs delivered through the EMR/EHR and e-prescribing platforms can provide both engagement and ROI numbers, and those results are often very impressive.
Much of the foundational work in measuring these types of programs comes from work done in the pharmacy, where messages for patients have become a “must have” for many brands for years, and where program ROI is an expected measure for larger programs that can be measured with statistical rigor. Just as these programs use a familiar test and control methodology for measuring ROI, so can EMR/EHR and e-prescribing programs. I won’t get into the details here, but a call to any reputable supplier in this field can quickly lead to a discussion between a company’s analytics group and the supplier’s analytics team that can show just how measurable these programs can be.
It’s All About Engagement
I hope some of your questions have been answered with this column, and I look forward to meeting you back here in the December issue. By that time you will likely have your plans firmed up for next year, and I hope that whatever tactics you decide to use are successful for you and your brand. It’s encouraging to know that EMR/EHR and e-prescribing will play a significant role for so many brands. These platforms are growing so quickly for many reasons, but chief among those is their ability to deliver something that every pharmaceutical marketer needs when it comes to HCP and patient messaging: Engagement that drives positive behavioral change in a meaningful and measurable way.