Dramatic sales force reductions, increased regulation and advancements in technology have led pharmaceutical companies to turn to “Big Data” to learn about HCP preferences for information. Why? We know that in meeting the medical education and information needs of healthcare practitioners (HCPs), there is no “one size fits all” solution.
How HCPs consume information varies not only by specialty, but also by individual physician preference. While some companies have arguably made inroads using Big Data to deliver targeted information to HCPs, the impact of these efforts has been limited because of one missing element: The personal touch, historically provided by the pharmaceutical sales rep.
With today’s shrinking sales force, how can pharmaceutical companies effectively engage with HCPs through valuable information provided in a more customized way?
Understand Your Audience—HCP Needs Vary
For pharmaceutical marketers, understanding how and in what form HCPs prefer to receive medical information is a crucial driver in executing focused, tactical campaigns with a personal touch. While aligning content to specific needs, marketers must also take into account when and how physicians want to engage with that content and the format that information must take—videos, research papers, conference reports or KOL interviews. More crucially, all content must add value to their specific practice and relate to their specific patient population, not just reflect the broad interests of their specialty.
Personalization in a Digital Era
Healthcasts recently evaluated preferences of HCPs across its physician member audience in various therapeutic areas. We found that HCP preferences for medical education validated the adage “to each his own.” However, from primary care physicians (PCPs) to specialists (oncologists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists and psychiatrists), one fact that clearly emerged is the premium all groups place on digital education.
HCPs increasingly want to be engaged digitally, even as the preference for sales reps persists among certain specialties. Making content available on a digital platform, whenever and wherever HCPs want should be a requirement for pharma marketers. However, these engagement opportunities with target HCPs are often missed due to limiting availability to only a few devices at select times. Four key elements should be considered:
1. Extend Access Online
While we know that sampling and co-pay cards are highly valued across most specialties—especially among the endocrinologists and rheumatologists evaluated—HCPs value digital access to patient resources. In fact, one of our psychiatrists specifically recommended: “…allow physicians to order samples and co-pay cards on the Internet. We would be happier with this arrangement and it would save money [for pharmaceutical manufacturers].”
2. Provide Content When They Want It
Almost all of our physician members prefer to interact with medical education at home and during evening hours. It’s the time when audiences are the most receptive to messages from peers and marketers alike.
3. Know Your Audience’s Preferred Formats
Information packaged as short, to-the-point online formats tends to fare well with all HCPs with the exception of oncologists, who also indicated a strong preference for longer-form materials. Given the nature of the digital medium, interactive content performs well across all HCPs, with psychiatrists and PCPs ranking this higher compared to the rest.
4. Give Them Content They Want
Regarding medical education content, HCPs highly value healthcare guidelines and algorithms, Continuing Medical Education, up-to-date news on medical advances, scientific data on diseases and treatments and clinical trials. In particular, oncologists look for new guidelines and algorithms in their fast-changing field, while endocrinologists and rheumatologists also look for trusted expert opinions. Not surprisingly, more engaging formats—such as online educational platforms, dinner meetings and medical journals—rank as preferred sources for information.
Customization in Practice
Personalization does work. For example, consider a new treatment for psoriasis. Since your target audience is dermatologists, the first thing to do is segment your list. This process depends on the level of personalization you wish to employ to meet specific brand objectives, and the level of data you have on your physician list.
You can segment into multiple areas such as early adopters, competitor loyalists or those with no drug of choice—or into current prescribers and non-prescribers. Even more powerful: Segmentation by specific barriers to adoption such as mode of administration (e.g., injection/infusion vs. oral) or coverage, co-pay and prior authorization hurdles.
As shown in Figure 1, you can then follow a three-step conversion and retention plan.
Step 1: For non-prescribers, launch a non-branded educational program focused on disease attributes and how to properly identify patients. It helps engagement to surround the non-branded educational program with additional independent content such as KOL interviews. However, it’s important to tap into existing data sources or undertake some proprietary research to understand the specific types of educational content your target HCPs are looking for.
Step 2: Consolidate the data from the physician interactions and survey evaluation data from Step 1 to inform the messaging of a branded campaign to be sent to the same group of non-prescribers.
Step 3: Engage current and new prescribers with high-value, actionable branded content to further strengthen your brand’s core clinical attributes and positive patient outcomes.
A well-coordinated effort such as the one above paired with the right content—independent as well as promotional—can result in good outcomes for marketers and patients.
Working with a client on this process, we were able to convert 20% of non-prescribers resulting in $3.4M net prescriptions—in 12 weeks.
So there is tremendous benefit to marketers who provide information attuned to HCP needs and information consumption habits. This is a deliberate process, and when combined with partnerships with the right content platforms, it delivers outsized results for modest investments.
When HCPs understand that a marketer is equally vested in patient outcomes, they are more open to engagement and more likely to change prescription behavior. But a huge part of that messaging is having a pulse on HCPs medical education needs—by specialty—and beyond that to specific practice and patient populations.