As physicians continue to limit access to sales reps, marketers must establish multiple tactics and touch points to get their brand’s  message across. And multichannel—with point-of-care campaigns via digital  marketing and screens placed right in doctors’ offices—is one of the  ways to go.

Pharmaceutical marketers are facing a number of unique challenges in reaching today’s busy physicians. As a result of changes in the marketplace, such as evolving pharma guidelines and increases in mergers and acquisitions by healthcare companies, marketers and salespeople are unable to easily reach physicians through traditional channels. Under the most recent version of the PhRMA Code, pharmaceutical companies can no longer offer practice-related and branded items such as clipboards, pens, mugs or notepads. In addition, more than 50% of all doctors refuse to meet with pharmaceutical representatives or are restricting drug rep access to scheduled appointments. At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry at large is dealing with business issues such as patent loss, tighter budgets and increased drug specialization.

For marketers in today’s “no-see or low-see environment,” communicating effectively with physicians requires establishing new marketing channels and enabling multiple touch points. Multi-channel marketing can involve various tactics including direct mail, email, e-detailing, banner ads, search engine optimization and digital screens placed in clinical areas. Physicians are continuing to spend more time on the Internet for professional purposes and are looking to digital technology, such as smartphones and other devices to deliver real-time medical information, and marketers are well-positioned to incorporate these channels into their brand strategy.

Under these circumstances, creating extremely targeted brand communications that reach the correct audiences and spur action has become more complicated, but success is also more measureable. Today’s digital channels continue to multiply and audiences continue to fragment; however, the technology to measure and analyze the results of the various channels is keeping pace. Marketers can find out very quickly if their tactics and campaigns are having the desired effect on their target audience and, if not, adjust accordingly.

 

New Tools

Not all marketing channels are created equal, but regardless of the business objective, the most important thing is to reach your audience where and when they are most receptive. If you reach out to your target via text message and they don’t receive texts, the message is lost. If your campaign is online and your audience isn’t, your brand loses. Once you have selected which channels are best utilized for a specific brand and a specific audience, marketers should then take a close look at the content they are providing. Content should be useful, compelling and easy to digest in order to engage busy professionals.

In the case of pharmaceutical marketing, engaging low-see and no-see physicians and clinical staff in their offices at the point of care (POC) can significantly extend the reach and frequency of brand messages. Digital screens placed in physician’s clinical areas are helping busy practitioners stay up-to-date on medical news and research in real-time, and provide physicians a way to consistently communicate to their staff standards of care, treatment protocols and practice management messages (Figure 1).

 

These screens are installed at no cost to the physician and programmed to provide unique, custom content designed to interest and meet the needs of time-pressed clinicians. Content can include news on clinical studies, disease-state management information, environmental and clinical indices as well as targeted brand communications (Figure 2). These brand messages delivered to clinicians at the POC are helping to generate conversations with patients and impact prescribing decisions. The screens can also be programmed to provide regional and practice-specific information such as office events and weather updates (Figure 3).

To reach physicians who are inundated with patients, scrambling to implement new technologies (such as EMRs) and struggling to stay apprised of the latest medical developments, developing easily accessible, engaging content is paramount. Offering at-a-glance information on a broad range of health topics meets the various needs of the physician and staff and ensures brand messages are part of the day-to-day workflow of the physician’s office.

POC Campaign Drives Prescribing Behavior

A pharmaceutical company looking to drive physicians to increase the number of prescriptions written for its drug provides a good example of a successful multi-channel program. For instance, one company’s symptomatic drug treated a disease state that affects 25 million people and was in a competitive class of drugs, with the market leader going generic. The brand had the opportunity to increase its pill count per prescription based on the quantity limit allowed within managed care plans.

The company developed ads for POC digital screens that stayed true to the existing campaign by using ad content that had been approved previously and accentuated the brand’s marketing efforts in other channels such as professional journals and sales aids. Using already approved ad content eased the medical/legal/regulatory review process. The company also developed an accurate measurement and analysis protocol for the campaign’s results that was tailored to its specific market conditions and objective. The impact of the campaign was substantial. The physician’s clinical area program delivered an ROI of 4.1 to 1. The targeted program delivered a 15.87% increase in pill quantity per prescription and a 13.55% increase in new prescriptions. Few marketing channels are able to offer this kind of result and demonstrate the impact analytically with third-party validation.

The efficacy of marketing communications delivered at POC was also demonstrated by a pharmaceutical company with a blockbuster drug that had several brands within its portfolio. The blockbuster drug along with the company’s other products addressed the same disease state, which was challenging. In the past, the company would have teams dedicated to individual brands, but in today’s climate two or three people are responsible for marketing an entire portfolio. The marketing team’s ability to launch new brands within the portfolio without sacrificing existing market share for their flagship brands was imperative. To address this challenge, the team launched an ad campaign that supported the launch brand but continued to support the existing brands as well.

Unfortunately, when the team went to measure the initial impact of the campaign at five months—the data indicated that the campaign had actually caused prescriptions of the flagship brand to decrease by 3%. The team was very worried, but they knew that unlike other marketing channels and tactics, such as print advertising, with digital technology they could quickly react to market conditions and improve the prescribing outcomes for all of their brands. The team quickly decided to continue the campaign with those physicians who were early adopters of the new brand that the company was launching, while simultaneously directing an ad campaign that increased exposure of the flagship product to the physicians who seemed steadfastly loyal to that product. The company also reduced the amount of time those physicians were exposed to the new product.

Four months later, the next measurement and analysis revealed impressive results. The brand posted a prescription increase of 4% for the multibillion dollar flagship brand and increased prescriptions for the newly launched brand. These results gave the marketing team confidence in the flexibility of the channel and its capacity to modify the campaign based on real-world prescription data as needed to increase the number of prescriptions for the entire portfolio.

Go Forth And Multiply

Pharmaceutical sales reps can knock on physicians’ doors and try to work their way around low-see or no-see policies, but the remarkable effectiveness of new marketing channels such as digital screens at the POC can make marketers’ jobs a little easier. Digital channels are also very advantageous in terms of cost and offer the capacity to hyper-target a campaign to the appropriate audience based on specific physicians’ prescription volumes. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every objective, but POC campaigns have been proven to: 1) enhance product launch performance and expedite the time it takes to get to peak revenue; 2) improve a physician’s ability to identify patients indicated for a given therapy; 3) convert patients from competitive brands; 4) improve medication adherence; and 5) support later-stage life cycle management for brands approaching patent expiry.

The benefits of expanding marketers’ reach across various channels also benefits busy physicians and medical staff by providing them with much needed information on topics they care about at a glance. More than ever, pharmaceutical marketers need to facilitate strong communications across multiple channels—through in-person meetings, online, on personal devices and in physicians’ offices to amplify brand messages. Providing engaging information for physicians and clinical staff at the POC adds value and drives real change in physicians’ prescribing behaviors and is an important new channel to the no-see or low-see physician.

  • Pat Pavlick

    Pat Pavlick has more than 15 years of sales and marketing experience in the pharmaceutical industry. He currently leads Healthcare Professional Solutions for PatientPoint and directs the strategy, marketing and client advertising for PracticeWire. Before joining PatientPoint, Pat was with Johnson & Johnson as a sales representative, LTC account manager and district manager; he entered into marketing with Healthcare Regional Marketing as a Regional Director.

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