Does it sometimes seem that healthcare marketers are light years away from understanding how to engage with the modern physician? Granted the once clear-cut pecking order in healthcare has become muddied with healthcare reform, but that doesn’t mean marketers need to be stranded on the moon. In a five-part series exclusively for PM360’s Panorama, I will be breaking down what we believe to be the future for success.

I’d like to start by sharing our philosophy at athenahealth (which Epocrates is now a subsidiary of), which is: How to “thrive through change.” It’s the motto that athenahealth has successfully used to help physicians and their practices make the transition to its cloud-based electronic health record system. We believe “thriving through change” translates to pharma marketing as well. Healthcare is at a point of pivotal change, albeit one peppered by acronyms: ACO, REC, EHR, ROI. To quote Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, we say, “lean in,” and thrive through change. Take advantage of the technology now tethered to physicians and reclaim your role as educators and supporters of patient care.

At Epocrates, we work with hundreds of brand managers, digital marketing execs and agency leaders to help achieve their business goals. On the flip side, we also support hundreds of thousands of clinicians working to achieve their practice goals. Seeing both sides of the coin, we’ve made a few observations of our own that we believe can help advance pharma marketing in 2014. Consider this a brief overview of the four topics we feel will be the keys to success next year and check back each month as we dive deeper into each of the following topics:

Precision Targeting/ROI: With Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) dictating treatment protocols and best practices, they are going to have a greater influence over prescribers. Additionally, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and pharmacists will be elevated as they have a more empowered role as part of the patient’s coordinated care team. What does this mean for marketers? You need to start demanding smarter campaign targeting that drives quantifiable ROI. (More to come on this in the next article in the series.)

Moments of Care: For many years we focused on being present at the point of care, which was considered to be the patients’ bedside. While still a critical decision point, it’s not the only moment in which prescribing decisions are made these days. The moments of care include touch points beyond the exam room such as text messaging, email and care coordination. It’s important that relevant, sponsored messages are integrated into these pivotal moments of care.

Economic Effectiveness: The ability to prove economic impact of outcomes via long-term patient tracking will determine the success of new compounds. Each healthcare dollar spent by an ACO is an opportunity for that ACO to control costs, thereby making more money for those involved. On the pharmaceutical end, the prescribing decision-makers will be choosing the most cost-efficient brand drugs or generic alternatives. In the old days pharma’s competition was a rival product, now it’s ACOs, insurance companies and generic drug use. Pharma needs to prove the effectiveness of their drugs and that it will translate to lower patient cost over generics in the long run and less healthcare dollars spent overall.

“Pill Plus”: The drive toward improved outcomes depends on the holistic support of care plan adherence through patient education and cost/efficacy transparency with prescribers. As the authority figure in the care equation, physicians have the most influence over adherence. Physicians are now incentivized to support preventative and maintenance care for their patients; yet they are lacking the tools and time to do so. This is where tech can help bridge the gap between physician need (patient adherence & education) and pharma supply (an abundance of education and research).

None of this is rocket science; it’s taking a more focused and measurable approach, while leveraging the nearly ubiquitous access to technology as a platform. I look forward to diving into these four topics in greater detail with you in this article series. In the meantime, I welcome your comments.

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