Digital marketing is no longer one more box to check—digital technology touches each stage of a brand’s commercial arc, from clinical trials to end of patent. Follow these pointers as you plot your brand’s digital strategy:

1. Pushing a product is so last century. Patients and physicians alike need you to be their partner in care. In the pre-mobile era of TV ads and sales reps, marketing was a monologue. In a digital world, marketing is a dialogue, and the goal of providers, payers, and pharmas alike is patient engagement. Keeping patients in-network, on-treatment, and out of the hospital requires all parties to maintain that dialogue through resources that anticipate and address patient needs. Likewise, even as hospitals and health systems draw ever-tighter restrictions on rep-physician interaction, doctors and other prescribers are eager for help—43% of U.S. physicians have used patient-centered, value-added support from pharma. Maximize investment in these resources and customer engagement by driving utilization through the sales force.

2. Keep it clean, simple, and useful. Today’s healthcare consumer expects as frictionless an online user experience from insurers, hospitals, and pharmas as they do from JetBlue or American Express—59% of U.S. online consumers agree that “I expect the healthcare system to offer the same level of customer service I receive at a service-oriented company like” In an ever-more complex and time-crunched healthcare environment, factors like findability, accessibility, ease of navigation, and elegance aren’t extras but essentials.

3. Don’t be afraid to innovate. Successful brands are increasingly differentiating themselves by adding value, whether through pill-plus-device connected health-type solutions that increase adherence, or through apps and patient support programs that keep patients in the loop, on plan, and connected to a network of friends, family, providers, and fellow patients. And payers are prepared to reward these products—53% of U.S. hospital P&T committee members say they would favor a product with a patient support program proven to improve adherence, and 68% of U.S. physicians agree pharmas must offer more resources and services alongside their products to remain relevant. Hence Otsuka’s partnership with ingestible sensor-maker Proteus for Abilify, or the several respiratory brands working on pairing their products with smart inhalers.

4. Be prepared to prove your product’s value. Our healthcare system is transitioning from a fee-for-service model, which rewarded volume of pills prescribed, procedures performed, and services rendered to one that rewards value, whether measured in dollars or lives saved. At the same time, patients increasingly have “skin in the game,” as they face steeper up-front costs for care, and so are becoming savvier shoppers for healthcare goods and services—58% of U.S. consumers agree that out-of-pocket costs strongly influence their prescription drug choices.

These trends demand that drug and device makers demonstrate how their products can save money and/or deliver better outcomes over their competitors. Fortunately, Big Data solutions that weave together real-world data streams such as claims and EHR data, as well as social media analytics, promise to make this task easier for pharmas with detailed analytics that level the playing field for branded drugs that pull their weight, while lowering costs and improving patient health.

  • Matthew Arnold

    Matthew Arnold is Principal Analyst at Decision Resources Group (DRG), a part of Clarivate. Matthew covered the pharmaceutical industry as a journalist for over a decade before joining DRG, where he has worked on the company’s studies of patient, physician, and payer multichannel behavior and preferences for the past 8 years.


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