For decades we’ve been used to the idea that we should craft “messages” that would get the point across to our audiences. We would gather prescribing information, add some benefit statements about our medication, and feed it back to the specialties’ various classes of doctors we wanted to influence.

Welcome to the new world of big data. Beyond just prescribing data, there is much deeper data on what HCPs know and don’t know, what questions they’re asking, and what their knowledge gaps are. Understanding this allows us to engage in a more meaningful discussion with them.

So how do we improve our initial approach we call “messaging”? We have to turn the tables and let the doctors guide our marketing, rather than coming up with an internal strategy and trying to impose it on them. We need to go to the sources where we can access physician behavior and preferences to gather, and get a clear, detailed understanding of what doctors want. We also have to look at their knowledge gaps, so we can tailor information to address those topics they have been struggling with.

We have come to a point in medicine in which we understand the individuality of each patient—biologically, habitually, culturally—and the consequent needs based on that profile. It only makes sense then that we treat doctors the same way and approach them with an understanding of their differences in knowledge, practice, and habits. Most of all, the ability to customize our communications for the benefit of each doctor gets us to the most important goal of all: Trust.

It signals that we see them as individuals, and not just as members of some larger group made up of vaguely similar professionals. This goes beyond what we have always referred to as “demographics.” It’s more like “insight metrics.” Just because two doctors live in the same geographical region and prescribe the same amount, it does not mean that both these medical professionals have the same opinions about a therapeutic area and should be messaged to the same way. We need to take the information that we have and delve deeper to customize the knowledge to these physicians that is pertinent to them specifically. Now that our understanding can be individualized, we become an advisor as opposed to an advertiser. This is the way into a doctor’s heart—and to improved outcomes.

More HCPs Go Digital

More than half of HCPs orient toward digital platforms to acquire information, communicate with patients and other professionals, and run their practices. Due to many factors—such as Meaningful Use requirements and the preferences of younger doctors entering the field—they’re seeking information on disease states, patient populations, and treatment protocols instead of just product benefits. Like most HCPs, they want to do the best for their patients. It also does away with old clichés—“no-see” doctors being one of them. On the contrary, now more than ever, medical professionals are searching knowledge on multiple channels at all different times—and everywhere. Gone are the days when access to physicians is an issue. Instead, we need to alter our image of face-to-face meetings as the ideal way to communicate with doctors. Today, there are other ways to get close to a doctor that don’t involve being there in person.

Online sources that doctors trust are one key way of achieving this. And the word “trust” is vital to that equation. Recent studies by the industry group, Align Biopharma, have shown that physicians are all over the map with respect to their Internet searches—even consulting such sites as Wikipedia. Three-device ownership is now the norm. More than half of patients are looking online for medical advice. So, getting trust from HCPs depends on being in the same digital geography where they know information is reliable.

Preferred Physicians Channels Proliferate

HCPs no longer have one preferred channel for information; they have many. Thus, it is incumbent on us to provide access in all ways and create a platform that is useful for them. When you’re in the space physicians come to voluntarily, where they expect a valuable exchange of ideas, you have a much better chance of getting their attention. But again, it needs to be in a way that serves their needs—not just yours.

Customizing information based on doctor’s needs should be a goal we work towards. “Patient-centricity” is often the buzzword in healthcare. We spend a lot of time addressing the patient’s needs and focusing on the patient. But it is equally important to put the physician in the center of the equation because he or she is a major stakeholder in the treatment paradigm. Just as one pill does not treat all patients, all information does not fit all for doctors. It is up to us to do our due diligence on what areas doctors seek understanding and then create ways for them to quickly access this information so they can use the newfound knowledge for their next patient.

Just as physicians personalize medicine for their patients, with medical decisions, practices, interventions, and products tailored for the individual, we should personalize information for physicians. With hundreds of thousands of medical apps in the market for medical professionals, the evidence is clear that more than ever, HCPs use digital to seek information to diagnose and manage their patients. As the schedules for these physicians get more compressed, it is up to us to create more engaging ways for them to interact with the information and gain access to data at their fingertips.

Trust is not freely given—it’s earned. As with all human relations, it comes out of the perception that you care about the other party and are willing to pay attention. That happens in an atmosphere in which people already have invested their trust, and where you can benefit from that investment. Simply stated, it’s all about listen, learn, and loop. Listen to the questions HCPs are asking and what they know (or don’t know). Learn how to approach each as an individual. And then loop back to them with the information and resources that will make the most difference.

  • Erik Dalton

    Erik Dalton is Executive Vice President at Healthcasts. Erik has helped spearhead the evolution of Healthcasts since 2005, from a video engagement company to a multichannel, on-demand educational experience for physicians. His leadership drives market growth and product innovation for the company.

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