In today’s digital age, endless opportunities exist for companies to leverage digital channels to engage directly with their target audience—on a daily basis. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are successfully overcoming regulatory uncertainty to leverage emerging channels that have the ability to effectively educate and empower their patients. Similarly, the use of online communities as viable channels to engage healthcare professionals (HCPs) represents significant opportunity.

In fact, the majority of HCPs were found to be “digitally native,” in a 2014 study conducted by PMLive. The term digitally native is one that has been coined to identify an HCP who “has relied on digital interactions through connective digital technologies for his/her entire professional career.”1 Simply put, most physicians today would agree that technology is a necessity, not an accessory.

As a result of this, pharmaceutical manufacturers have a significant opportunity to leverage the power of digital marketing to engage with HCPs, especially when there is a clear desire for it. How can you be sure of that? Findings indicate that:

  • 97% of physicians rely on colleagues as a source of information2—but there simply isn’t enough time for personal, face-to-face interaction.
  • 91% of physicians agree that the Internet is an indispensable professional resource2—physicians heavily rely on online information for accessible and immediate guidance.
  • Physicians are spending, on average, 1.7 hours per day using digital sources for professional purposes3—a significant percentage of the average workday.

The Many Faces of Digital

Digital may be interpreted and applied in many ways. A variety of methods should be evaluated for engaging HCPs, such as:

  • Digital advertising
  • Engagement campaigns
  • Email marketing
  • Mobile

And that’s just to name a few of the available methods. Still, the “perceived” barriers can be significant—including industry regulations concerns—but it must be known that many companies are already leveraging the power that digital has to offer while remaining compliant. The key is to work with experienced companies and individuals who understand the industry and how to both efficiently and effectively leverage digital.

Social represents one of the most compelling opportunities for leveraging digital engagement. Social platforms have been being built to exclusively meet the needs of verified HCPs and their practices. Such platforms conform to the workflow of HCPs, providing avenues for them to conveniently and confidently collaborate with trusted colleagues. As a result, HCPs are spending more and more time engaged within these environments, which conversely create convenient access for brands to engage and inform.

A Proven Game Changer

Supporting real-time consults for practitioners has proven to be a game changer for members of credentialed online communities. Unquestionably, online communities generate high volumes of engagement and deliver valuable information to support the HCP decision journey—and ultimately, these communities aid in improving care provided to patients.

As an example, a urologist in Northern Virginia was treating a patient who had experienced hypoechoic lesions 15 months prior—the patient was lost to follow up. The patient had since returned with irregular changes in the size of his lesions. The urologist tapped into the expertise of his colleagues within his specialized online medical community of verified urologists. Within minutes, he received nearly 10 recommendations from colleagues spanning four states across the country and varying sub-specialties within urology.

So what does this mean to a company looking to leverage social to reach and engage HCPs? It means reaching and engaging a verified HCP at the right place at the right time. When we engage HCPs in a place in which they are already engaged, in a place that they turn to in order to make more informed decisions for their patients, we can begin to leverage the power that social and digital provides.

The Brand Becomes a “Contributor”

Also, let’s not forget that the medically relevant content and information that pharmaceutical and biotech companies provide to HCPs can also contribute to their professional success—and their ability to make more informed decisions for their patients. This is so important to remember. Why? When this content is delivered within trusted and verified HCP communities, companies and brands begin to become “contributors” to the professional success of HCPs, rather than just “advertisers” looking to promote their products.

In summary, new digital channels will continue to rise as new technologies emerge. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and biotech companies will continue to also be presented with a range of opportunities to support engagement and education. The key to successful engagement lies in finding the digital channel in which the HCP is already engaged and the digital channel in which you, as the company, can become a contributor. As the prevalence of specialized online medical communities increases and their relevance gets more tightly wound into the fabric of the HCP decision journey, they present the most engaging and opportune points to disseminate critical brand science, enabling pharma and biotech companies to become a part of the conversation.



2. Manhattan Research, Taking the Pulse® U.S. 2013.

3. Dorfman, Susan, Dr., “‘Social Medicine:’ A Look at Physician Use of Social Media,” drawn from 2013 Media Vitals,–social-medicine-a-look-at-physician-use-of-social-media.

  • Dr. Theodore F. Search, PharmD

    Ted is Founder and CEO of Skipta, which comprises more than 30 specialized medical communities with more than 800,000 healthcare professionals as members in the U.S. He is an innovation advocate, tech guru and an expert on “virtual professional networking.”


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