PM360 asked those with expertise in the best ways to educate and engage with healthcare professionals which channels to use to reach them and how Medical Affairs is evolving. Specifically, we asked them:
- Which channels currently offer the best avenues for HCP education? How might that change as more HCPs become digital natives and look to digital to meet specific education/information needs? How might marketers incorporate innovative, new, or emerging technologies to provide educational experiences HCPs will want to participate in or improve channels HCPs already use?
- As the healthcare landscape continues to change in various ways (value-based care, physician demographic changes, hospital and physician practice consolidation, etc.), how must the role of Medical Affairs adapt and expand to better serve HCPs? What can Medical Affairs teams offer to help ease the burden on today’s HCPs?
According to Veeva, by the end of 2020, nearly 70% of all HCPs will be digital natives. Mobile, social, and digital technologies are already intertwined into their personal lives, so business expectations have shifted. Research also continues to demonstrate HCPs are spending an increasing amount of time in online conversations and collaborating in social networks/circles.
We are keeping a close eye on what we are referring to these days as the “digital doctor.” Eighty percent of them are using social media in their practice of medicine today. These digital doctors spend on average 180 minutes a week watching online video content for educational purposes, while two-thirds of doctors with mobile devices use them to source and share information more than 10 times every working day.
These influential social networks/circles will grow exponentially in the coming days, months, and years post the COVID-19 pandemic, so this provides marketers a real opportunity to engage in an authentic way to provide credible education and information that our digital doctors can share and use with patients remotely for the foreseeable future.
Over the past 20 years, pharma businesses have changed the way they communicate about, position, and sell products. Now, as demand for digital approaches in pharma sales begins to accelerate—it’s a case of evolve or suffer.
This environment demands digitally enabled sales reps that can deliver activities including customer service, CRM, and e-detailing, efficiently and remotely. It’s essential that activity is scheduled, captured, recorded, and analyzed on an integrated platform that tracks all omnichannel communications to give reps a live picture of every interaction with an HCP.
However, switching to a digital sales environment is dynamic and will constantly evolve. What businesses must do is start their journey. Once on the path towards digitization, they can learn iteratively, improve systems and engagements, and work towards an ideal model rather than expecting one immediately.
But having the right content in an appropriate format to use in different communications channels will be a linchpin for success. Content used by sales reps must become more “alive,” animated, integrated, and exciting. This is what patients and HCPs are being provided with when they interact with brands in most sectors, and it’s what they will soon demand from pharma.
Irrespective of whether HCPs are tech-savvy “digital natives” or not, in light of recent travel restrictions and the focus on social distancing, moving HCP education online is really the only choice. This rapid transition to remote work and education will require the industry to abandon their traditional thoughts of what medical education is. It might be as simple as doing a web meeting instead of an in-person lecture, but pharma should also be looking at alternative, more cutting-edge avenues.
AI and VR will undoubtedly keep playing larger roles in medical education. To become leaders in innovative medical education, companies need to start gathering HCP insights on their educational needs and the best ways of leveraging these technologies right away.
In the immediate future, self-directed asynchronous online activities such as virtual journal clubs, case study discussions, or workshops can help fill the void left from canceled in-person events. I predict that, as pharma’s and HCPs’ comfort levels with digital meeting technologies are increased, virtual medical education will become the go-to rather than the side-kick to face-to-face meetings.
Today, the internet is flooded with information and data from both reliable and unreliable sources. With a keen focus on science, Medical Affairs teams have a unique opportunity to expand their publication planning efforts and traditional MSL activities to include non-traditional information sources and communication vehicles. Their goal is to disseminate accurate medical information in ways that will be most meaningful for their evolving constellation of stakeholders. Digitalization also allows MSLs to amplify the depth and breadth of their scientific and medical knowledge and to inform and educate a broader number of HCPs.
MSLs are trusted sources and were ranked by one out of every four HCPs as their “PREFERRED” source for learning about new and/or existing medications from pharma (CMI/Compas Media Vitals 2019/20 edition). Due to the limited number of HCPs who have had such interactions with MSLs, we believe that number can significantly increase with greater exposure. We also believe their impact would be highly felt with patients, caregivers, and consumers at large. As HCPs themselves, they have witnessed that our health constitutes a combination of heart (emotional) and science (rational) acting in sync. And as such, they are uniquely positioned to get accurate information that embodies both to our communities.
As U.S. physicians are increasingly carrying risk for the healthcare costs of their patients, the role of medical science liaisons (MSLs) is evolving. Being required to balance both cost and quality measures, HCPs are turning to MSLs for value-based discussions. MSLs must bring the same transparency and scientific rigour to these conversations they do to their purely medical discussions. To help HCPs in this new world, MSLs need the tools to discuss health economic outcomes, and bring clarity to complex outcomes-related pricing or reimbursement structures.
Medical affairs teams can ease the burden on HCPs by equipping them with economic data that is built on simple and transparent methodologies, with flexible population and cost inputs. In areas of rapid medical innovation where head-to-head data is not yet available, MSLs can also help HCPs interpret indirect analyses for determining comparative clinical value.
Where there is consolidation, and physicians need to follow the policy of the parent organization, MSLs can help physicians engage in the debate to achieve a quicker transition to the emerging standard of care. Their voice will be most powerful if they can speak the language of value. This requires pharmacoeconomic data, a solid understanding of the data, and the ability to explain it.
As HCPs become increasingly crunched for time and limit access to sales reps, Medical Affairs is becoming an essential way to maintain relationships between the company and HCP community. Medical Affairs teams must leverage data to make the most of this relationship and ensure that they are delivering timely, authentic, and personalized information that is relevant, to-the-point, and actionable. An HCP’s time is valuable, so the more we can use data to be one step ahead of their needs—to identify what information would be useful to them to make appropriate treatment decisions as well as how they want that information delivered—the more efficient those interactions can be and the better results we will see.
As the healthcare landscape evolves, the old way of MSLs providing reactive medical information will no longer be enough to keep up. For Med Affairs to be successful, they must proactively anticipate what an HCP might need and provide actionable solutions. For example, do they have easily shareable information for not only their patients, but also care partners? What tools might they need when leveraging telemedicine as compared to an office visit? Are the medications they want to prescribe accessible and available at their patient’s pharmacy?