Several months ago, Sermo and Publicis Touchpoint Solutions published the 2012 edition of What Physicians Want, an annual survey of Sermo-affi liated doctors. Although somewhat biased toward digitally savvy primary care physicians, the message was undeniably loud and clear: Time-restrained physicians seek fewer interruptions so they can spend more time with patients.

Attention Is The New Currency

This new normal actually has a name—“attention economics”—where a wealth of information has created a poverty of attention. The net effect is that physicians by and large are interested in less face-to-face and more on-demand information that is customized and delivered electronically—especially in trusted, proven formats. These include mobile offerings such as ePocrates, Skyscape and custom news briefings as well as disease-focused websites, digital CME and pertinent KOL videos.

Industry veteran Richard Vanderveer says that ethnographic research revealed that physicians regularly sought information and communications in two key broad areas: “keeping updated” and “patient point of care.” While the latter was driven by patient-specific situational needs, the former was more of a far-reaching effort to stay abreast of a host of important issues including general news, clinical updates, treatment guidelines and health policy—as well as brand communications from pharmaceutical companies.

Interestingly, to gain efficiencies and save time, physicians today often use no more than four or five “trusted” digital sources regularly—often at the expense of other communication efforts. The net effect is that pharma marketers are increasingly at risk of being on the outside looking in—a phenomenon that keeps many a product director and sales rep up at night.

How To Be A “Trusted Source”

Getting back to the topic of “keeping updated,” other research suggests that physicians sometimes have differing views on the how, when and where, but in general agree on the must haves to become a trusted source in this key area:

Source: Highly credible (third-party endorsement)
Value: Quality content/consistency of format
Easy Access: Push/convenience
Depth of Detail: Summary/drilldown
Delivery: Email/mobile
Brand Focus: Awareness/support

So how do physicians stay updated? A recent Readex study suggests that highly relevant newsletters are a trusted digital source that uniquely delivers on the critical characteristics mentioned above, in addition to online peer-reviewed publications and customized portals. Using daily readership as a guide, custom eNewsbriefings—delivered by the doctor’s own medical association—are a preferred way for HCPs to receive updates each and every day.

Access, Access, Access

Driven by relevant content that is selected and distilled by medical experts, and presented uniformly and consistently (doctors are victims of habit too), average daily open rates approach 40% of an association’s membership. The good news for marketers: Trusted communication vehicles such as this allow for brand messaging that both fits into the HCP’s limited daily routine (access) and provides a welcome forum to push out the brand digital assets that physicians find valuable in their practice (attention). With physician access and attention a rare commodity these days, this may well be the solution marketers want as well.

  • Jim McDonough

    Jim McDonough is VP, Marketing and Customer Advocacy at Frontline Medical Communications. At Frontline, Jim is the official spokesperson and advocate for the customer—both advertiser and HCP.


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