The following is excerpted from the CMI/Compas Media Vitals “What Physicians Want and Need from Pharma” annual trend report, published December 2018.

Multiple studies and anecdotes have told us that physician burnout is a real and growing issue with no end in sight. The opportunity for pharma is to ease physicians’ burdens by being a valuable resource of information, and in our Media Vitals research we have seen that prescribers do see pharma as that resource. However, pharma can be doing more to make it even easier for physicians to find information.

Media Vitals™ data shows that physicians spend more than two hours a day just on EHRs. But that is not all—there are numerous tasks that they perform daily as part of their always-on work requirements. Being a physician also takes life-long learning. While some people go on vacation and read adventure novels, you will often spot a physician with his or her medical journal while relaxing on the beach. Life-long learning also takes a toll on the already busy and burdensome lives of these physicians, as they spend a vast amount of time daily investing in that knowledge-building in an effort to stay abreast of new medical developments. These tasks include interacting with pharmaceutical representatives, reading medical journals, using online drug reference tools, and even interacting with pharma/medical device websites.

“Today’s emerging HCPs are digital natives and thus their professional communication and way of receiving information is also growing in this direction,” says Julie Hurvitz Aliaga, VP, Social Media at CMI/Compas. “Digital Native refers to a person born or brought up during the age of digital. In healthcare terms, Digital Native refers to an HCP that has qualified since 1995 (or later). It is important to understand that this generation’s behaviors may differ from that of their peers in the past. Think about dermatologists, of whom 45% spend at least 15 minutes a day on social media platforms, and PCPs just slightly above, at 47%. The way these HCPs are conferring with peers might be more virtual now; Doximity, SERMO, Skipta, Figure 1, for example, are all social platforms designed to keep doctors in contact with one another, no matter the time of day or geographic location. With burnout being such a hot button issues for these physicians, social makes it easier to consumer and share information more quickly.”

Doctors also spend a great deal of time searching for information online. In fact, a high majority of HCPs across each studied specialty use search engines at least one to three times per day, with rheumatologists, neurologists, and primary care having the highest use.

So, what are they searching for? Dosage information, product indications/contraindications, and product safety information and side effects ranked highest across all specialties, followed by medical research and efficacy data. Clinical trial information was most searched for by rheumatologists and oncologists (who also ranked highest for their searches for newly approved medical innovations as well). Patient financial support tools such as copay cards, formulary coverage, and patient financial assistance programs were searched more by dermatologists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists, and primary care than the other specialties.

“Often, having a paid search presence for HCPs is secondary to the typically larger consumer search campaigns,” says Mark Pappas, VP, Search Engine Marketing, CMI/Compas. “Many times, there are questions as to the rationale of having HCP and DTC campaigns showing side by side within search results. In addition to taking extremely valuable search real-estate from a competitor, it is extremely important to make sure HCP search campaigns speak to the information HCPs are looking for, not repurposing generic branded search ads (i.e., “physician website”). Looking at the data and searches performed by HCPs across different therapeutic areas shows the importance of having a fully baked HCP-specific paid search campaign speaking to clinical trials, dosing, copays, and emerging medical research among others. The same thought and breadth of a consumer campaign should be leveraged for HCP campaigns.”

Pharmaceutical Advertising has Value for Some, But Orchestrated and Personalized Experiences Still Lacking

With so much medical information to ingest each day, it may be surprising to see that a number of physicians find that pharmaceutical product advertising provides them with valuable information. In fact, 1 out of every 3 dermatologists and primary care believe so; followed by 1 out of every 4 endocrinologists, neurologists, rheumatologists, and oncologists; and 1 out of every 5 cardiologists. Endocrinologists are also more likely to value seeing pharma ads while browsing professional publications and websites as well as while doing non-related work. When looking at the numbers, consider this: Most consumers do not see value in ads; some marketers have coined the term “adlergic ” to describe the upward trend of adblocking. Yet, a significant number of HCPs are telling us that pharma ads are valuable to them.

“There is almost a societal expectation of personalization now,” says Eugene Lee, EVP, Managing Director, CMI/Compas. “What’s challenging is getting creative and MLR approvals to align to that expectation.”

It is also interesting to note the perceived importance (value) of both pharmaceutical/medical device representatives and product websites when it comes to staying abreast of new medical developments and treatment options. One out of every two dermatologists, primary care, and endocrinologists believe that pharma/medical device representatives are EXTREMELY/VERY IMPORTANT in keeping them in the know. This is followed by 1 out of every 3 cardiologists, neurologists, and rheumatologists, and even 1 out of every 4 oncologists (who are extremely difficult for reps to see without restrictions).

“Notice the responses to ‘provide valuable follow up after interaction with content,’” says Becky Frederick, EVP, Managing Director, CMI/Compas. “This point highlights the importance of building on the initial engagement by investing in strategy and technology that extend that connection with a receptive audience.”

Michele Sirkin, VP, Media, adds, “The data helps prove that pharma brand sites are still a valued destination for doctors in seeking out information on treatment options, especially since it provides a resource doctors can leverage when needed, versus reps that work on their own schedule.”

What is also clear from this study is that there is a lack of personalization and variety in the creative messages seen by these physicians, likely making these ads and messages feel redundant. There represents a huge opportunity to apply physician and/or segment data-driven insights to the creative development process and leverage agile customer experience management techniques to get the right message to the right doctor at the right time. It is time for us to finally get this done!

  • Dr. Susan Dorfman

    Dr. Susan Dorfman is Chief Commercial Officer at CMI/Compas. Susan lives and dreams data; her passion is transforming data into actionable and measurable tactics that ultimately leads to reaching her client’s audiences down to the individual level. Her expertise is in promotional strategy development, omni-channel/multi-channel media and relationship marketing, customer insights, and media innovation built to reach, engage, and deliver a return on investment.


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