What Prescribers Really Want

As many of you are aware, in 2014 LDM Group and PDR Network merged, and the combined company now hosts the largest network of EMRs in the United States. Bringing together two industry leaders within the dynamic health IT and healthcare industries has been an incredible experience for all of us at the “new” PDR, and the merger has provided many opportunities for us to speak with clients, partners and industry colleagues about the future of healthcare in the U.S. I’ve been asking individuals and organizations about their most pressing needs and the areas of greatest opportunity for prescribers and patients. Throughout those conversations, one word has been coming up over and over:  Engagement.

With that in mind, I plan to make EMR-enhanced engagement the central theme of this column throughout 2015. My colleagues at PDR have armed me with some interesting information to kick things off, pulled from our recently released 2014 Prescriber Engagement Index (PEI). Now in its second year, the PEI is our proprietary annual survey of EMR-adopting prescribers and is designed to measure both how and how actively prescribers engage with their EMR systems. It is focused specifically on activities prescribers are successfully completing before, during and after a patient visit. Knowing this information can help you better understand how EMRs are being used within the prescribers’ workflow, which in turn helps pharmaceutical manufacturers create better, more meaningful communications. And that, of course, has a very positive effect on engagement.

I won’t go into detail on how PEI scores are calculated (you can find out more via our free EMR Playbook, available on the PDR website), but the short version is that we asked over 2,900 prescribers 40 questions across three weighted categories: Managing Their Practice (20% of the score), Prescribing Support (physician tools and resources, worth 38%), and Facilitating Patient-Provider Communications (42% of the score). After some heavy-duty number crunching, our analytics team produces an index score that gives a quantified view of prescriber engagement within their EMRs. The results give us—and you—information about the current state of EMRs and what prescribers want from them, including some ideas about what is expected from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Survey Says: EMR Engagement by Physicians is Up Significantly Overall

So what have we learned from this latest survey? For starters, prescribers have now moved beyond the point where they rely primarily on external, non-EMR resources to support their information and communications needs (i.e., primarily using tools not found within their EMR). Increasingly, prescribers rely on their EMR to include these same tools and capabilities within workflow. In fact, we saw a 14-point jump in this overall PEI score, from 46 to 60, in just the past year. That’s a very big increase, and we expect prescriber engagement to grow for several years into the future.

The PEI survey shows that the EMR is now becoming the place where prescribers expect to find the tools and resources they need. This has significant implications for brand marketers and others who wish to engage prescribers, especially if the focus has previously been on the creation of apps and other tools that exist outside the EMR. In our view, prescribers will increasingly view resources delivered outside the EMR as being outside their workflow, a situation that is especially unattractive in today’s busy practice environment.

Biggest Increase in Engagement: Interaction of Physicians with Prescribing Support Tools

The most significant increase in engagement from the previous survey was in prescribers’ use of prescribing support tools. The continued growth in ePrescribing is included here, as is the use of the EMR systems to respond to prescription refill requests. However, we also saw a jump in the use of tools that allow for access to a drug product or prescribing information via the EMR. In fact, almost 50% of prescribers using an EMR that can provide these tools report actively engaging with their EMR to do things beyond simply ePrescribing a drug. When we conducted the earlier survey, less than one-third of prescribers were engaged in this way via EMRs.

What’s the implication for pharma? An expectation that tools that support the prescribing of marketed products will be available and accessible, as a normal part of the prescriber’s interaction with their EMR. Unfortunately, that is not yet the case. More than 70% of respondents reported not having the capability to connect with pharmaceutical brands beyond simply creating and sending an ePrescription via their EMR. We see this as a mismatch between what the prescriber desires and what pharma is currently offering, and an opportunity for forward-thinking companies and brands to connect with prescribers in innovative, useful ways.

What Do Prescribers Really Want?

The PEI survey also asked providers about the tools and capabilities they specifically wanted to have now and in the future.

The biggest opportunity appears to be in supporting patient-provider communications with high-quality patient tools that are optimized for workflow. Providers desire this engagement-enhancing information, but their needs are not yet being met. EMRs can be an especially efficient method of providing patient education and information during the office visit, and the benefits of having this information delivered via the provider has long been known to pharmaceutical marketers. The question now is whether pharma will embrace that opportunity or allow it to go unmet, or even worse—for that information vacuum to be filled by sources in which the manufacturer has no voice.

We also saw significant opportunity for prescriber engagement in the expressed desires of prescribers for other types of information, including:

  • Easy-to-use drug product and prescribing information
  • Access to relevant clinical trial results (fast facts)
  • Access to clinical trial recruitment opportunities
  • An easy way to contact the manufacturer or their rep
  • Ability to order drug samples
  • Rapid access to patient coupons and other financial support

There is much more to be found in the PEI results, and within the EMR Playbook, but this is all I can fit into a single column. Feel free to download those from the PDR website if you want to read more, or contact me if you have questions or comments. I look forward to sharing more with you, and to working with you to improve engagement as 2015 unfolds.

  • Mark Heinold

    Mark Heinold is CEO of PDR, the largest EMR and digital communications network. PDR connects prescribers, pharmacists and patients to improve health outcomes through targeted communications, and is the publisher of the renowned Physicians Desk Reference. PDR delivers health information designed to positively improve health behaviors through a variety of digital, office-based and pharmacy-based channels.


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