Changing Methods of Communicating With Healthcare Providers

Changing Methods of Communicating With Healthcare Providers

Ariel Katz

February 9, 2021

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Over the last 30 years the way people communicate and seek out information has changed dramatically, letters and faxes have gone the way of the dodo and even emails are considered “old-people technology” by many Millennials, who grew up with text messaging and smartphones. Not only have the channels changed, but also where and how information is obtained and consumed. Coffee shops and commuter trains are full of people reading books or New Yorker feature-length pieces on smartphone screens and the question “When have I last seen somebody read an actual newspaper?” is often hard to answer.

Healthcare is no exception: the best way for a (bio)pharma company to communicate with healthcare providers has also undergone changes and companies need to make sure that they are up to speed on the best ways to get through to healthcare providers (HCPs).

Reps? Letters? Emails? Twitter Posts?

Traditional approaches of HCP communication were built around pharma reps visiting doctors with prescription information and samples. While this approach is still used, it is losing ground, as physicians are less willing and able to spend time with sales reps and samples are less of a draw. In addition, large sales forces with sizable travel budgets are no longer sustainable and pharma companies are looking for ways to get their information out efficiently and with a better ROI.

Surveys show that the best way of communicating with healthcare providers is the good “old” email. Over 70% of providers in one survey said, that email is their preferred way of receiving industry news, product updates and other information, handily beating out other options such as rep visits, direct mail, or exhibits at professional conferences.

Social media is on the rise but still has quite a ways to go with the healthcare provider community: while more than half see value in social media and are planning on using one or more channels in the future, the current adoption rate for professional purposes still lingers around 33%.

The trend towards reading content on mobile devices, however, is firmly established among HCPs: about half are checking and/or reading their emails on a smart phone or tablet which makes it crucial for pharma companies to provide content that is optimized for mobile devices.

Despite time constraints, personal interaction remains an important way of reaching out to medical professionals. Due to the increasingly complex nature of drugs, Medical Science Liaisons are now in charge of these interactions more often and tasked with providing deep scientific insight on a peer-to-peer level.

Content Preferred by HCPs

There is plenty of content out there and so the critical question is: what type of content does a pharma company need to generate to attract and keep a healthcare provider’s attention?

Buzzwords are aplenty: personalization, trust, credibility, and targeted content are all important components of a successful strategy targeting HCPs.

Just like regular consumers, different HCPs have different needs, and look for different content on different channels at different times. Therefore, conveying a consistent message across different channels– including email, website, social media, blogs, webinars, etc. – is critical.

Personalization is another important tool companies have at their disposal: modern marketing automation allows targeted follow-up with individual HCPs based on their interests and allows companies to make the right type of content available through the channel preferred by the provider.

What the “right type” of content is, varies depending on the HCP and can changes over time. According to the Healthcare Professional Communication Report 2018 physicians are looking for more in-depth information about treatment options and the latest innovations. Communications about continuing medical education programs, for example, are in high demand. In addition to educational material for themselves, the survey showed that HCPs are also interested in materials that help them educate patients. With value-based healthcare becoming more widespread, materials that help physicians improve patient outcomes, such as patient assistance programs, patient education resources, and apps, are also sought after.

The central message with regards to content is that it needs to be high quality and provided across multiple channels in a consistent manner in order to reach the intended audience of healthcare providers.

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