Pharma insight on digital marketing, social media, mobile apps, online video, websites and interactive healthcare tools
by Dominic Tyer
The pharmaceutical industry would benefit from working more closely with online doctors communities, but a lack of vision is holding companies back, according to Len Starnes.
The former head of digital marketing and sales for Bayer Healthcare Pharma was speaking during the Rise of Online Physician Communities in Europe webinar last week.
He outlined a series of opportunities for pharma, suggesting market research as an entry point for companies, and said a more holistic use of sponsored disease/condition areas within the networks could combine content, community and services.
“This is something that would, and could, replace pharma's own websites,” Starnes suggested.
Later in the webinar, which was sponsored by UK online physician community Doctors.net.uk and the Networks in Health alliance, Starnes said there were many barriers to greater use of doctors' communities.
“Lots of marketers are just oblivious to these types of platforms. Unfortunately many marketers are still governed by their marketing mindsets and there's a lack of vision about how to use these types of platforms too.
“From a pharma perspective these types of communities exemplify what we've all been talking about over the last few years around the expression 'fish where the fish are'.
“The majority of pharma companies are still spending most of their digital spend on building their own websites, but research tells us time and time again that doctors are reluctant to go to these websites.”
Pharma's use of doctors' networks was incredibly slow to start with but, Starnes said, there has been a palpable acceleration more recently.
Rising interest levels from the industry come as the global membership of online physician-only communities experiences what Doctors.net.uk's CEO Tim Ringrose said was “continued, significant growth”.
Driven by a “desire for credible information and the ability to interact with colleagues” over 3 million doctors around the world are now thought to belong to a dedicated professional online community.
The Networks In Health alliance of professional doctor networks that Doctor.net.uk coordinates claims over 1.2 million doctor members, some 600,000 of whom are from the five largest European markets.
The alliance is made up of over 20 online professional organsiations, including Germany's Coliquio, France's Egora and, most recently, Russia's iVrach and Turkey's Doktor Sitesi.
“These networks provide many similar services, but there are local variations in how they do so and our understanding is that doctors really value a service that's tailored to the local cultural and national environment.
“In many emerging markets we're seeing a rapid rise [in membership numbers],” Ringrose added, noting that Russia iVrach already has over 65,000 members and Latin America's MedCenter has over 650,000 members.
• View the Rise of Online Physician Communities in Europe webinar in full on PMLiVE