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Unlocking potential online

Simon Grime, Managing Director of Communications for Doctors.net.uk, explains how pharma companies can capitalise on digital channels

While doctors have been quick to realise the potential of the internet for sharing professional news, views and information, the pharma industry has previously been slower to capitalise on the opportunity to engage with doctors online. 

Establishing credibility has been a problem for pharma companies, since many doctors have previously viewed the industry with scepticism and are unlikely to turn to it directly for information and advice unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Albeit, they would like access to the wealth of knowledge, data and evidence pharma companies hold.

This problem has been exacerbated by the previous approach of pharma companies, which believed that if they created key online resources, doctors would frequently visit. 

However, while pharma has struggled to engage with doctors online via its company and brand resources, the opposite is true of dedicated online physician networks which have become an indispensable part of doctors' working lives with 25 per cent, or 1 in 4, of the UK doctor population using Doctors.net.uk each day alone. 

Another key problem for the pharma industry has been understanding what doctors want and how they are consuming information online. To capitalise on the digital marketing revolution in the healthcare landscape, pharma companies must research doctors' digital wants and needs with the same level of rigour that goes into brand planning and positioning.

Doctors value timely, clinically relevant educational resources that help them to improve their competence and/or confidence in managing specific patient conditions. Providing information that helps to fill clearly identified knowledge gaps, as part of the engagement strategy, not only offers value to doctors, it also enables pharma companies to associate themselves with promoting excellence in their therapy area, thus extending their relationship with the doctor. The potential benefits are enormous, although the service has to be delivered carefully to ensure it complies with the ABPI Code of Practice.

In summary, the pharma industry has much to offer time pressured doctors who want to access useful, credible resources online. The key to unlocking this potential lies in tackling the credibility issue by exploring doctor views earlier in the strategy and planning process to create timely and well researched resources that meet doctors' needs and benefit their clinical practice, whilst enhancing reputation and positioning. This of course leads to a more focused and measurable ROI, aligned with objectives throughout.

By Simon Grime, Managing Director of Communications for Doctors.net.uk - the UK's largest and most active network of medical professionals

For more information on Doctors.net.uk, please call Simon Grime on +44 (0)1235 828400, or email Simon.Grime@mess.doctors.org.uk. You can also follow Doctors.net.uk on twitter: @doctors_net_uk

22nd August 2012

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