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How digital tools can support HCPs during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

Digital platforms are key to supplying information and connectivity to HCPs. How can the lessons we learn now be adopted for better communications in the future?

By Jeremy Schneider

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare systems and healthcare professionals (HCPs) cannot be understated. HCPs globally are expressing their concerns – even anger – about issues as far-ranging as the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the experimental treatments showing promise against the virus. HCPs are posting these frustrations and questions online, and searching for answers there, too.

Digital is emerging as their optimal and most accessible platform for news, data and updates, as well as sharing stories from the front lines, hoping to connect with other HCPs for advice and support. The industry should be taking stock of this behavioural trend and uptake of digital platforms, not only to provide the resources and information HCPs need during this pandemic, but also to learn what best practices in digital connectivity we can leverage after the outbreak.

A constant, 24-hour need for the latest medical evidence

Despite mainstream media coverage, COVID-19 is not the only condition HCPs are treating. And how COVID-19 affects patients with comorbidities is only part of the picture. Heart disease, cancer and neurological conditions have certainly not disappeared, health authorities continue to approve new treatments and indications and issue new guidelines, and patients still need help, which means HCPs need to keep up to date about the latest studies.

Prior to COVID-19, HCPs were already highly engaged on mobile platforms and websites such as Medscape, which has continued to see its reach expand across its news, education and physician crowdsourcing platform, Medscape Consult. But COVID-19 has expanded that engagement, as in-person visits by company representatives have stopped and medical conferences have all been cancelled and moved online.

Digital is the answer, but consider flexibility and insights in your planning

Marketers are needing to pivot strategies and shift resources quickly to digital, but they are doing so in an extraordinarily challenged healthcare environment. Digital provides an alternative to face-to-face communication, offering an effective means for broad and fast dissemination of key information and services when urgency matters. With HCPs facing increased workloads, shifting priorities and significant strains on their medical practices, marketers need to be mindful of this context, and so it’s important that relevant information be delivered via existing infrastructure (emails, websites, portals, remote personal engagement) that is both familiar to HCPs and easy to deploy.

To execute successfully, expertise and knowledge from customer-facing teams across the business should be leveraged and fully used to plan effective communication. The tone and cadence of brand messages now needs to be thoughtfully executed and balanced with communications grounded in thought leadership and support, and customer-facing teams should look outside their own four walls for new insights that can inform them.

Continuing to engage with HCPs throughout the pandemic will require a strategy that is nimble and flexible. We have no precedent for this public health crisis, and so those of us who support the healthcare community need to be responsive to changing dynamics. In this way, the real-time insights and feedback from digital communications will be invaluable tools, enabling marketers to stay agile, responding to what HCPs need, or don’t, at any point in time.

A case for continuing to adopt digital tools after the pandemic

While the road ahead is uncharted, the relevance of digital for HCPs has already been central for some time. In other words, HCPs have been using digital channels for professional purposes for years now. The COVID-19 outbreak will provide the context to demonstrate its value even more and may make the case for more sustained deployment. While many aspects of the world may be changed by COVID-19, how we communicate with HCPs will be a continuation of a transformation that is already here. The foundation, the tools and the channels are already available, and being used by HCPs around the world daily. Digital is one area that can offer a seamless transition during a time of upheaval and change.

Jeremy Schneider is Group General Manager of WebMD and Medscape Global

Article by
Jeremy Schneider

In association with

16th April 2020

From: Marketing

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