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Stronger HCP engagement required?

Only 15% of current pharma marketing activity is digital, this suggests there is a risk that digital can be seen as 'box ticking' with no tangible connection to the needs of HCPs.

With mounting workloads and growing demands on their time, it is increasingly difficult to engage authentically with healthcare professionals (HCPs). Noisy environments such as hospitals can make communications complicated as staff face demands in multiple formats all competing for their attention.

The most effective means of communication is often online, where growing numbers of HCPs are already actively sourcing healthcare information. Engagement should be targeted, personalised, and accessible via a number of devices, but funding a multichannel communications strategy to HCPs can be costly and complex, requiring regular updating and monitoring to ensure delivery to all forms: phone, tablet, desktop and print. 

While many pharma companies have discussed HCP engagement, a recent EPG Health media survey reports that only 15% of current pharma marketing activity is digital, so this suggests that there is a risk that it can be merely seen as ‘box ticking’ with no tangible connection to the needs of HCPs. Yet the evolving digital world has opened the doors for meaningful and engaging working relationships with HCPs, providing timely solutions that allow for delivery with a personal touch. In the past three to four years, HCPs have gone online to locate professional information, communicate with patients, and to educate themselves on new medical advances.

By understanding the HCP online engagement journey, pharma can gain useful insights into how to approach its communications. Understanding the demands of HCPs around resources and the best channels for delivery is vital for finding out how they are currently supported, as well as what their unmet needs are. This understanding will also allow pharma to see whether current marketing opportunities are being utilised, allowing it to tailor engagement initiatives appropriately.

What do HCPs do online and why?
Unsurprisingly HCPs are like us, they also go online for a number of resource and they can include:
  • Webcasts / videos from medical conferences
  • Patient education tools / downloads
  • Online Continuing Medical Education (eCME)
  • Diagnostic tools
  • Medical Association websites
  • Journal websites and publications
  • Wikipedia
  • Treatment guidelines
  • Medical blogs
HCPs will also engage on social media to:
  • Consume news – staying ahead of study results and new clinical information.
  • Create news – broadcasting information to others.
  • Care for patients – learn new ways to support patients.
  • Collaborate and network – community building without the standard hierarchal boundaries in everyday healthcare.
A study by EPG Health Media, entitled ‘Digital resources: healthcare professional demand versus pharma industry supply’ showed that HCPs are demanding better access to educational resources via multiple devices. Pharma is generally expected to provide funding for online resources, yet many HCPs feel that the supply of online promotional material exceeds demand, whereas the supply of educational resources falls short. When HCPs were asked whether pharma should be involved in provision of online continuing medical education (eCME), 39% of responses said that pharma should be involved in both funding and input, with only 20% of respondents saying they believed pharma should have no input whatsoever, and 41% saying it should provide funding for such resources only. This shows that HCPs may generally be accepting of new ways to interact with pharma online, and that many are willing to engage in joint working initiatives if pharma is willing to provide the support and information necessary. 

What does pharma need to do to build a digital engagement strategy?
Pharma is already using the digital platform to strengthen its innovative reputation and capitalise on trends in technology. Mobile applications such as the Novartis Med Info and Pfizer HemMobile app have been created to target both patients and HCPs, providing useful and practical digital information that is easily accessible. At this stage of the industry’s digital awakening, pharma must re-examine its strategy for approaching HCPs as they become more technology-savvy.  With the expectation for digital interaction only set to increase, pharma must examine such interactions holistically and shift the focus from brand-centricity to HCP and patient-centricity.

With HCP preferences increasingly heading towards digital channels, it is important that pharma takes a holistic approach to digital. The power of online has brought pharma closer to patients and HCPs than ever before, allowing it to embrace patient and HCP-centricity at a time when it is more vital than ever.

If you enjoyed this post then click on the link to download our white paper on multichannel marketing here:


  Stronger HCP engagement required?
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14th January 2016


  Stronger HCP engagement required?
PDF File: 963.9 KB



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