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Online learning trend offers golden opportunity to pharma

Doctors increasingly turning to internet-based courses

Online physician communitiesThe days when doctors could rely on their medical school training alone are long gone. Rapid changes in medical technology and treatments, new guidelines and ways of doing things, plus the advent of revalidation, mean doctors need to constantly update their knowledge.

With pressure on study leave, cuts in education budgets, and increased demands at work, more and more doctors are not only funding their own Continuing Professional Development (CPD), they are also being forced to complete it in their own time. 

As a result, accredited online education courses, which are generally low cost or free, and enable doctors to learn in bite-sized chunks at a time and pace that suits them, are becoming an increasingly popular option for doctors. 

This fact is borne out by new data from, which shows the number of doctors completing its online education courses has rapidly increased in recent months. During the second quarter of this year, there was a 31 per cent rise in the number of unique users who finished online education modules via compared to the same period in 2012.

So how can pharma capitalise on this trend? By adopting a multi-wave approach, that incorporates educational as well as promotional content, pharma can assess doctors' existing levels of knowledge and understanding around key disease and therapy areas, and move their knowledge on to the next stage by creating resources that meet their evolving needs. 

Learning needs assessments provide a particularly useful way of helping pharma to gauge doctors' knowledge levels prior to the launch of an engagement programme and to optimise resources on an ongoing basis. Other educational tactics, such as sponsored research papers, case studies and arm's length education, can also be used to support a variety of sales and marketing needs from a brand launch to extending the long tail of sales for a mature brand, provided, of course, that they meet the ABPI Code in the UK.

By providing doctors with good quality educational resources, pharma can begin to develop a new kind of relationship with them; one that positions a company as a thought leader. This 'push and pull' approach makes doctors more receptive to promotional messages and provides a far deeper level of engagement and ROI, than straightforward promotion. This is because it helps pharma to address trust and transparency issues, and build equity for its brands.

For more information on, please call Simon Grime on +44 (0)1235 828400, or email You can also follow on Twitter: @doctors_net_uk

29th August 2013

From: Marketing



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