HCPs expect more online meetings in a post-corona era What does this mean for pharmaceutical marketers

HCPs expect more online meetings in a post-COVID era: What does this mean for pharmaceutical marketers?

Over a year ago, the world of face-to-face meetings, conferences, meet and greets, and handshakes was put on hold. However—especially in the field of medicine—business and innovation have continued forth, even picking up the pace to help the world navigate a health crisis while continuing to deliver quality care.
While the postpandemic social landscape is recovering, virtual meetings and newly digitized workspaces are here to stay—and new formats for medical communications and information-sharing need to be adopted in order to keep up.

Remote meetings will endure, and marketers must adjust to reach healthcare professionals at relevant moments and with tailored messaging. More than ever, it is crucial for pharma marketers to evolve their digital engagement strategy.

The digitization of the healthcare space
Digitization of health care has not only helped facilitate better patient care through online platforms, telehealth visits, and wearable technology, but has also helped busy healthcare providers (HCPs) improve clinical workflows and provide more-personalized care. For example, digital tools allowing for virtual consultations and remote monitoring of cancer patients have made oncology care faster and less expensive.

Because of this, providers can take on more patients in the same amount of time. Before COVID-19, it was an arduous task for pharmaceutical marketers and sales reps to get HCPs to meet in person. Now, in a postpandemic world, HCPs expect to meet with patients and sales reps alike through more-convenient online formats.

In an Accenture survey, 87% of providers reported a preference for virtual or a mix of virtual and in-person meetings with pharmaceutical reps even after the pandemic ends.

Digital technologies afford better engagement strategies
Your digital strategy should facilitate easier access and ultimately add value for providers. In another survey, 67% of HCPs felt pharma companies could improve communications with physicians and provide better support for prescribing decisions. In fact, 30% of HCPs would like “on-demand” access to pharma reps.

The reality is even busy doctors want information about new therapies and will turn to online sources and digital tools to get information quickly. Medicine is constantly evolving; keeping a pulse on therapeutic advances is a top priority among HCPs as part of their responsibility to deliver quality care and improve patient outcomes. This is especially true among oncology and hematology practices.

Thanks to the rise of teleconferencing born out of the pandemic, up-to-date information can be shared in real time with physicians, fitting their schedule and availability. For pharma marketers, this sparks a new approach to engagement focused on digital strategies that allow flexibility, support quick and to-the-point communications, and offer meaningful exchanges.

Understanding the online journey of individual HCPs
Of course, a one-size-fits-all approach to engagement no longer works in the digital era. To help define your digital strategy, you need to understand the nuances of how and when individual HCPs like to engage online.

Not all providers follow the same online journey, so your digital strategy must appeal to diverse preferences and online behaviors. Segmentation of your target audience will help you understand your HCPs better, allowing you to craft personalized messaging that you can then distribute through preferred channels.

To understand your target HCPs, innovative companies like Aptitude Health provide actionable insights on individual providers. These insights include preferences for engagement such as frequency and favored channels, and provide an idea of HCPs’ needs and their prescribing practices. Appropriately, insights are drawn from digital resources like data lakes, predictive models, customer relationship management systems, sales records, claims data, and surveys.

Digital content should be tailored to provide meaningful exchanges
Besides defining the appropriate channels and frequency of engagement, the content itself should be highly targeted. Is your messaging tailored to the type of HCPs you are trying to reach? Does it add value to their practice? Using the insights provided by forward-thinking companies, you can predict what information is of most interest to an individual provider’s practice and patients.

Physicians are notoriously difficult to pin down and have little time. Therefore, any communications with HCPs should be relevant, timely, and add value. Good content is not only targeted, but also strategic. This may be a quick, well-crafted email followed by meaningful exchange via video chat. Remember, however, that long video pitches and repeated requests for virtual chat are off-putting and do not fit into a busy physician’s schedule.

Content should further be easy to digest via the HCP’s preferred digital channel, whether an email or text exchange. Pharma marketers today should at a minimum incorporate digital training, virtual classes, and expanded use of communication platforms (text messaging, email, message board apps) in their digital tool kits. Unfortunately, only 26% of pharmaceutical sales reps receive training to help them reach proficiency with digital engagement tools.

Partnering with a medical communications agency
Partnering with a reputable medical communications agency gives you valuable insights into your HCPs to help you design appealing and actionable content and provides you with the digital tools to make engaging easy. If your sales reps struggle to engage through new online platforms, an agency can highlight appropriate steps for best digital engagement practices.

To develop a solid digital strategy, it is beneficial to work with a communications agency with expertise in your target discipline. For example, Aptitude Health is dedicated to supporting pharma companies that are focused on oncology and hematology.

Not all agencies are created equal. When selecting a communications agency to help with your digital HCP engagement strategy, an agency with specific subject matter expertise helps cut out the noise to deliver a strategy that truly reflects your product and the patients who benefit from it.