Engaging healthcare providers (HCPs) is ever important for pharmaceutical and life sciences companies. Even though technology afforded new ways of engaging HCPs, real-world events like the COVID-19 pandemic also shape effective engagement strategies. Take a look at the importance of engaging HCPs, how COVID-19 had an impact, and tips for effective HCP engagement.
Why Engage Healthcare Providers?
The number of approved pharmaceutical and life sciences treatments continues to increase year after year. In 2021, 55 new drugs gained FDA approval in spite of the ongoing pandemic. For patients, access to new treatments is usually great news. However, these treatments are only accessible to patients in need if HCPs are familiar with the new treatments. Therefore, engaging healthcare providers once a new treatment is available is critical.
However effective HCP engagement is increasingly more challenging. Clinicians often have little time available, and modern policies govern how they may be accessed by pharmaceutical marketers. Further, COVID-19 has exacerbated engagement challenges due to the implausibility of in-person meetings with sales representatives.
A Look at Pre-COVID-19 HCP Engagement
According to research by Accenture, 64 percent of sales rep meetings occurred in person prior to COVID-19. In other words, before the pandemic, most sales reps and medical affairs teams had direct, in-person access to HCPs to share new treatment information. In-person conferences and meetings were common.
Nevertheless, brand managers took a “hybrid” or combination approach with a mix of digital and face-to-face engagements. Even before the pandemic, digital communications were a major part of engaging healthcare providers. In fact, they were slowly gaining ground as a core component of marketing strategies among life sciences companies.
How Engaging Healthcare Providers Changed During and Post-COVID-19
While digital HCP engagement was gaining ground before COVID-19, the pace of change was forced to accelerate during the pandemic. Social-distancing guidelines meant in-person meetings, conferences, and advisory board meetings were mostly restricted. Unfortunately, digital messaging, ad boards, and educational platforms weren’t quite prepared to fill the void. To compensate, brands engaged via e-mail, social media, and digital conferencing. Further, almost all market research transitioned to digital methodologies as well.
As the pandemic settles, many HCPs have also indicated they don’t expect a return to in-person meetings to learn about treatments. The charts below show that HCPs believe that in-person pharmaceutical sales rep visits are likely to remain restricted beyond the pandemic. A fractional 10 percent of HCPs want to go back to pre-COVID norms with in-person meetings. By contrast, 87 percent of HCPs prefer all virtual or a mix of virtual and in-person meetings post-COVID. This approach is often referred to as hybrid engagement strategy.
5 Tips for Engaging Healthcare Providers in a post-COVID-19 Landscape
Armed with the knowledge that HCPs are now embracing change when it comes to engagement, brand strategists must work towards accommodation. Take a look at five useful tips for engaging healthcare providers in the post-COVID-19 landscape.
1. Get familiar with ThoughtLeaders and their influenced networks
In digital environments, many ThoughtLeaders impact clinicians via digital communications. Further, these key players can impact other important aspects of new treatments, such as formularies, treatment algorithms, and provider networks.
2. Opt for already-engaged marketing and sales partners
Marketing and sales partners that already have ongoing engagement with ThoughtLeaders and clinicians give brand strategists a head start. Ideal partners already have ThoughtLeaders and clinician networks thoroughly mapped out. The ideal marketing strategy uses regular engagement with ThoughtLeaders for research purposes, CME, and other activities. An active network yields more engagements with the right clinicians.
3. Approach HCPs on their terms
Reach each HCP with their desired mix of personal and non-personal (digital) communication, including a mix of promotional and non-promotional content when possible. To do so requires deep understanding of ThoughtLeaders and clinicians, which is why a well-mapped network is important from the start. Reaching clinicians on their terms requires a well-resourced multichannel approach to ensure messaging and education reaches intended audiences.
4. Expand communication efforts with digital tools
Expand digital programs and efforts to achieve the right equilibrium between personal and non-personal promotion. Take advantage of digital peer-to-peer programs, which pair the right ThoughtLeaders with known clinician colleagues. Layer digital programs instead of relying on one program alone to ensure efficient reach and engagement frequency. An ideal mix will include peer-to-peer programs, e-mail campaigns, product theaters, virtual poster sessions, podcasts, etc.
5. Make use of social media
Lean into social media and take advantage of the marketing potential. Digital ThoughtLeaders are gaining ground, many building valuable influence potential via social followings online. “Rising Star” ThoughtLeaders and younger clinicians often share and obtain information on social channels.
Simplify Engaging Healthcare Providers Today with the Best Tools
The best digital tools make transitioning to hybrid HCP engagement easier to navigate. MDOutlook offers a number of tools to help your brand with engaging healthcare providers. Lumineer® helps with ThoughtLeader mapping and understanding. Activeer® offers leading-edge, peer-to-peer programs. And, ClinicalXChange supports the digital engagement of HCPs through educational programs.
Reach out to MDOutlook to get the conversation started about how our solutions help you inform, connect, and impact your targeted healthcare professional customers.