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Five Keys to Engaging ThoughtLeaders & Clinicians in a Low Access Environment

Executing Winning HCP Programs


Help! My Message Has To Reach The Right Healthcare Providers.

“The obstacles standing between my sales team and Healthcare Providers (HCPs) are absolutely stifling,” a pharma brand manager lamented.  This sentiment applies equally to many Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs), and it’s probably not going to improve any time soon. According to research conducted by Bain among U.S. HCPs (Bain US Front Line Healthcare Survey 2020 with Dynata), physicians don’t expect in-person meetings to increase appreciably in the near future. In fact, only 40% expect in-person meetings with pharmaceutical reps to return to pre-pandemic levels.  Worse still, many don’t want a return to pre-pandemic frequency of in-person meetings.  According to an Accenture study of U.S. physicians (Accenture Healthcare Provider Survey May 2020), only 10% desire a full return to in-person meetings, 39% want all meetings to be virtual and 48% would prefer a mix of virtual and in-person meetings (hybrid). While both studies were conducted among U.S. HCPs, it is reasonable to expect similar sentiments globally. 

 

With this seemingly bleak outlook, what are sales, medical affairs and brand teams to do? 

 

This article will outline five key principles life sciences teams can pursue to gain competitive advantage in engaging ThoughtLeaders (TLs), also known as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs),  and clinicians in today’s low access environment.  One of the five is essentially “a given,” but we will discuss it briefly. 

 

The Key Principles Are: 

 

1. Embrace and hone digital and hybrid solutions to meet HCPs on their terms 

2. Utilize pre-established HCP networks with accurate contact information 

3. Utilize already mapped networks that establish clear TL to clinician connections 

4. Utilize high trust platforms to boost audience and relevance 

5. Achieve and maintain continuity to stay top of mind 

 

Embrace and Hone Digital and Hybrid Solutions and Meet HCPs on Their Terms 

 

The obstacles standing between my sales team and Healthcare Providers (HCPs) are absolutely stifling,” a pharma brand manager lamented.  This sentiment applies equally to many Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs), and it’s probably not going to improve any time soon. According to research conducted by Bain among U.S. HCPs (Bain US Front Line Healthcare Survey 2020 with Dynata), physicians don’t expect in-person meetings to increase appreciably in the near future. In fact, only 40% expect in-person meetings with pharmaceutical reps to return to pre-pandemic levels.  Worse still, many don’t want a return to pre-pandemic frequency of in-person meetings.  According to an Accenture study of U.S. physicians (Accenture Healthcare Provider Survey May 2020), only 10% desire a full return to in-person meetings, 39% want all meetings to be virtual and 48% would prefer a mix of virtual and in-person meetings (hybrid). While both studies were conducted among U.S. HCPs, it is reasonable to expect similar sentiments globally. 

 

With this seemingly bleak outlook, what are sales, medical affairs and brand teams to do? 

 

This article will outline five key principles life sciences teams can pursue to gain competitive advantage in engaging ThoughtLeaders (TLs), also known as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs),  and clinicians in today’s low access environment.  One of the five is essentially “a given,” but we will discuss it briefly. 

 

Utilize Pre-established HCP Networks With Accurate Contact Information 

 

Whether delivering messaging, sponsoring education, or executing peer-to-peer programs, life sciences companies can gain a competitive advantage by choosing vendor partners with already existing HCP networks. It’s much easier to scoop fish out of a barrel than to catch them in a lake. And, while you’re scooping fish out of the barrel, it is a lot easier to pick the ones you want most and to pick enough of them. Developing programs with pre-existing networks with accurate contact information can save a tremendous amount of time, speed program execution and support delivery of more programs that achieve greater reach and frequency. Remember, it is almost worth investing a little more to scoop HCPs out of a bucket versus catching them one by one from the lake. 

 

Utilize Already Mapped Networks That Establish Clear TL to Clinician Connections  

 

Another significant plus beyond working with a partner with an established, engaged HCP network is to jumpstart your programs by selecting a vendor with a network that is already mapped.  Best-in-class peer-to-peer engagement programs hinge on executing panels that group the right global, national, regional, local TLs and clinicians. The right mix is particularly powerful as the messenger is often more important than the message. Also, mapped networks will enable your sales and MSL teams to make their limited touches more relevant and impactful. In today’s low access climate, more time should be spent studying up on individual HCPs to help make the most of every engagement. 

 

Utilize High Trust Platforms to Boost Audience and Relevance  

 

Most of us are creatures of habit.  Most of us value entities we trust and appreciate word-of-mouth referrals from people we trust. TLs and clinicians are no different. When choosing TL and clinician platforms to execute programs, select platforms with high trust among the HCPs they will be engaging on your behalf. High trust platforms meet HCPs on their terms, do not waste their time, are user-friendly, and ideally provide value in the form of research, reports and best practices back to the TLs and clinicians in their network. It may be difficult to determine if a platform has “high trust,” but tracking meaningful engagements and year-over-year growth of engagements are solid indicators.     

Achieve and Maintain Continuity  to Stay Top of Mind 

 

I remember a conversation I had with a seasoned sales manager on the importance of continuing to share our messaging with HCPs even those who seemed to be thoroughly convinced that we provided the best overall outcome for patients. He said, “people always need to be resold, or someone else will come along and create doubt.” Continuity is an important media fundamental – second only to reach. In the current low access environment, it can be tempting to be satisfied with achieving reach but reach alone isn’t sufficient to fuel brand and sales growth. In developing hybrid and digital strategies, it is also important to utilize platforms and vendor partners that can deliver program after program and engagement after engagement to large and relevant audiences.   

 

Make These Keys to Success Your Keys to Success 

 

 The last two years have been extremely disruptive to traditional HCP reach & engagement models. The good news is that the adjustment to digital and hybrid models isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Identifying experienced partners with “high trust,” mapped TL and clinician networks can help you act decisively, gain insights and deliver your messaging with continuity.