In an attempt to comply with regulations regarding marketing pharmaceuticals and clinical trials, HCP messaging can begin to look like a data dump—lots of information and text—with a call to action tacked onto the bottom of the message.
But Health Care Providers are busy, often overwhelmed, and very human. When given bland HCP messaging, they’re more likely to delete it than to read it, and in the process not even get to the call to action.
Health Care Providers are spending far less time meeting with reps and are increasingly moving to digital information they can access in their own time. According to a report from HealthLink Dimensions, 68% of physicians preferred to receive information from Pharmaceutical reps via email. We can assume that number has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, with HCPs limiting in-person visits to offices as much as possible (even from reps). Digital HCP messaging doesn’t have to be boring. It can be eye-catching and engaging while still complying with all regulations. Here’s how:
1. Know Your HCPs
Whether you’re marketing to family doctors or to specialists or a variety of HCPs, you need to know about who you’re marketing to. Create a prescriber persona for each type of HCP and then use this to customize your marketing. Information can include geolocation, specialization and key professional activities, content consumption behavior, and problems they encounter in their practice.
Once you know your HCP, you can craft personalized messages. For emails in particular, segmented personalized emails receive higher opening rates and lower unsubscribe rates.
Physicians may move to different offices, change their professional emails, and even change the type of patients they see. Make sure your data is current so your communications are accurate and personal.
As Keri Hettel writes for MM&M, the face of HCPs is changing, as is the way these HCPs are connecting with patients. “The advent of on-demand care, concierge care and telemedicine means that the first touchpoint of care may be different than it was in the past. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants increasingly make up the front lines of healthcare.” Part of knowing your HCPs must include knowing how your pharmaceuticals/clinical trials fit into this newer healthcare delivery model so that you’re contacting the right HCPs.
One thing most HCPs have in common is an overwhelmed schedule. Expect them to be busy. The second they open an email, see an ad, or even receive a flyer in the mail, you want to give them the information that’s most relevant in a clear and interesting format.
Test your email strategy, looking for the right frequency for HCP marketing where you aren’t annoying contacts with too many emails, and you’re not so infrequent that you’re being forgotten. In general, emails sent midweek around 10 am see the best open rates. And since many HCPs are using their smartphones to catch up on emails, make sure all emails are optimized for mobile, and contain fonts and images that are easy to view and load quickly and clearly.
2. Explainer Videos and Case Studies
HCPs need to be confident in their understanding of a product or trial before they can pass that information on to their patients. One of the best ways to do this is through medical explainer videos. There’s been a dramatic shift upwards in the use of videos for all types of marketing, and they’re an excellent way to clearly communicate to HCPs. Videos are the perfect tool for reaching HCPs, and they can then use the information to discuss options with their patients—even showing them to patients in the office.
Case studies are an excellent way to share information and highlight the positive effects of a pharmaceutical. And just like other marketing fields, presenting case studies in a storytelling format makes them interesting and memorable. Let HCPs know the benefits to their patients using real stories and interviews and succinct data and trial results.
Video is king when it comes to catching interest, memorability, and sharing/engaging. It’s even more effective in HCP marketing when text is available with the video. We recommend always having captioning in your explainer videos. This allows HCPs to consume content without interruption, ensures accessibility, and reinforces messaging. And including the word ‘video’ in email subject lines boosts open rates.
Hettel gives an important reminder to use multiple channels to connect with HCPs. Most of them are on social media, even when they ‘hang up their white coat’ for the day, and improved targeting can provide connections that might not be available via email. Additionally, HCPs that see consistent messaging across professional emails and on social media have more opportunities to respond to calls to action and share pertinent information with other HCPs.
Social media is an excellent platform for short explainer videos and patient testimonials, and it gives us the opportunity to create interesting, relevant, personalized content for HCPs. As an added bonus, they may then share the explainer video directly with their patients; including them in their education and working together towards better health outcomes.
3. Clear Positioning on When to Use Product/Refer to a Trial
One challenge and opportunity HCPs are facing is the increased access their patients have to information. The challenge is guiding patients to differentiate misinformation from reliable research. The opportunity is in partnering with patients already engaged in learning about their health to choose the best course of treatment or participation in a clinical trial. Access to this information should be available to the patient through product/trial landing pages, with the messaging the same as what doctors are receiving.
The decline of in-person rep visits has skyrocketed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors and other HCPs who used to rely on discussions with reps to clarify when and how to prescribe a pharmaceutical or refer a patient to a clinical trial should not feel like they’ve lost their source of information.
Just as telemedicine and virtual visits are becoming the standard for patients, pharma reps can switch to new ways of keeping connected. Options for face-to-face virtual conversations with HCPs include Skype, Zoom, MS Teams, eRep, iPhysicianNet, and Engage—likely with more providers adding options in the near future.
Of course, without in-person visits, reps cannot leave samples at medical offices. Make the process to receive samples as simple as possible by giving HCPs a link to click through to order samples. Now is the time to determine which digital strategies and tools work best for you and the HCPs you’re connecting with.
4. Aim for Partnerships
Think about HCPs as people you want to connect with as partners who then connect your pharmaceutical/clinical trial with their patients—who also become partners with their HCPs. Frame communications with this in mind, establishing a position where you’re working with HCPs to connect patients with the right treatments and opportunities for their healthcare and disease treatment.
This aligns perfectly with the new model of healthcare where patients are active participants in their health, not submissive bystanders. As Phil Lucas writes for InkLab Medical Communications, “Today, HCPs need to be equipped to answer all the questions a patient has, for example, how the prescribed drug works, the potential side effects, the alternatives, what are the reasonings for prescribing drug/treatment ‘X’ rather than ‘Y’… and so on.”
Pharma can create a strong foundation for trusted partnerships by providing HCPs with everything they need to answer their patient’s questions and help them make the best decisions for their care. And when that information is presented in a clear, interesting manner with easy-to-understand explainer videos, case studies, patient testimonials, and useful infographics, HCPs will have all the right information at their fingertips and ready to share.
As Lucas notes, it’s not just about the facts. “40% of HCP’s brand preference is attributable to customer experience factors beyond the product.” This is an important place to give HCPs the right experience that gives them confidence in your brand, and confidence in their advice and recommendations. He suggests that pharma focuses on providing education for HCPs and patients so they can have meaningful conversations together before deciding on a course of action.
The vast majority of HCPs use patient education materials—and most want more. Meet that demand by crafting campaigns that include information that can be shared with patients. Content may be most welcome when it is educational and interesting and is presented as unbiased and informative rather than a ‘push’ for a treatment. Make sure the data you share is easy to understand. Create educational materials that patients find useful and interesting, and hospitals and other institutions will be more likely to share that content.
This new approach to pharma marketing—one where the HCP and the patient are considered partners in care who take advantage of quality, clear, reliable information from pharma companies—is essential for connecting with the new generation of HCPs beginning to enter the workforce. These ‘Generation Z’ doctors born in 1995 or later expect to access information through emails, social media, and podcasts that they can consume when it’s convenient and easily share with patients. A lengthy email with pages of text is not going to connect with these HCPs.
Matching Visuals to Core Message
HCPs no longer rely on pharmaceutical reps as the source of all their information, and they’re often dealing with patients who are conducting their own research prior to connecting with their doctor. Core messaging across platforms and targeting both HCPs and patients becomes essential, and a key part of this is matching visuals to your core message.
In a Digital Marketing Institute blog for the pharma industry, it’s noted that visuals, human connections, and clear core messaging can work together across channels. They use the example of Amcal Pharmacy, who’s partnered with diabetic supercar driver Jack Perkins. Using Instagram to post about his personal journey and managing his diabetes, Amcal has been exposed to his 21,000 followers with consistent messaging that can be echoed from HCPs.