How pharma can optimize HCP engagement in a digital world

Embracing an omnichannel approach would help pharma embody three key components to HCP engagement.

The author(s)

  • Sara Martin Consultant, Ipsos Healthcare Advisory
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Pharma should embrace an omnichannel engagement approach to provide a more customer-centric experience that considers HCPs’ needs, preferences, and availability in all communications. Currently, pharma organizations tend to operate using systems that are not properly set up to share information. This can hinder: (1) their ability to have a more complete understanding of their customers and (2) their capacity for cross-team coordination of engagement tactics. In order to adopt omnichannel, pharma must establish means of cross-team collaboration and data integration. This will require access to appropriate technology, systems, and training based on the needs of the organization.

Take a look at our detailed paper for insights on how to accomplish that!


KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Pharma began to employ digital channels for healthcare professionals (HCPs) engagements prior to COVID. However, when the pandemic forced the industry to rely almost exclusively on digital, pharma was unable to quickly adopt effective strategies and thus shared an overwhelming amount of promotional content with HCPs.
  • A more customer-centric approach is necessary to adapt to HCPs’ evolving needs. For successful HCP engagement pharma should:
  1. Reel in HCPs with personalized content
  2. Keep customer preferences at the core of all communications
  3. Be available when it is convenient for the customer
  • Embracing an omnichannel approach would help pharma embody these three key components to HCP engagement by enabling greater cross-team collaboration, data integration, and synergy of engagement tactics across the organization.

Introduction: An Overview of the Recent Evolution of HCP Engagement Tactics

Before Pandemic

While face-to-face meetings were the primary method for HCP engagement, pharma reps were using some digital means of communication, such as virtual meetings and emails. Results from a 2017 Veeva survey, show that 59% of HCPs had face-to-face interactions, 37% received emails, and 17% participated in remote meetings.

During Pandemic

Pharma was required to communicate with HCPs almost solely with digital tactics but was not equipped to transition so quickly. There was often no clear long-term strategy to engagement methods. HCPs were overwhelmed by generic promotional emails, and some hospital organizations even began to block these messages.

Despite the growing pains of digital, HCPs value convenience and would like some form of virtual engagement to continue post-pandemic.

Future

The use of digital channels is here to stay, but pharma needs to learn to personalize digital tactics to meet HCPs’ needs using a synergistic mix of channels, designed to target the right HCPs at the right time in the right way.

Omnichannel engagement will be the most effective approach. This method will require greater collaboration across marketing, sales, access, analytics, and medical teams to provide material / services to HCPs in a synergistic manner. Data-driven insights will fuel this approach and allow for pharma to track and shape their strategies accordingly.

Top Three Things Pharma Should Do to Optimize HCP Engagement

1. Reel in HCPs with Personalized Content

Traditional face-to-face sales rep tactics were focused on creating a customized experience for HCPs. Market segmentations guided sales reps’ understanding of HCP preferences and needs, allowing them to shape their discussions with HCPs appropriately. Reps could also tailor the conversations to specific questions the HCPs asked.

This customized approach has not historically been widely adopted in non-personal forms of digital communication from pharma; however, it is critical to ensuring digital means of engagement can meet customer needs. An abundance of promotional emails will cause HCPs to lose interest in content shared by a pharmaceutical company. It can also cause HCPs to develop an association of the company with being too promotional. Pharma can instead instill trust and capture HCPs’ attention by sharing information that is personalized to their needs and relevant for their patients.

Today there are methods available that can help personalize these communications by inferring what the next best action is for pharma to take. These methods include, but are not limited to, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to integrate data from various sources (e.g., claims data, patient diagnoses, website content /click tracking, email engagement, search history, etc.). Existing software offerings, such as Veeva Commercial Cloud, can assist pharma in implementing these data-driven approaches.

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2. Keep Customer Preferences at the Core of All Communications

Pharma can also further customize their approach by directly asking HCPs about their preferences and incorporating their feedback in the engagement plan. With “preference centers,” HCPs can indicate what content they want to see, where they want to see it, and the frequency with which they want to communicate.

Engagement channel preferences often boil down to convenience and can vary based on a variety of circumstances. For example, an HCP may prefer in-person rep visits vs. scheduled virtual visits for the ability to chat with the rep when they have free time in-between patients. However, this HCP may prefer virtual conferences to in-person conferences for a better sense of control over their day, with the ability to log in and out of virtual talks. HCPs who practice in hospitals that are more restrictive regarding sales rep visits may prefer a larger proportion of interactions to occur via virtual calls and other digital means. Hence, it can be helpful to directly ask HCPs how they prefer to communicate.

3. Pharma Should Be Available When It Is Convenient for the Customer

As treatments and access considerations become increasingly complex, HCPs need to stay up-to-date, which can be burdensome when constantly operating under the pressure of time. To accommodate HCPs’ busy schedules and help them stay informed, pharma can offer on-demand content. A one-stop online hub with an organized library of content would be a convenient way for HCPs to access information of interest at their disposal. With a simple search or filter, HCPs could quickly find answers and resources they need. For optimal convenience and utility, digital content must be concise, relevant, and easy to understand.

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How Embracing Omnichannel Will Help Pharma Execute These Key Components to HCP Engagement

Pharma should embrace an omnichannel engagement approach to provide a more customer-centric experience that considers HCPs’ needs, preferences, and availability in all communications.

Currently, pharma organizations tend to operate using systems that are not properly set up to share information. This can hinder: (1) their ability to have a more complete understanding of their customers and (2) their capacity for cross-team coordination of engagement tactics.

In order to adopt omnichannel, pharma must establish means of cross-team collaboration and data integration. This will require access to appropriate technology, systems, and training based on the needs of the organization.

How Ipsos Can Help You Enhance HCP Engagement (not exhaustive)

Ipsos Healthcare Advisory is skilled in partnering with clients to help them develop their omnichannel strategy and monitor the effectiveness of their tactics. Below are summaries of a couple of our offers.

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The author(s)

  • Sara Martin Consultant, Ipsos Healthcare Advisory

Consumer & Shopper