It’s Like You Were Virtually There
Digital innovations are transforming HCP interactions in more ways than one.
It’s no secret that doctors are short on time. Between rising numbers of more informed patients, funding cuts and more complex diseases and treatments in primary care, there’s limited time for them to either sit down with pharma reps or absorb the latest research in their field.
Thinking beyond the rep has seen pharma companies spearhead a variety of new digital initiatives to gain access in a different way – remotely. Virtual interactions with healthcare professionals (HCPs) are on the rise, whether that be across emails or webinars, and, when targeted correctly, it can be invaluable.
“Face to face needs to be enhanced by better co-ordination, with more relevant content to doctors like education or new clinical data,” says Christian Scheuer, VP of Global Commercial Affairs and Excellence at LEO Pharma. “In order to be relevant online you typically need to promote something other than your brand. It’s about making it easy for the doctors to access resources and build trust.”
Email, remote e-detailing, social media, digital hubs, webcasts and webinars are some of the myriad virtual touchpoints available to HCPs. “Doctors, like all of us, spend much time online on their laptops and phones looking for information,” says Tim Cave, former VP Head Strategic Planning and Digital Practices, Global Medical Affairs at GSK, and founder of SaySo Medical, producing virtual events connecting pharma companies and HCPs.
“They are both short of time and overwhelmed with the amount of written information they receive, so there’s a huge opportunity here. They like virtual meetings and on-demand video because it makes everything more convenient – they can get access to a speaker they wouldn’t have been able to, or dip back into on-demand material.”
As well as suiting the customer, market research shows that virtual engagements like webinars pack serious results. “Attendance at even a remote web to web webinar has over 135 per cent of the impact of a rep’s visit,” says Cave. “If you add satellite rooms in webinars, with a face to face meeting in a conference, then that can be up to five times as impactful as a rep.”
The virtual landscape
Social media marketing, live streaming of relevant video content and disease specific websites are part of the package of digital content at LEO Pharma. The company also records symposia and interviews key opinion leaders at medical conferences, then offers the content up in appropriate ways to physicians.
“That’s typically something they are quite interested in,” says Scheuer. “Where it works well is where it’s integrated well at our end, so that across markets and disease states we can connect the data to continuously improve the content and how we present it across LEO and non-LEO owned channels.”
While some of their approaches, including Facebook and LinkedIn advertising and sponsored posts, appear to come in as expensive when you look at the cost of conversion, the data gathered is invaluable. “You get more objective data on what is actually relevant to doctors when you engage with them online, and I think that’s a huge advantage,” says Scheuer. “Profiling becomes more objective compared with when you had to rely on interpretations made based on sales reps’ perceptions of a doctor.
“One of the advantages of connecting with HCPs on social media is that it’s actually not a push strategy, it’s more of a pull. You can detect what they find relevant based on their behaviour – if they click on the ad, if they sign up or if they take action – instead of asking. At the same time, you also get a lot of data that you wouldn’t usually – age, gender, geography. The trick is how you take them from that engagement and on a journey to eventually promote your brand, and I think we haven’t really worked out how to do that.”
In the webinar or webcast space, pharma content ranges from small discussion groups using two-way video through to panel discussions and major webcasts, which can be broadcast to audiences in the tens of thousands. “These are particularly useful when it comes to cutting edge developments about disease and products,” says Cave. “You have a panel or sofa type discussion, which looks like a studio, but presenting highly scientific content, with all the audience remote, or have them i
s satellite venues and link doctors across the country together by webinar.”
Such events take some organising, and therefore offer great value to physicians who would be unable to do this themselves, while also filling a gap in peer-to-peer support. “It’s hard for physicians to connect with other hospitals and most of them aren’t familiar enough with the technology to do it on their own. They often don’t have enough funding to get to all the international conferences and meetings they wish to, and also don’t have as many meetings with their peers as they used to, because the pharma industry doesn’t fund that as much anymore.”
While many companies are piloting a range of digital solutions, there remains wide variation in uptake, in particular when it comes to streaming or on-demand video. Some firms, like GSK, run daily programming where HCPs can log in and pick from a planned schedule of webcasts and events every day, while others are just beginning this part of their virtual journey.
“I’ve done polls at different conferences and there’s definitely been an increase in uptake, but we’ve still got an awfully long way to go, because more than half said they weren’t doing anything or were only just starting, ” says Cave. “This difference is interesting, considering what’s possible with reach and loyalty and feedback from customers, so I think it’s an untapped area so far.
“There is a lot of demand for non-product information, which helps the company build that company relationship – such as what new research has been discovered, or details about the disease. What doesn’t work well are events that are highly promotional in tone.”
Better production standards will hopefully build more engaging presentations that will draw repeat custom, moving away from the voiced over slides some still rely on, to broadcast level streams, including ‘pseudo live’ events which pre-record presentations to pair with a live Q&A. “This takes the risk, and some of the nerves, out of it and makes for a quality production,” says Cave. “An engaging talk needs to be delivered by someone who comes across as confident on camera.”
Content should be designed by starting with customer needs and working back. “The more that we can look at it from the customers point of view, the better. The peak time that the doctors want to connect is around 7pm, which is either when they’re trying to get through stuff in the clinic, or when they’ve just got home. If it’s something you’re watching on a screen, it’s in direct competition with things like Game of Thrones. If it’s easy to watch and take part in and has content that’s very relevant to me and helps my patients, I’m going to want to come back.
“You need to be ensuring you’re giving the customers what they want and aligning the content with the audience that you’ve invited to an event. That should be based upon insights from the audience in the country you’re talking to as to what exactly they want to talk about.”
The Netflixes of pharma
When it comes to multi-channel approaches, integration is central to maximizing the advantages of digital, says Scheuer. “If we can integrate email, e-detailers, websites, live streaming and all these forms of activities, then it works better. That’s quite a significant effort but is nevertheless what we are currently building to be able to look at data in an integrated manner to improve engagement with HCPs.”
He views the future as a Netflix-style model, where branded content is presented coherently, but personalised to suit each user. “If my family all watch Stranger Things, it is the same content, but the series is presented to me in different way to my wife or children.
“If you look what’s behind that, it’s an integrated infrastructure which pulls data from all engagement points with me and profiles me based on that, to present content in a way that seems personal to me, even though I’m just one of a number or architypes on their platform. That’s essentially what we’d like to do, so if a doctor is a ‘patient-type’ doctor, versus a ‘business-type’ doctor, you could present content in a way that highlights the patient perspective.”
Agility, co-ordination and continued innovation will ensure virtual connections continue to thrive and complement face to face. “Pharma still has a way to go to both make the compliance process run smoothly and also prioritize, financially, content that is above brand,” says Scheuer. “It is for sure a more integrated approach in the future, where you set up your infrastructure in a way that you can easily collect data and analyse, on a continuous basis, your engagement with doctors, adapting your approach to better interact based on better and better profiling.”
This can end up aiding the entire eco-system, says Cave. “If we can help companies put on daily schedules of events that are high quality, so doctors can find content that they want nice and easily which is very specific for their area of interest, think of how much value each company is adding to customers, and how much trust they then get back – that would be a huge benefit for everybody.”
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