Communicating with HCPs – The Experts Discuss

Communicating with HCPs | DHC Summit 2019

In Boston this spring, the DHC convened a panel of HCP marketing experts to discuss both challenges and opportunities for innovation in how pharma brands are communicating with HCPs. The panel discussed various current tensions in the HCP landscape today, where the digital/technology innovation is currently most impactful in addressing those tensions, and what’s working well now.

A summary of their insights is provided below.

Panel - communicating with HCPs

Participating Panelists

Azita McDermott, Director, Marketing, US Neurology & Immunology, EMD Serono

Donald Hanson, VP, Client Services, Intouch Solutions

Doug Rutz, Chief Revenue Officer, MNG Health


Summary of Expert Insights

Azita McDermott, Director of Neurology and Immunology at EMD Serono

One of the things that is evident in the HCP landscape is physicians’ time is crowded. That’s an area where digital really helps, but even in the digital space, there’s a crowded landscape because there is competition in order to get that time where the physician moves from awareness to loyalty.

The difficulty in delivering the person-to-person message is resources. One could potentially look at the prioritization of messages versus just the actual customization, because everything costs money and resources.

Identify Key Business Questions to Manage Data

Data can always use innovation. There is a lot of data available now, especially on HCPs. One of the things that is done on the HCP side is to try to collate and combine that information that is being captured online and doing some predictive and prescriptive analytics. Trying to combine those things and getting that holistic picture of the HCP side; the holy grail is when one can add the patient information on top of that, and then try to get that holistic view of what’s happening in the market.

Identifying what one’s key business questions are will then help them identify how to pull that data and in what format they need to provide it in.

Speak the Same Language

The first place one should start is with the content, and make sure they’re providing that red thread to allow the patient and physician to speak the same language. The beauty of technology is that one can now geo-target and geo-fence these particular customers. Google is developing a new technology where one can even target within a floor of a high-rise a particular physician’s office, for example. From this perspective, things have come a long way; but at the same time, there is now that opportunity, as a patient is sitting in that doctor’s office — can content be delivered to them before they walk in?

There are sites physicians tend to trust more versus others. Even though they may not trust what they’re seeing on TV, they do tend to trust what they’re seeing on properties, landscapes, etc. Those are the areas where one must try to intercept the physician and make sure that they’re providing the content to them that they need. Then, from a patient services perspective, as long as one can show that they bring value to that physician, that’s where the money is.


Donald Hanson, Field Experience Council Leader at Intouch Solutions

The digital space is crowded not just with the clients’ competitive set, but also with the Allied Health Organizations and all those partners. Everyone is creating content, and they influence the space in which physicians are able to consume that content. The insights and the research are available to segment and really understand our customers, and now there are platforms to deliver tailored messages based on those insights.

Address Data Management Pain Points

How data is stored, who accesses it, when they access it, and what they do with it are all pain points. There have been times when organizations say, “I need these 10 data marts so that we can access them all in a different way” versus if, in hindsight, one could set up a data lake where it would be more agile for the grant teams and other teams to be able to analyze that data, to then take action after gaining that insight.

One additional layer is to look at the HCP data and then layer on that patient data. In the absence of being able to do that exactly, being able to look at the physician profile so that attitude is known behavioral segmentation, but then layer on another question to that to say are they an enabler to that patient, are they a distracter or blocker. That further helps refine prioritization as well as any tailoring that needs to be done from a messaging perspective.

Deliver the Right Content to Provide Value

With the qualitatives in a patient services program , there is also an opportunity to inform the physician about what other consumer patient advertising one has out there and why. As evidenced from some of the data from SERMO, they don’t like raw consumer TV campaigns. If one communicates proactively the connected experience they want to create for those patients in a value-first mentality, that may go some way to interest them and connect those two.

One doesn’t always have to create an app to create an app. They really have to determine what the need is, what gaps they’re filling, if there is a gap from either a messaging or strategic perspective and focus on that. Don’t have a technology seeking out a problem, have a problem seeking out a solution.

There is a need to be much smarter in the ability to deliver the right content for reps to be flexible in the moment. The ability to have content and an interactive sales aid that allows the representative to prioritize on-the-fly, but also be informed by the insights and the data that one makes accessible through that particular platform, is highly valuable.

From a sales force effectiveness perspective, there has been a tendency in the past to lead with the stick and not the carrot. Now, leading with the carrot and putting the value to them, and the results not only in the ultimate output of behavior change but also in the actual usage of those platforms and content has been a big shift in reassuring that a value-first mentality really works.

Leverage Marketing, Machine Learning and AI

On the future — the crunching of the data with machine learning and artificial intelligence, and even maybe human insights, to understand what touch-points they’ve been engaged with, how they’re going to be influenced based on their personas, and that next best action both from a sales force perspective, but also a marketing and home office perspective.


Doug Rutz, Chief Revenue Officer at MNG Health

Physician time is of the essence, but in parallel, there is more and more available and digestible information, but the time to actually be able to get through it is a common complaint from physicians.

There are a lot of new ways to address messaging out to the HCP population. Like any other consumer, which is what HCP is, they’re going to gravitate to what works for them personally.

Determine What Data is Needed

If one finds a strategy they like for a particular brand, that may or may not be appropriate for other places in the organization. Oftentimes, there are partners who will lose track of the strategy because they’ve really gotten a lot of good experience from a select basket of tactics. From position research, one will see that what physicians want in terms of being able to get quick downloads of clinical information, progress, etc. — they want to digest that quickly. That’s not always in concert with what the brand managers are trying to do to promote their product.

From a data innovation perspective, direct clients have expressed that there’s so much data available that they purchase and that’s available online. It’s just the capacity to be able to do the analysis. Are they asking the right questions?

The data does need to be innovated, with machine learning and artificial intelligence. The degree that one can try and get ahead with a segmented message using data, customizing that, and finding that balance between promotion and value to the physician, where one is really trying to build a relationship.

Determine How You Want to Use the Data

About geo-targeting — one would want to use that information and do it in concert with what’s happening with representatives in personal promotion. Sometimes those two worlds can get disconnected. However, some of the recent stats were around 38 to 40% of physicians allowing or encouraging access from representatives, down from 60, 70% only five, six years ago. Those reps that are out there are still very valuable, so the marketing messages have to be in concert.

Beyond the quantitative available data, there is qualitative data. What do patients want? If one can infuse some of those things in their geo-targeting messages and include messaging that’s going to benefit the doctor. They should talk a little bit about what’s new, clinical data; they also want to talk about the fact that “X company has an endogen patient support program”. That helps hit the patient button as well as patient satisfaction and some of the other metrics.

The representatives need to understand what else is out there and being promoted. Physicians like having that interaction, but they want it to be meaningful and not repetitive — they want to know real distinguishable factors and how it might influence someone. It’s going to take time to earn that trust. The representatives still have a role to play there.

Because physicians are saying they want to hear more about what the opinion leaders do and they want to digest key clinical data faster because they don’t have time for all these articles — being able to put those things in a spot where they can have the videos, the PowerPoint KOL train index and automate them. Give them homes digitally that they can not only point them to, but they can work with the representative to do that.

Leverage Tech, the Web, Machine Learning, AI and Data

In the future, as the brands evolve and as patients get more and more knowledgeable, it’s going to be the ability to leverage technology, the web, machine learning, computers, more data to help make better decisions. One may also think about the fact that all of that information can paralyze them or segment them, but there is still a need to have people that have to put this together. Automating, but then finding a way to act on things that don’t paralyze them.

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