Ten to fifteen years ago, pharmaceutical manufacturers operated a relatively fixed business model for selling drugs. Patients trusted physicians to prescribe appropriate drugs and physicians did, alebeit the onespromoted by pharma reps in their offices. Instant access to more information in the past decade created a completely different landscape. Patients now actively educate themselves online and task providers to deliver more options and more effective outcomes. Power continues to shift in favor of the “buyer” and away from the “seller."
Leading pharmaceutical manufacturers delicately balance sales reps on the ground and digital investments to engage HCPs in a new world. A potential beer-versus-tacos moment exists for pharma, according to MMM. Some manufacturers take sides between reps and digital, while others argue that both prove effective in different situations. With old-school family physicians and new-age digital doctors living in a world together, no silver bullet exists for pharma marketers. Although some providers still prefer personal interaction, others wall off pharma rep interaction and choose to receive 100% of information online.
In addition to physician preference, manufacturers also engage healthcare digitally. As Mike Luby from BioPharma Alliance calls out that, “five years ago, at the beginning of a lot of these efforts to get in front of physicians who were big on digital, there were a lot of significant foul balls hit. In Pharma, the appetite for failure has never been high.” Innovative manufacturers find success in a balanced HCP engagement strategy, built on the learnings from divergent campaigns never previously attempted. Others struggle to find the formula that equalizes speed to market and the time needed for HCP education. Variables based on provider specialties and demographics amplify the challenges faced by pharma.
HCPs receive a constant stream of pharmaceutical promotions each day. Typically, the most highly managed physician specialties receive the most messages. In order to reduce the massive influx of information, physicians restrict face-to-face sales rep visits and other promotional activity, forcing pharma to leverage alternative channels that HCPs may or may not receive as well. Many pharmaceutical manufacturers invest in strategies that reflect sensitivity to the risk of alienating high-value physicians with untimely or irrelevant messaging.
EMRs establish a new channel that appears in the day-to-day workflow of virtually every practice across the country. This sounds like the fantasy dream for pharma brand managers; however, the channel must grow before it can function effectively.
In order to ensure the most return on investment, marketers want to incorporate their materials into tools physicians use on a daily basis. Unfortunately for the marketers, nearly all HCPs hate when their EMRs contain excess information – anything that does not benefit their patients. However, this new channel does provide a massive opportunity for pharma in a different light. Certain pharma marketing teams find success in more value-adding EMR investments such as educational content and patient support applications. The timing appears right for pharma to make “smart” moves at EMR providers attempting to offer more complete solutions for providers, improving on implementations originally rushed by the introduction of the Affordable Care Act.
On the subject of physician engagement, providers continue to gain power over the ability to regulate their interaction with pharma. With more available healthcare information than ever before, patients require even more quality treatments and guidance from doctors. As a result of mounting pressure on HCPs, physicians take measures to reduce the industry noise.
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