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Engaging HCPs is Hard… Here’s How Digital Can Help

April 7th, 2023 Mark Bornstein

Being a marketer in the life sciences industry must feel absolutely dizzying these days. You have to contend with endless regulatory restrictions that can make even the simplest marketing program a major headache. There is increased competition, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, with new generics and formularies being approved all the time. And now the technology sector has entered the market disrupting both the pharma and medical device landscape. 

If that wasn’t enough, there has been major industry consolidation with hospitals and physician groups coming together through acquisitions and mergers, making just figuring who to talk to a major challenge. 

ON24 Life Sciences Benchmarks Report, 2023

All of this happening against a backdrop of digital transformation that has upended how we engage, educate and sell to healthcare practitioners. Bringing new products to market is now a race against time and traditional methods of educating HCPs simply won’t work and don’t scale. A study from Indegene, showed that 68% of doctors prefer to meet with sales reps only once a month. And in many cases, those meetings are taking place digitally. In fact, doctors and administrators are much more willing to listen to key opinion leaders then they are sales reps, which makes marketing to them even harder. 

There is another challenge emerging as well, as specialty treatments like precision medicines, niche therapies and unique medical devices become more prevalent. Bringing these products to market has required a more targeted and personalized approach. 

Re-imagining HCP engagement at digital scale

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According to a joint study by ON24 and MedData, 96% of HCPs said they would benefit from attending more conferences, meetings and continuing medical education events…virtually.” Marketers at life sciences companies are meeting this demand by shifting to a digital engagement strategy that builds relationships, educates and brings treatments and products to market – at digital scale. 

Many of the events that companies used to educate HCPs in the physical world have seamlessly moved into the digital world, including KOL webinars, virtual symposiums, product launches, continuing education sessions, sales training and patient community events — all delivered through engaging digital experiences. 

Through digital channels, bringing new treatments to market, training reps and certifying physicians no longer waits on the slow roll of one-off physical events, and life sciences brands can execute all of them, simultaneously, at scale. And digital channels make reaching HCPs easier as they can be available as “always-on” experiences, enabling physicians to access content on their terms, in their time. 

ON24 Life Sciences Benchmarks Report, 2023

Imagine a virtual product launch event where physicians can attend educational sessions, ask questions, engage in small group discussions with peers, download relevant content, speak with reps, and even get certifications…all in a single experience, without leaving the office. Conversely, launching a niche medicine can now be made more effective by creating highly personalized experiences, like custom landing pages or focused webinars, for target physician groups in key functional areas (logical prescribers). 

There has also been an emerging trend of having a more patient-centric approach by creating virtual community health events that provide patient education and discussion about wellness, disease prevention and other relevant topics, allowing life sciences companies to become trusted brands around health care topics related to their products. 

Digital channels, like webinars and on-demand content hubs, also make compliance easier as they can be pre-templated, and the content pre-approved by compliance officers without any of the anxiety of uncontrollable physical events. In a digital experience, every element can be pre-approved, and presenters and hosts have full control of the experience. In fact, many KOL webinars are pre-recorded and run “Simulive” (as if they are live) or just exist as on-demand experiences to meet compliance needs.  

Optimizing for HCP engagement

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But these channels are more than simply streamed presentations, they are built to maximize HCP engagement and develop the relationships that were once solely owned by reps in the field. Successful life sciences companies are now creating engaging digital experiences that are highly interactive and that surround physicians with lots of content options and CTA’s, to not only enable physician education and certification, but to also deliver insights into their interests and likeliness to adopt new treatments, therapies and drugs. 

These insights, this first-party data, delivered from engaging digital experiences, is becoming the holy grail for life sciences marketers today. By integrating digital engagement insights such as questions asked, poll responses, content downloaded, CTA’s clicked on, directly into CRM systems like Veeva or IQVIA, you provide sales reps with a much deeper picture of HCP interest and intent — making those increasingly rare but valuable sales rep conversations much easier and more productive. 

And it works. Roche recently showed a 76% increase in HCPs that planned to change their practice routines based on webinar engagement. 

A new era for life sciences marketing

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From great challenges emerge endless possibilities and marketers for life sciences companies are re-imagining how they engage, educate and sell to HCPs in a digital-first world. And those brands that take a strategic approach to build relationships through digital channels will be the brands that lead the way for providing effective healthcare solutions for practitioners and, ultimately, help improve patient outcomes. 

ON24 Life Sciences Benchmarks Report, 2023