In today’s complex healthcare environment companies have more stakeholders to communicate with – regulators, payers, healthcare professionals (HCPs), patient groups, consumers, government stakeholders, shareholders, suppliers, trade bodies. Each of these groups has different needs. This, combined with a greater need to demonstrate the cost and patient benefits of a drug in the context of the overall health economy, has a direct impact on the way healthcare companies bring their innovations into market and tailor their communications.
Traditionally, the pharmaceutical marketing and sales model has been relatively simple. The company has a good product with good clinical data; they segment their audience; build key marketing messages; arm sales force with the tools and content to communicate the brand value; detail to HCPs; measure call frequencies, message penetration and the impact on top line sales. It is not that simple anymore as traditional face-to-face access to HCPs is decreasing. They are no longer keen to dedicate their time to pharmaceutical reps calls as well as additional restrictions being put into place.
But within this environment of increasingly complex stakeholder needs and decreased direct access there is an opportunity.
HCPs have increasingly taken to online channels to find out the latest developments in clinical practice. The nature of the internet, interconnectivity and increased uptake of smartphones and tablets has allowed HCPs to quickly find relevant information which helps them make clinical decisions. You see this in the proliferation of closed HCP communities, increased uptake of Twitter and hashtags such as #FOAMed (free open-access medical education), the rise in digital attendance at congresses and increased peer-to-peer crowdsourcing.
Smart pharmaceutical companies are taking advantage of this new digital world, optimising their reach to customers physically and digitally, using alternative channels to raise awareness of their brand messages. While in the traditional sales and marketing model interactions with HCPs were predominantly initiated through reps, print media and events, in today’s multichannel launch, touchpoints can be initiated and sustained through a range of interactions, using sales reps, secondary care endorsements, promotional meetings, congresses, print, webinars and other digital channels which can expedite HCPs along the product-adoption curve.
The list of benefits of introducing digital marketing alongside traditional channels is, unsurprisingly, long – it tends to be more cost effective and efficient in maintaining interactions with HCPs, can improve the accuracy of the product marketing messages and can provide pharma companies a more accurate set of data around HCPs behaviour. Also the ability to provide “double coverage” can provide a multiplier effect towards prescription impact far beyond that of either technique alone.
The UK is among the most advanced markets for digital media in Europe, making it an ideal location for this kind of multi-channel approach.