Today’s healthcare providers (HCPs) have many information sources vying for their attention and are under tremendous pressure to keep current with medical advances in order to provide the best care to their patients. How can pharma marketers reach and engage these pressed-for-time providers? By knowing where they prefer to get their information and which information sources have the most influence on their clinical decisions.
According to the recent Taking the Pulse® 2018 study by DRG Digital/Manhattan Research, HCP websites — independent digital networks that provide curated news and educational content tailored to physicians — are a preferred destination for HCPs looking for the information they need to support their practices. The study found that HCP websites continue to be preferred over "owned" pharma channels such as pharma websites, apps, and reps. Indeed, when DRG asked U.S. physicians which information sources influenced their clinical decisions, 70% ranked HCP websites as "highly influential" (ranking them at 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5), while fewer than 30% gave pharma websites the same grade.
One finding demonstrates a clear evolution in physician reliance on HCP websites; DRG found that physicians rank HCP websites as "highly credible," on par with professional journals and colleagues.
"We found a strong correlation between the influence of those information sources and their perceived credibility," says Heather Figlar, Director, U.S. Digital Physician Research at DRG Digital | Manhattan Research. "Many of the information sources most influential on physician’s clinical decisions are also perceived as highly credible, including professional journals, professional society websites, colleagues, and non-pharma HCP websites."
This includes websites like Univadis, a global digital destination for HCPs provided by Aptus Health. According to the DRG study, nearly half of all U.S. physicians have turned to an Aptus Health Affinity Network — which includes Univadis and dozens of digital specialty publications offered through Frontline Medical Communications — for medical information, with particularly strong use among cardiologists, rheumatologists, primary care physicians, OB/GYNs, endocrinologists, and oncologists.
A strong majority of physicians who use Univadis and QuantiaMD (which is now fully integrated into the U.S. version of Univadis) said they find these sites easy to use — even compared to HCP websites that have similar offerings but provide a different user experience.
That’s not surprising, says Stephen Smith, VP of Global Content Strategy at Aptus Health. Smith and his team at Aptus have spent years learning about what kind of information physicians need, as well as the best ways to present that information so it helps physicians stay current in their fields and, potentially, changes how they practice medicine.
"The flood of information is accelerating," says Smith. "There are probably a thousand medical journal articles published every weekday. How is it possible for a physician to keep up to date? Many say, ‘Well, I’ll look at a couple of key journals, and I’ll go to a conference every two years.’ They hope that between that and talking with their colleagues, they will stay current. But data shows that such an approach will lead to a busy physician missing a lot of emerging knowledge that they should be aware of to keep current in practice.
“So we developed a different approach. We use an algorithm refined over years of research – and executed by human experts, not machines – to look at 18 to 20 elements of any new research or other emerging medical knowledge. The algorithm helps us to decide, ‘Is this something a practicing clinician really needs to know about?’ We’ve found that only about 1.2% of all new published information is something that physicians really need to know about, and of that 1.2%, only one or two percent is actually ‘practice-changing.’
“We focus on that need-to know, and practice-changing one percent. We dig into the article, deconstruct it, and present it in the way that physicians read articles: what really was the conclusion, why does it matter, what should I do about it? We also provide all the supporting information that gives physicians confidence about the validation of that conclusion. It takes physicians less than a minute to read our synopses. Then, for practice changers, we ask the physicians if they agree with our findings, by voting them up or down. That helps us to learn and continually do a better job. So far, most physicians agree that what we identify as a practice changer is exactly that. We don’t know of any other website offering this service across multiple specialties."
Aptus provides such summaries for 15 or more medical specialties every day on Univadis. The site also provides longer educational pieces, often including speakers, slides, and discussion forums, for when physicians have more time to dig into a topic.
"We’re the trusted partner, because we understand what physicians need," adds Smith. "And trusted content and trusted conversations always affect thinking and behavior."
The DRG study results validate Smith’s conclusion: HCP websites are among the most credible and influential information sources for physicians. And that is where pharma companies need to focus their marketing efforts, says Figlar. "Pharmas have to be where their customers are," she says. "As physicians grapple with severe constraints on their time and an array of information sources, it’s imperative that content is distributed through third-party websites trusted by physicians."
Smith encourages pharma companies to think about putting their marketing messages on an HCP website like Univadis. "We live in the physician space," he says. "We can help pharma companies to create something that is valuable for everyone, the physician as well as the brand. We can do it in a way that everybody wins: the right medicine gets to the right patient at the right time, and the physician knows how to manage that process.
"For us, it’s about working together to understand your business objectives, and discussing the best ways to engage a physician, so everyone benefits."