Is there a magic formula for delivering content that engages time-strapped health care providers?
It might not be magic, but there is a formula, and it combines a deep understanding of how different types of providers are likely to engage in a message with the educational formats that fit their preferences and lifestyles.
Many life science companies try to engage their target health care professional (HCP) audiences at key points in their decision-making process, with the goal of increasing awareness, stimulating trial or building loyalty.
But the old model of “blunt-force” personal selling through fax, email and stacked rep visits doesn’t work in today’s health care arena in which time-strapped doctors are continuously sorting through a daily onslaught of marketing materials, said Ken LoCicero, PhD, senior vice president and client strategist for Aptus Health, a company that offers integrated multi-channel engagement products and solutions.
To help physicians find the value in all this noise, he recommends providing bite-sized doses — say, four to seven minutes — of credible content presented by an expert or peers, with time between each segment for questions that foster deeper dialogue about a clinical topic. This value-based approach would seem more in line with how doctors want to consume data and how learning occurs, according to LoCicero, who specializes in behavior change.
Starting smart: measuring propensity to engage
With so many digital channels to choose from, biopharma firms should ensure they are aligning with a HCP’s preferred consumption method to make his or her job more efficient, LoCicero said. That means learning how doctors want to receive information, what digital channels they prefer, what messages they like and the optimal time to deliver that content, he said.
Of course, not all physicians respond the same way, so learning more about how different segments of a population engage in these different types of formats is key to rolling out an efficient use of marketing resources, and a more effective use of physicians’ time.
“Based on the millions of interactions healthcare professionals have had across different digital channels, we’ve developed a statistical model that predicts how that particular physician will respond to educational and promotional stimuli when delivered as part of an integrated program,” says David Laros, VP of analytics and commercial effectiveness at Aptus Health. “We call this the physician’s propensity to engage.”
The outputs of this model can inform the right mix of communication tools – from the light engagement of a clinical alert to the deeper engagement of an interactive, expert-led piece of content.
Selecting the right mix of engagement channels
Whatever the mix of channels, the content must be relevant to the doctor’s treatment area, provide clinical proof why the product should be used, why the chemistry makes sense and offer practical education.
Dr. Jesse Pines believes having short segments of useful information from a trusted expert allows doctors like himself to focus more on a topic than they would if they tried to read it in a textbook.
Brief bursts of information through podcasts or other “digestible” formats fall in line with the new trend toward free open access medicine, said Pines, who is an emergency medicine professor and director of the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Policy Research at George Washington University.
While a short exposure to a topic won’t replace traditional educational sources, it provides a supplementary method that may help doctors remember the information better, he said. It also helps inform medical and prescribing decisions, especially if doctors are provided more than background information about clinical topics, such as new drug studies, adverse effects and indications.
Offering HCPs the opportunity to ask questions after engaging with the content pulls them further into the conversation, LoCicero adds. Whether the educational segment is sponsored or unsponsored, learning is taking place and a non-intrusive marketing message getting through. In this way, the doctor may be more receptive to follow ups that include clinical alerts, samples, coupons and co-pay assistance.
It’s that combination of channels that can have a powerful cumulative effect on HCPs’ awareness, education and rates of intent to prescribe. For example, Aptus Heath’s analysis shows that more than 90% of HCPs who interact in an integrated communications program engage with both high frequency awareness drivers and deep educational content.
At the brand-specific level, an 18-month multichannel engagement solution designed to increase awareness and educate physicians about a new therapy yielded a 95% increase in awareness of the brand among a relevant audience and a 98% increase in knowledge, while the percentage of target HCPs who say they now intend to prescribe the therapy increased more than 2.5-fold. These attitudinal metrics — including intent to prescribe — result in actual behavioral change, such as prescription lift.
LoCicero has witnessed the success of data-driven, integrated multichannel solutions at several large and mid-sized life sciences companies, and offers his advice. “Collaborate with a partner or partners that think about data first,” he says. “Be sure you are serving the needs of the HCP, then execute on tactics informed by engagement data.”
For a real-world example of this approach, download this case study.