Road Less Taken: Pharma’s Tryst with Digital
As digital disruption brings holistic patient care at the heart of medical practice, it becomes imperative to talk about service-based solutions. Further, to capture the opportunity, it is required of pharma to establish trust with the doctors as well as patients since much is required in terms of recreating industry perception.
There is an on-going revolution in the healthcare sector and it offers a unique proposition of growth to pharma marketers. It has led to a shift where no more is it only about the product but also an observed sharpening of focus on improved diagnostics and personalized care and establishment of trust with every stakeholder- doctors as well as patients. This means role expansion like never seen before and a chance to prove leadership in improving health outcomes. Heavily leaning on the power of online communities and knowledge-sharing portals, digitization of the medical ecosystem is the road ahead.
What can pharma do to cash in this opportunity?
Understand What Lies Ahead:
In a recent survey by McKinsey, 85% patients admitted to accessing online resources for health-related and medical information. In fact, it constitutes the third largest search online. What this brings to light is that active participation of patients in controlling their own treatments is the new trend. Dr. Bertalan Mesko, medical futurist and author of My Health: Upgraded explains it, “Healthcare is driven much more by consumers…… with patients increasingly coming to their doctors with more information, parameters they measured at home, and an informed opinion about how they should be treated.”
In another study it was found that with time crunch being a universal and constant theme, doctors too are turning to online platforms for information requirements. As per a Kantar Media report, 81% of physicians use smartphones for professional purposes, checking them more than 10 times per day. According to a Mediapost study, 60% of healthcare providers have used online conferences more often than two years ago and more than 30% have watched a presentation from a Key Opinion Leader in the past month. To add to it, average amount spent by a doctor on a webinar is 57 minutes!
So what’s the cue for pharmacos?
Evolving with the times:
Now is the time to create a digital space that your customers and consumers reckon with. Create an impactful experience for the medical community. Understand how content plays an undeniably potent role in the digital set-up and leverage it to engage with other stakeholders.
Considering 2% doctors engage with medical reps for less 10 minutes on an average and that patients are hardly aware of pharma brand values and different therapeutic offerings, forging new communication pathways may be the right marketing strategy, opening floodgates to interaction.
It is also very important to embrace the fact that the shift to digital is inevitable and in coming times, it will define how your brand is perceived in the market. It is already known and well accepted world-wide that in the scheme of marketing mediums, digital is ruling the roost and trust me when I say, it is with good reason. In the past decade or so, method of information consumption has changed drastically. Three billion people are online, interacting with each other, forming and influencing opinions every day. And, these are not just the people next door but world leaders, brands-old and new and a whole new world of potential customers and information seekers. As an industry seeking growth, you may want to dive straight in, scourging and making the most of what the vast landscape has to offer.
So, what are the next steps for pharma?
Identifying the right initiatives:
1) Connecting with patients – With more and more patients actively evaluating different health care products and services, from therapies to drug information to pricing, it becomes crucial for you to prove the value of the product in terms of the last penny spent and that is not all. As mentioned before, building trust is paramount which is at quite a low and that would require giving more than is expected. Engage patients, tell them about what’s best for them. Use internal blogs to reach out. Keep it SEO optimised for patients search keywords. Let the content tonality be neutral. Advocate for a combination of therapeutics in your content, even if they do not constitute your scope of work. Remember aim is not selling, aim is educating.
Other than this, patients are also highly aware of wearables such as Fitbit and use a panoply of health apps for a range of activities from measuring deep sleep to see if blood pressure is optimal to keeping track of weight. In a study by Nielsen, it was observed that 70% consumers already knew about “wearables,” and about one in six (15%) used them on a daily basis. This is especially significant for pharma companies as users login useful data everyday which can be used for drug research and understanding patient behaviour. A good first step would be to acknowledge the competition from tech companies and then prepare to get your own feet wet.
2) Engaging doctors- Patients demand a certain level of service quality from their healthcare provider and that is the where doctors expect their pharmaceutical partners to step in. How best to do it? Connect with them on drug information that doesn’t sound hard sell but rather talks about value addition in terms of therapy. Build CMEs and webinars that work for them, upgrade their knowledge base, provide them with the much-needed credits. It is a good idea for companies to focus on creating content that talks something other than drugs, for instance, practice management and solutions that help drive adherence to treatments and outcomes.
Idea is to provide doctors with assistance other than the latest product. Dr. Krishna Yeshwant, a general partner at Google Ventures sums it up all too well, “There is an interesting broader conversation to have with pharmacos about moving from a products-and-pills company to a solutions company.” Good news is that there are a number of third party platforms like Docplexus that enable creation of unbiased presence for pharma companies, facilitating dialogue with doctors.
For most pharmacos, the challenge is seeing what digital success would look like 5 years down the line. Let me break it down for you.
Better relationship with doctors– Not just a 1.5 minute sales pitch in the physician’s office but a meaningful and on-going interaction for improving clinical decision making.
Better relationship with patients– Improved reputation with the ultimate consumers who are also providers of critical data for drug development and overall improvement in offerings for patient care.
Drug Development and Monitoring– Drug makers will, to a large extent, be able to pre-empt adversities related to new drugs by tapping into rich data from digital channels. Asking the right questions on digital platforms will provide the most relevant insights for the best and most immediate action.
Online holds the future of pharma marketing. The question is not if we should take the road to digital but when-sooner or later? I say sooner than later. Let the power of effective communication on the right channels lead you to exponential growth.