A multi-channel marketer’s look at integrating EHRs into the digital ecosystem

, ,


By Jonathan Ziegel, VP, engagement strategy and Stephanie Neuwirt, associate director, customer experience (EHR), Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide


As the landscape for pharmaceutical marketing continues to evolve, multi-channel marketers have been investigating opportunities to advertise their products and services, and provide clinical decision support information within electronic health records (EHRs). For the first time, healthcare marketers can impact provider-patient interactions by delivering messages directly at the point of care. EHRs have over 90 percent adoption with healthcare professionals (HCPs) in the U.S., while certain practice specialties reach nearly ubiquitous (99 percent) adoption, thereby creating an exceptional opportunity not to be missed!


How to make EHR part of your multi-channel marketing strategy

Many marketers look at EHR as a media channel, but it’s quite unlike many others. Here’s what you need to know before you consider incorporating EHR into your plan:
• EHR is a fragmented space. There are several hundred platforms, ranging in size and functionality. Providers often use more than one EHR across different settings, and will frequently use a separate system for ePrescribing.
• EHR vendors offer various specialized services. Content and amenities such as awareness or decision support messaging, copay/coupons, and e-Enrollment into specialty pharmacy or hub services are offered by a number of solution providers.
• Not all EHRs support ads. Marketers will conduct a National Provider Identifier (NPI) list match and develop marketing collateral for reaching target HCPs in EHR platforms. For those physicians who are on non-ad friendly platforms, marketers are considering ways to reach them elsewhere, i.e., through pharma’s field force or more traditional non-personal promotions, like social and customer relationship management (CRM) programs. However, few channels offer the same relevance as point of care messaging through the EHR, with key content designed around clinical efficacy, support services, and adherence advice, and delivered on business rules targeting the right provider, with the right patient, at the right time.

Once you’re ready to embark on your EHR journey, you should be mindful of where EHR fits into your overall multi-channel marketing strategy. There are critical considerations for EHR campaigns that align and map to your other digital marketing objectives. For example, good content strategy specifies that messaging and language should be developed for optimal engagement on each channel (i.e., content developed for social media should be different from content for conference experiences). Pharma marketers can evaluate the lexicon being written by providers in patient records and mine those insights to inform advertising in other channels. Also, key performance indicators (KPIs) should be developed to measure the effectiveness of your program, and its ability to meet its goals. An EHR initiative can fill several of the gaps in your brand plan that above-line and below-line campaigns cannot.


What to consider when building your EHR campaign

A successful EHR campaign begins with an in-depth discovery process, during which marketers select vendor partners who can reach your brand’s target audience and develop business rules to ensure delivery of fresh, relevant content. Before embarking on discovery, it is strongly recommended to evaluate your brands’ other MCM efforts and glean the best practices and results to inform the development of your EHR message strategy. You may investigate topics such as: Did a particular set of text ads in AdWords work particularly well for a specialist segment? Was there a particularly compelling visual element that stood out above the rest in a Medscape campaign? Your EHR campaigns should be integrated into other marketing programs to fully leverage all insights about specialist segmentation and message preference. By looking at your channel-specific analytics, and carrying over their most relevant results to your EHR campaign, you can develop a distinct and wholly ownable language that’s unique to your brand in its therapeutic area by segment, geography and other marketing criteria.
While EHR messaging may seem similar to other media programs, there are some distinct differences between physician behaviors at the point of care versus other channels. Marketers must consider the sanctity of the EHR domain and its role in the doctor-patient relationship, and be respectful of the provider and patient journey from consultation through treatment decision.
Most physicians won’t disrupt their moment of care to leave the EHR workflow to engage with pharma advertising, so try to pack the information they need into your message content. Be careful not to use your ad to challenge providers’ authority, but rather offer support grounded in data to help them better understand a disease state or therapy. Given you can use visual messaging in EHRs, it is important to create content that does not distract the physician or detract from the value of the content by delivering overly promotional content.


EHR as a data source

Once your EHR campaign is up and running, there are a few ways to assess it for future optimization. Marketers can look at core business results and traditional engagement results (impressions, click-through rates, Rx lifts) to assess the impact of the campaign and optimize future iterations.

It’s wise to also think about what EHR can do for you, beyond what you’re doing for EHR. For example, there are several Independent Distribution Networks (IDNs) and EHR vendors who sell data to third-party data providers, who then triangulate the EHR data with pharmacy and medical claims to glean deeper insights about clinical pathways and patient outcomes. Real-world evidence (RWE) and Health Economic Outcomes Reports (HEORs) can be informed by EHR data – far beyond what you would receive from campaign measurements. This helps marketers understand behaviors around their products, competitors, and the disease states they impact. These insights create a feedback loop that can further inform content and tools delivered at the point of care.

Much of this data can also be categorized by office and nurse visit, telephone encounter, tele-medicine and home visit, email and letter encounters, and so forth for sub-segment analysis. Furthermore, the providers’ manually entered patient and pharmacy notes can also be analyzed to inform studies on lexicon and behavioral analysis. The net result of these efforts can inform field force communications, training, the optimization of non-personal promotional content, tactical planning and assessment of media spends.


So now what?

As you plan your MCM strategy for 2018, think of EHR not just as a channel for HCP engagement, but also as a vehicle for delivering patient and payer content, and for augmenting your personal promotion efforts. Engage your colleagues in other marketing groups early and often, and ask the following questions:
• What do we want our providers and patients to know when considering and starting on therapy?
• How can we facilitate engagements and interactions into the providers’ workflow?
• What other channels are we using to communicate with providers and patients, and how do we integrate EHR into our digital engagement strategy?
• How do we measure the success of our campaigns, and what other insights can we get from EHR beyond our campaign metrics?

A healthy chatter across disciplines can help drive a robust EHR program, informed by and integrated with other personal and non-personal promotion strategies, and more likely to generate awareness and engagement with your brand.

As David Ogilvy once proclaimed, “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” So given this unprecedented moment to join the conversation at point of care, we need to treat this opportunity with the deliberation, collaboration, and excellent execution that it deserves. medadnews