Maximizing Disease and Product Education Efforts in a Digital World
By Greg Jo and Roger Sawhney
Pharmaceutical sales reps have traditionally played the important role of the single point of contact (SPOC) between pharmaceutical companies and their HCP customers, connecting physicians to pharma’s latest products and trial data. This dynamic has changed significantly in the past decade. A combination of regulatory conditions, shifts in physician workplace demographics, and an increased reliance of highly specialized sales personnel has steadily eroded the traditional sales reps’ responsibilities and ability to manage the HCP practice relationship as a true SPOC. In fact, a 2015 Healthcasts survey showed that “46% of HCPs say that they can ‘definitely’ imagine a world without sales reps,” 1 signaling that physicians see less value in their interactions with reps than in the past.
This necessitates a paradigm shift away from HCP-education marketing methods which rely heavily on a SPOC’s face-to-face (F2F) interactions; strategies should shift towards digital methods to further engage with HCPs, while also using technology in oft-overlooked settings where treatment education materials have outsized impact, such as at the “moment of care”, the F2F time that HCPs spend with patients.
1 Healthcasts Physician Voices Survey, 2015
Reps’ Declining Access Since 2008
Increased regulatory scrutiny and a shift towards larger practices
The passage of the Sunshine Act in 2010, in addition to a trend of steadily decreasing access to physicians, down from 65% in 2012 to 44% in 20162, shows evidence that the days of gaining an audience with physicians by knocking on a practice’s door with a bag of pamphlets and branded goodies in hand is becoming a distant memory.
Compounding the issue around declining access is doctors shifting towards working for hospital systems or larger group practices (Figure 2, 3)3 . As smaller practices and independent practitioners become a rarer portion of the healthcare landscape, it naturally becomes more difficult for sales personnel to gain an audience with doctors. Moreover, the larger any organization becomes, the more bureaucracy it will create – translating to a tougher environment for medical salespeople trying to get their foot in the door.
2 ZS Associates, 2016
3 AMA Physician Practice Benchmark Survey, 2016
The non-sales “army” displaces sales reps as the face of pharma
The rise of the MSL in the pharmaceutical industry’s go-to-market strategy in pre- and post-launch is indicative of the contemporary difficulties pharma faces in effectively communicating to prescribing audiences. In 1999, regional medical science liaison groups were present in only 55% of pharmaceutical companies, and 58% of biotech companies4, whereas now, pharma’s demand for MSLs has developed an entire business model; contract medical organizations (CMOs) exist as businesses that provide MSLs for hire.
Additionally, field reimbursement managers (FRMs) are also commonplace in physician practices that treat diseases with complicated reimbursement processes, providing process support and serving as a resource for nuanced insurance information specific to the practice locale. These professionals aim to make practices more efficient, reducing the number of denied claims for a practice – increasing revenue. FRMs are typically welcome at practices, as physicians spend on average 21% of their time on non-clinical paperwork5.
4 History and evolution of field-based medical programs (2000)
5 Physicians’ Foundation Biennial Physician Survey, 2016
But how can we change dwindling face-to-face time into an opportunity?
F2F time with HCPs is a precious commodity with a dwindling supply, pointing towards doubling down the only remaining avenue: digital. The perfect win-win solution would engage and empower HCPs and patients with the latest knowledge when it is most important: at the moment of care. Outcome Health comes into the picture at the critical point in time when doctor and patient are deciding the course of medical and pharmacological therapy.
One of Outcome Health’s first steps towards enabling better care through education was through its waiting room TV, replacing what was typically daytime television with unbranded health and disease education content that primed discussion between doctors and patients on pursuing healthier daily habits. Outcome Health has since expanded its product offering for HCPs and patients in the doctor’s office with its examination room tablet and physician wallboard. The exam room tablet features in-depth educational videos for personal viewing, while the wallboard features interactive anatomical models that HCPs use to better explain procedures and treatment options to their patients.
Outcome Health uses its ideal placement in the HCP-patient conversation to become a platform for life science companies to promote and provide education on their latest and greatest therapies and procedures – providing the information that patients and HCPs should be aware of to make the best decision possible, at the moments when they need it the most. On the other side of the equation, Outcome Health’s promotional campaigns drive incremental revenue, brand awareness & education for life science companies.
Digital marketing’s success relies on its ability to deliver nuanced value propositions to HCPs and patients
Not surprisingly, HCP and DTC marketing is one of the most important levers in a pharmaceutical company’s ability to drive product uptake and defend market share in competitive markets. As the marketplace continues to decline in F2F access with HCPs for sales reps, pharmaceutical companies will need to shift their marketing focus to more meaningfully engage with their core customers – HCPs and the patients they serve. In addition, companies will need to move beyond mere promotion to the provision of value-added patient support services, with an aim to drive improved outcomes. Emerging technologies are enabling life sciences companies to do just that, with robust, digital content and high degrees of interactivity.
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