Pharma Marketing’s Catch-22

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Pharma Marketing’s Catch-22

By Bridget Seay, epocrates

In the last 10 years, the healthcare industry has seen an explosion of innovation, from technology to precision medicine treatment. With the evolution, there’s been a dramatic shift in marketing strategy, moving from broad-based to niche market spending. While there’s no debate marketing leaders want to maximize budgets to ensure return on investment (ROI) metrics are met, critical audiences are being overlooked and frankly, ignored. Cue pharma marketing’s catch-22 – missing the most critical part of the patient journey: primary care providers (PCPs). With the continued emergence and adoption of technology tools including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), leaders need to be deliberate in reimaging strategies that target all trusted providers across the care continuum.

Why PCPs can no longer be overlooked

Primary care providers are not only the first point of care, but traditionally, the most trusted and consistent for patients. Relationships between PCPs and patients can literally span a lifetime and the first call a patient makes when they’re not feeling well is to this trusted confidant. However, as technologies and therapies advance, marketers are working to hyper-target specialists, cutting the perceived “middleman” out. When we take a step back however, PCPs are not middlemen, but instead the puzzle piece that connects patients and specialists. In fact, today, many insurances still require a PCP referral for patients prior to a consultation or prescribing a medication, making these providers an essential component in the delivery of specialized care.

Similarly, even when patients are connected to these specialists, it’s often the case that these relationships only last a short while. In many cases, this is the hope for curable and manageable illnesses. Patients are referred for a specific medical need and once their care plan is in place – or concludes – they’re back to their PCP for the duration. Ultimately, making these relationships secondary to those of the PCP, which are uniquely personal and cherished for both parties. In the same vein, for those patients who may not be covered – or have access – to see these specialists, comprehensive targeting can ensure PCPs deliver quality care for these patients, as well.

Can we do both – ROI and effective targeting?

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing is changing the game – consumers can’t watch the nightly news or their favorite sports team without seeing a DTC healthcare advertisement. However, each ends with the same call to action – “call your provider to see if this medication is right for you”. Understanding the first call placed will be to the PCP reinforces the importance of prioritizing PCP’s in the ROI analysis and the need to target all critical parties, from patients, providers, and specialists.

Data and analytics are the key to effective marketing today and will be moving forward. Having a platform partner allows leaders to glean insights that may otherwise be unknown or unavailable. Specifically, by leveraging these platforms, marketing teams can ensure their dollars are being maximized and effectively targeting all relevant players in the clinical care lifecycle, from PCPs, to patients, and specialists for specific disease states and care plans.

Where we are and where we’re going

As noted, the advancement of technology, research, and targeted therapeutics are how we ended up focusing on niche market spending. As the industry continues to evolve, where do we go from here? Perhaps, backwards. As conversations around AI and ML continue to dominate the healthcare landscape, it’s the perfect opportunity for marketers to reimage their strategy before fully entering into and embracing this new era of technology. While these technology tools are enticing and have undeniable benefits for leaders, the industry must remember human oversight is critical and cannot be replaced. Leaders need to be tactical and first master AI and ML to best serve patient populations and physicians before being caught up in the hype of tomorrow. While the technology will spit out the recommendation, it’s up to marketers to create the most effective marketing plan. Including, ensuring PCPs are part of these strategies so providers across the care continuum can provide the best care possible for every patient.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Bridget Seay, epocrates Bridget Seay, epocrates’ executive director of customer experience & commercial consulting is an industry veteran of nearly 20 years. Prior to epocrates she worked Wiley, a global leader in research and education, where she led strategic growth, development, and product lifecycle of the corporate partner solutions advertising portfolio and its evolving partnersSolutions customer base. As part of the role, she also collaborated with key stakeholders to develop strategic capabilities for customers, enabling revenue growth from the corporate customer segment.