The Prescriber in 2022: Engaging HCPs in the COVID-Endemic Era
By Colin Turner-Kerr, Managing Director International, Apollo
Of all the communities touched by the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals (HCPs) are arguably among those most affected. Specialists on the front lines in primary care, critical care, infectious diseases, and pulmonology roles have experienced COVID-19 first hand—often risking their own health and that of their families to help.
A new report provides a barometer on physicians’ sentiments on the year ahead, and together with other research, frames a wake-up call to medical device and pharma teams in charge of brandbuilding a brand presence with prescribers.
Annually since 2015, Apollo Intelligence, a life science market insights and data firm, has asked physicians what they want from the pharma industry, as well as the healthcare industry at large, and the likelihood that their needs will be met. Feedback captures physician sentiments from Europe and the US. European countries included the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
In 2022, the report found that higher burnout levels and staffing concerns overshadow findings on more optimistic developments to emerge from the pandemic. In both numerical data and the tone of verbatim remarks, physicians’ views have shifted from earlier years.
Strong Impact Continues
Short staffs are a major concern, as is burnout. Nearly half (49%) of European HCPs are strongly concerned about staffing levels at their clinical settings. One in four respondents in the Europe have considered leaving the medical profession in the past year. With 30% believing many more qualified HCPs will leave their positions in the coming year due to the impact of COVID-19.
In recent research by Survey Healthcare Global (SHG), an Apollo company, 34% of European and US respondents report observing more medical errors in the past three months as a result of short staffing—raising concerns about patient safety and long-term quality metrics.
While 76% of all physicians surveyed believe that COVID-19 is now endemic, one in five in Europe report experiencing a pervasive sense of grief over the past two years. More than a quarter worldwide also feel the pandemic has slowed progress for new therapies in their area of specialty.
The most optimistic nations were France and Spain, with 33% and 31% respectively believing COVID-19 is not yet endemic and there is hope of returning to a pre-pandemic world. Whereas 88% German physicians and 86% of Italian physicians think that COVID-19 is now endemic. While just 70% of UK respondents believe the COVID paediatric vaccine should become a part of childhood immunization schedules—the lowest level among the six nations surveyed—94% of Italian respondents think it is the right approach.
Concerns for Larger Society
HCPs do not feel supported by their communities, with 73% of European respondents saying a return to community lockdowns is unlikely no matter what the circumstances, or what the impact might be on the healthcare system.
Verbatim remarks are plaintive and echo their frustration not just for themselves but for the larger community.
“The last two years has taken its toll on staff in healthcare and a silent epidemic could be about to happen. PTSD in key workers who will be unable to sustain working under such pressures.” – General Practitioner, UK
“More important than the doctors are still the nursing staff.” – Neurologist, Germany
“The human factor does not seem to carry much weight in the heads of our decision-makers. If they found the way to replace doctors, nurses, caregivers … etc., by robots, [they] would do so immediately, helped in this by the big capital.” – Rheumatologist, France
Optimism on Some Fronts
Respondents did acknowledge several positive developments to emerge from COVID-19. Nearly three quarters (73%) of physicians worldwide expect accelerated drug delivery due to the impact of COVID and development of related vaccines and therapies. Fifty-nine percent of UK HCPs responding expect that healthcare workers will command more leverage for compensation in the coming year, the highest level among the six nations in the report. Among European HCPs, 59% said 2022 will bring greater collaboration between global governments and international health organizations to address the pandemic more effectively.
Telehealth innovation is both the #1 hope (23%) and predicted reality (25%) of European respondents. Furthermore, a quarter of Europeans physicians believe telemedicine will advance in the next year.
Reaching the Prescriber in 2022
What do today’s attitudes among prescribers mean for insights professionals trying to reach them? The prescriber of today is deflated by prolonged COVID conditions, frustrated by their waning influence on public health, and disengaged from their calling, if not completely abandoning it in many cases.
After fielding more than a million questions to HCPs since the two years of the pandemic, four guidelines emerge for 2022.
- Respect prescribers’ time. Data sourced from prescribers in mid-2021 shows the top factor determining whether they participate in life science market research is the time it requires—even more than the honoraria it provides. From virtual seminar dinners to e-detailing and expanded Webcasts tech innovations debuted or advanced in part by the pandemic, provide streamlined paths to prescriber access and engagement. Embrace them.
- Honour their humanity. Show clinicians they are valued personally. Listen to them. Amplify their voice. At the start of the pandemic, when healthcare systems were overrun and COVID protocols unknown, 97% of prescribers said they still wanted to participate in market research. They wanted their voices to be heard, and the industry was listening.
- Go mobile. Consumer businesses already know the imperative for streamlined mobile surveys that engage respondents to share their needs, then serve them. Every prescriber interaction should be made compatible and efficient on mobile platforms—though a reasonable prescriber expectation, lack of mobile compatibility remains a top complaint about life science market research. HCPs are looking for short, mobile surveys that allow them to participate in market research on the go and optimizing their time.
- Make learning easier. HCPs prioritize research that teaches them something important about an area of interest, reflects emerging clinical trends, and features health innovations to help keep them up to speed on new treatments. Take a highly targeted approach to studies and provide HCPs with relevant, focused surveys they—specifically—will find interesting. And share findings with them.
Author’s bio: Colin Turner-Kerr is Managing Director, Europe of Apollo Intelligence, parent company to InCrowd and Survey Healthcare Global, which provide market insights solutions and healthcare professional survey panels that empower global 100 life science firms with fast, efficient, high-quality data services and market intelligence.