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How to Close the Digital Gap with Doctors

by Neil Follet - January 25, 2017

This is an excerpt from a Brightworks whitepaper featuring a statistical overview on the digital habits of healthcare providers. You can access the free whitepaper here.

It’s widely accepted that one of healthcare marketing’s greatest remaining mysteries is how to connect with doctors via digital channels. 

When it comes to digital, pharma has been either too quick to adapt (i.e., often executing without a solid strategy) or too cautious (often caused by early and expensive missteps!). This has led to what is becoming a terrifyingly large chasm between the HCP’s digital usage and branded pharma’s maturity with respect to digital marketing.

But don’t just take my word for it – one recent poll found 75% of doctors are using a tablet or mobile device regularly for professional purposes, whereas pharma is still only allocating about 15% of their marketing budgets to digital channels.

Doctors are increasingly digital.

Doctors are moving at the speed of consumers – don’t doubt that. They are increasingly connected and many are using all three electronic delivery channels in a professional capacity (desktop, tablet and smartphone).

And yet, while the audience is clearly there, many healthcare brands are still left wondering why no one’s going to their branded website or opening their new app.

Part of the challenge is doctors are running with digital, while brands are still just trying to walk.

I don’t envy today’s brand manager. Brands are allocating only a small percentage of their marketing budgets to digital – and yet brand managers are told they need to be “constantly innovating”. Meanwhile, they’re also regularly forced to push back on partners who are selling digital ideas that aren’t strategic. They are left hoping the marketing mix makes sense while trying to educate themselves on digital trends. Oh, and don’t forget, they need to keep all of the traditional tactics moving forward flawlessly too.

As if balancing all those responsibilities isn’t enough, learning about digital is getting harder and harder! One of the biggest challenges for pharma marketers is the highly fragmented HCP population – not to mention the fierce competition for HCP attention. GPs, specialists, nurses, DNEs (and every other segment that falls under the HCP umbrella) have very specific needs and all the brands selling into those segments are trying to access them through digital channels (often very ineffectively).

How to reach HCPs is a complex question, that’s for sure. Through reps, maybe. Or through the complex EMR world, or via associations, or emerging professional social platforms…even LinkedIn! The silver bullet remains elusive.

Beyond how to reach HCPs, though, is what to do with them once you have.

In my view, the biggest challenge for pharma when it comes to digital marketing – and the one that takes a tactic off in the wrong direction – is focus. By this, I mean brands need to stop putting so much emphasis on the needs of the brand, and focus more on the needs of their end users.

Make it worth a doctor’s time to open your app. Make accessing content from your mobile site an elegant experience. Ask yourself, first and foremost, “How can I use digital to make the life of my customers better?”. Start with solving your audience’s problems first. Once that’s done you can then start looking at how to integrate your brand into the experience in a relevant way!

The digital train has left the station and pharma is standing on the platform.

To catch up, brands need to get to know their customers’ digital habits, as well as their prescribing habits.  

Brands and digital agencies need to develop content, applications and experiences that will have doctors wondering how they ever lived without them.

Want to talk more about doctors and digital? Don’t hesitate to get in touch. We always love meeting new people!

This is an excerpt from a Brightworks whitepaper featuring a statistical overview on the digital habits of healthcare providers. You can access the free whitepaper here.


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