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Are there any skills you once wanted to master online and dropped the idea because… whatever? Have you ever been watching too many How-to videos on YouTube, until you gradually lost interest? Or, perhaps, started a free-to-register course by a random author, only to find it discontinued – so you jumped over to a similar one and went through all the preliminaries, never to arrive at the really valuable stuff? Practice shows, a lot of people now seem trapped in the paralyzing amount of options when it comes to digital learning. When, earlier in the 2010s, there was a mighty explosion of countless online courses (MOOC), completion rates were as low as 10%. People are easily distracted these days, and still need guidelines as to where / in what order to get information.
What does it have to do with pharma educating physicians? The answer is simple: continuity of learning experience that pharma needs to provide. A large, well-designed platform for providing HCPs with information is something many leading companies are working on right now, and it has its benefits. Maybe you heard the statistics on how long an average med rep visit lasts these days (6 minutes at best, to be precise); you may be interested in providing informational value to your audience, which is the best way to cement reputation. However, the chief advantage of a virtual engagement platform is something even more significant, although not as obvious.
It’s overcoming the fragmentation of customer experience in pharma marketing. After all, rep visits are not the only channel for doctors to get their information. More than 70% of healthcare practitioners look to the Internet when they need to know something. There are journals, research sites, branded pharma sites – and there is the towering figure of medical community they respect. A rep visit alone cannot provide consistent learning, it often feels unattached to the normal information flow – and that is the problem that virtual HCP engagement platforms can solve.
The doctor was fidgeting with her phone, occasionally making eye contact with the rep. The visit had lasted for about four minutes now, but the lunch break was relentlessly coming to an end. Perhaps she would have to read that article on Crohn’s later in the day, after work. Meanwhile, the representative seemed overly enthusiastic about the brand new relief for IBS.
– And did you know that over 34%…
Brand new: the formula appeared nearly identical to the one described the day before. Only the brand was different.
– It is surely interesting, – said the doctor, trying to sound patient. – I heard about it from your, erm… colleague from – – – .
The rep was somewhat discouraged.
– Very likely; however, I’d like to point out that unlike any other product offering a similar spectrum…
Sigh. Now he is going to talk about guidelines and finally offer a link to the website. Open for all. Sigh.
Good to know not all rep visits look like that – in fact, HCPs are actually interested in getting information from pharma. The doctor in the passage above is very much likely to go to the website when searching for that gastroenterology article. However, the truth is that in all of those episodes when doctors search for information they need, it comes in bits and scraps. The information that representatives provide is often repeated from one to another (62% of the time, doctors say) – and there’s no one to blame because given the duration of call, you are supposed to provide the required marketing “push” first. The valuable parts, where pharma’s good intentions of educating the audience lie buried, remain outside the time frame of the visit.
This information is then absorbed online. It’s good when a rep’s visit is followed up; it’s bad that it’s followed up by just another brief episode. At the same time, pharmaceutical detailing is more educational by nature than any type of marketing imaginable. As we know, learning requires consistency. Not the bits and pieces of a marketing funnel. Especially not several completely different funnels from a number of brands.
That’s why doctors sometimes prefer searching for information online over rep visits – and at the same time, they still want live talk with reps as part of their learning experience. If you try to represent this informational “ambient” graphically (as we did on the right), you will get a stable flow of guidelines/legal information, a big, turbulent but customizable stream of different content available online – and the scattered visits, occasionally provoking interest for websites, and sometimes followed up.
Now, here’s the future of this ambient when the visits shrink in time as they do. Note that the value provided by one single visit is not even enough to incite further engagement; the bit of information provided by reps are more easily lost when surrounded by competing companies’ bits and scraps – and the role of online learning increases to fill the space.
Now, if you want to steer the general flow of interest, you will want to come up with something to glue together the scattered experiences – including the online ones (i.e., outside the doctor’s working hours). This “something” must be clearly related to the rep visits, but also provide more substantial information than can be given in 6 minutes or so. A virtual platform is exactly the name given to this “something”. The idea is, this single major hub unites the different types of engagement and different formats of content in a single, customizable funnel.
In this way, supposing the doctor is interested in some issue, they can either address the information online and then order an eDetailing session (possibly remote), or be “redirected” there by a rep. In both situations, the funnel doesn’t need to rely on a single type of engagement to continue – thanks to the broader definition of what follow-ups actually mean.
This provides benefit for the HCPs, since they get their undisrupted learning experience, and is equally beneficial to the company, since audience retention suddenly becomes much, much easier. At the same time, the value of even the smallest bits of information (be it educational or marketing) rises drastically once they are part of a bigger education/promotion framework.
Now, all of this may sound fabulous in general terms: a global platform to encompass all types of engagement, a place frequented by medical professionals, and all of them communicating freely with pharma… A skeptic would say it’s all a vague idea, a kind of umbrella notion. Wrap everything into one interface? What exactly is everything, after all?
It would be unfair not to give any ideas as to what a good HCP engagement platform can be made of. We found the most desirable building blocks for one based on the audience’s expectations, and they can be grouped in the way shown below.
Of course, the main thing to bear in mind here is still integration. All the elements in a well-tailored platform should be perfectly accessible from one to another; navigation should suggest further content from anywhere. For example, it pays off to enhance textual or video content with an offer of an eDetailing session – so one should consider suggesting it automatically through a form. Everything should be connected, every element should lead to another one, so that the learning in not disrupted.
Now, let’s look at the three major types of engagement in a platform.
Doctors get: resources
Pharma gets: enhanced trust
Who doesn’t want a convenient source of information? Searching the web for some particular content can be infuriating at times, so when a specialist sees that some resource spares them browsing time and has accumulated enough valuable content, they’ll stick to it.
It is important to note that such projects work well when the amount of content is sufficient. This means a library is not made up only of product information and original research done by the company. It makes sense to fill the collection up with content curated from different sources, as well – in this way, the platform becomes more valuable to users because it serve as a hub. “Let me think… where should I go to find that stuff?” – so the library should cover enough for the audience. It’s not the corporate website – so general scientific information is more than welcome here.
Doctors get: communication
Pharma gets: data
Medical community is a thing, and it was there long before pharmaceutical industry emerged. Regardless of whether or not pharma provides a place for doctors to exchange opinions, they will find the opportunity to do so. Why not create a communication environment that pharma is let in on?
First of all, this is the perfect opportunity to make sure that web conferences held are attended by a thoroughly interested audience. It makes sense that, if you organize a meeting with KOLs and put effort into arranging for it, you’ll want your audience to be informed. What the platform does here is guarantee that the word gets spread.
Secondly, data. By participating in professionals’ talks, pharma can get insights that escape the regular questionnaires and gain an insider view on the situation.
Doctors get: convenience
Pharma gets: increased frequency of calls / chance to steer engagement
The discussion on whether rep visits are still relevant seems, by now, closed – and yes, almost everyone agrees we need reps. What makes detailing unsatisfactory is not its essence – it’s mostly wrong timing, pushy behavior and lack of preceding interest. Visits that come out of the blue and take precious time are clearly not as effective. That is why HCPs now prefer a 50% to 50% proportion of face-to-face rep visits to remote detailing sessions.
The advantages of this eDetailing type are more or less obvious; what makes them especially effective in a virtual platform setting is, there is background. The rep tells about the things the physician wants to know about – because they requested a session (or were offered one) on that same platform.
To add a final touch to the virtual HCP engagement platform, think of something that makes it even more valuable to users. Yes, users – the doctors are not just potential customers here, they are supposed to join the platform for their own benefit. Ultimately, all the possibilities provided by the platform are, for them, focused on learning the new information. And the recent trend has been, eLearning outperforms the conventional ways on multiple scales. This is acknowledged: the share of eLearning industry in corporate training is now estimated at $107 billion out of $200 billion – eLearning is something that people genuinely enjoy as an experience; it takes less time, and information retention is higher.
What makes eLearning so popular? There are several things that set it apart from the traditional methods, so we can consider emulating them:
1. Activities, not just information. First and foremost, eLearning is based on interactive types of content. Doing quizzes, simulations, different tasks is a useful way to keep concentrated; besides, we humans are simply wired to memorize what we do better than what happens elsewhere (for example, in a lengthy research paper). Interactive exercise and testing is potentially the cherry-on-top that makes a platform unique and valuable.
2. Gamification. Who said HCPs don’t deserve fun, even when learning complicated materials? After all, gamified experiences serve to increase the willingness to access information – and are successful at this. When surveyed, 80% eLearners have claimed to wish for more game-oriented activities; the use of such tactics can make the platform more frequently used.
3. Interactivity. When eLearning was just starting to take over, much effort was thrown in to compensate for the physical absence of a lecturer. As the result, the interface used in distant learning tech is designed so that the user has to interact all the time. Instead of being distracted from the content, the user is distracted from side thoughts towards the content.
4. Competitiveness. Have you ever noticed that some online quizzes offer to compare your results to the average? This is done on purpose. People are, in fact, interested in being part of a community and being rated within it – this provides a sense of real achievement.
5. Reward system. Another feature that makes eLearning so engaging, a sense of reward can be provided in multiple ways. It can be a personalized invitation to a really interesting (web) meeting or event, access to some especially elaborate content, etc.
The last two points depend on organization, and are best implemented when there already is a community, so it takes some time to figure them out. At the same time, the core eLearning features (at the top of the list) rely simply on the ability to produce interactive content. The key is to develop a set of tailored templates (click, switch, drag and drop, mark the boxes, etc.) that can be used for multiple activities. In this way, a quiz on coronal artery can become a quiz on cerebellar function without much coding done. The necessary amount of interactive content can be created quite fast using templates and a suitable tool for repurposing content – a job that can be done by those same agencies that make eDetails.
A virtual HCP engagement platform is, so far, the most effective way to steer pharma communications with extra value for the audience. Good thing is, these platforms are something you can build gradually, extending upon a certain base of available content – until it becomes a frequented virtual haven for medical professionals.
Interested in further information on the topic? Subscribe to our newsletter for updates on implementation strategies; for any specific questions, you can easily address our experts. And if you are intending to build and launch your own HCPs engagement platform, here is a good place to start. Your audience is waiting; all you have to do is provide the way for them to appreciate your content!