Digital doctors' message to pharma marketers: Lay off email deluge and ramp up custom content

7 Jan 2022
Digital doctors' message to pharma marketers: Lay off email deluge and ramp up custom content

Physicians want both less and more from pharma companies – less promotional content but also more relevant and scientific information. And they’d rather dial into a webinar to get that information than have a sales reps stop by the office.

Those are a few of the findings from Indegene’s annual global survey of healthcare professionals about pharma companies, and some of the ones that concern Gaurav Kapoor, the healthtech company’s head of co-commercialization.

One glaring statistic is that more than 70% of HCPs say pharma reps still don’t understand their needs. That includes 68% of doctors who say too much information is thrown at them and 63% who say they’re not getting the more personalized content they need.

Pharma marketers should have figured out these issues by now, almost two years into the pandemic and the big shift to digital, Kapoor said.

"The mismatch between where marketing dollars are spent and HCPs' expectations is pretty alarming," he said. "Pharma will have to very quickly match what doctors need, or risk being shunned by doctors who will start going more to unbiased trusted websites instead of pharma for information."

"We should be helping them on the softer side like how to manage telehealth or Covid issues. And in disease areas with new therapies coming in, we should be talking more about the diseases than the products," he added.

And that’s the problem. Not the shift to digital, which doctors are actually embracing. More than three-fourths (77%) of HCPs now are investing more time in online education and professional development. It’s the deluge of product-centered messages like sampling programs and discounts versus specific information about things like adherence and digital services that’s flooding doctors’ inboxes.

"Doctors are going online more, so it’s not digital fatigue in general, it’s digital fatigue with pharma. There is clear product fatigue setting in," Kapoor said.

The study found that more than half (55%) of physicians are somewhat or largely overwhelmed by "overtly promotional" content. Meanwhile, fewer than half (47%) prefer emails for communications, although it remains one of the top ways pharma companies reach out to physicians.

Instead, webinars, virtual medical conferences and online journal article popularity with HCPs has soared. It’s part of a shift away from promotional materials towards more scientific education. Today medical science liaisons make up about one in 10 of typical pharma field teams, but that needs to shift to more like one in five, Kapoor said.

Doctors want science-based conversations, he said, and while that’s partly need-based in the move to more rare disease and gene therapies, it’s also an emerging preference for HCPs who want more education and professional development.

One of the difficulties for pharma companies is how to make traditional siloed channels and different content work together. As Kapoor said, the industry needs to figure out “how to orchestrate it all into a symphony."

"But we know that pharma doesn’t know how to do that. Not like Starbucks or Netflix or Amazon, but that’s what people expect," he said.

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