Guest blog post by HealthLink Dimensions
Despite many companies’ best efforts, understanding what messages will compel physicians to respond remains somewhat elusive. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there were more than 893,000 active practicing physicians in the U.S. as of September 2014. Although the number itself is significant – showcasing the opportunity marketers have to reach a large audience – the more compelling figure is that over half of these healthcare professionals are specialists. In comparison, just around 425,000 physicians work in a primary care capacity.
Just how many specialties are there? The Association of American Medical College’s “2012 Physician Specialty Data Book” listed 36 distinct areas of focus. This isn’t nearly exhaustive, especially when going off the American Medical Association’s categories. As a result, life for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers is that much more complicated. To effectively get relevant marketing communications in front of physicians, life sciences organizations need to know them in great detail – and this begins with clearly identifying their feelings and attitudes about communications.
Our most recent white paper, “Breaking through the noise: How to effectively communicate with healthcare professionals,” highlights several important concepts that companies need to consider when connecting with medical professionals.
1. Email reigns supreme
Despite HIPAA restrictions on email and texts in the workplace, physicians overwhelmingly support email communications from life sciences organizations. In fact, our research found more than two-thirds of medical professionals favor this channel for industry news, product updates, research updates and educational opportunities. This presents a valuable opportunity for marketers because there is wide enough variation in terms of content for branding, engagement and establishing trust with physicians.
2. Physicians want support to keep patients informed
Another valuable insight from our survey is that healthcare professionals want and depend on educational materials supplied by healthcare companies to keep their patients informed about their care options. More than 84 percent of physicians said they make use of educational patient outreach items that they can distribute in their offices. At the top of the list are communications that discuss the latest developments in disease state information, which makes a lot of sense because research into this area is constantly in flux.
3. Insurance payors should speak up
Between 2013 and 2014, the message we got from physicians about insurance companies is that they’re not making the most of their opportunities to communicate with physicians. A little more than one-quarter of medical professionals indicated they felt communications they received from insurance carriers, PPO networks and Pharmacy Benefits Managers were adequate. With low satisfaction rates in relation to network updates, such as reimbursement fee and co-pay schedules, physicians are sending a strong message to insurance payors: Keep them in the loop on a regular basis. By doing so, these organizations can build trust.
4. Medical professionals seek digital resources
While it’s also a leading patient resource, WebMD is also a trusted reference for medical professionals, as more than two-thirds use it to research disease state knowledge and healthcare products. Meanwhile, nearly half of physicians look to medical journal websites or those of medical specialty associations for similar reasons. The lesson life sciences organizations should learn is that digital resources are fast becoming the most utilized tools that physicians rely on for up-to-date information.
5. Physicians are getting social
Although physicians aren’t logging on to Facebook to connect with patients, our research has found that a larger number of medical professionals are using social networks to communicate with their colleagues. In fact, 36 percent indicated as much, with sites like Sermo, Twitter and LinkedIn ranking highly in terms of usage. What’s more, close to 6 in 10 physicians see value in social networks and plan to use them in the future. This figure presents marketers with a great chance to engage this audience in new ways, especially when trying to build brand awareness.
To read more about our research findings download the full report here.
To learn more about how your organization can effectively engage with medical professionals, join us for Digital Pharma East which boasts over 100 industry leaders sharing their insights to help you elevate your business strategies. To learn more about this event, download the brochure or visit the website. Click here to register and be sure to mention Priority Code BLOG.