Marketing to physicians

QUICK READ: Reaching physicians with key brand messages isn’t hard, but the online landscape has become crowded with many players. By far, Medscape is still number one in physician reach, and medical journal advertising has been proven to result in more branded Rx’s.

Deloitte showed there is a significant trust gap between pharmaceutical companies and people working in healthcare. More specifically, the data revealed 75 percent of physicians do not trust the information provided to them by those marketers. Yet, there are some ways to reach physicians in a forum they do trust.

Drug companies advertise in medical journals because it works. Although physicians believe they prescribe based on unbiased evidence, targeted drug ads have influenced prescribing habits. One study analyzed the drug ads of an anti-hypertensive drug in 210 issues of the NEJM between 1985 to 1996 and showed increased ad frequency was associated with an increase in prescriptions. But there are also warnings.

Medical magazines and journals still rate very high in brand recall and ket messaging. Over the last few years, I’ve seen some great journal ad creative as well. For example, an ad for Verzenio has the headline “Survival doesn’t have to be a higher risk.”

62% of physicians agree that the info pharma companies provide on third-party websites for healthcare professionals “are always ads” for their products, and only one in three (34%) trust the information pharmas provide on these websites. Physicians want more from pharma on these websites – for example, 54% of cardiologists want pharma-sponsored continuing medical education on non-pharma websites for providers, and 46% of urologists want disease diagnosis tools.

Manhatten Research Taking The Pulse 2017

But what about online?

Once again Medscape is number one. Medscape reaches over 3.6 million physicians worldwide, in multiple languages. Why are they number one? Familiarity is one reason. MDs can go to their customized Medscape page in the morning and see news targeted for their specialty There are also a lot of additional tools to reach physicians via Medscape.

What I really like, however, is targeting specific physicians online with Medscape. You can give them a list of doctors to target, and they will report metrics on how many of them have engaged your content.

What about physician social media sites?

This is a really thorny issue. I’ve heard that physicians don’t like a pharma company listening to their online conversations and dislike it even less when a pharma company tries to interject advertising in their conversations.

Social media is great for listening to conversations but be careful about how you use this data.

What’s changed?

Physicians value useful content from pharma that helps them do their jobs and manage care better, such as quality scientific information, patient education and diagnosis tools. However, physicians say that most of what they get from drug companies online is just advertising and they feel few pharmas are doing a good job at providing quality digital content, according to the Manhattan Research Taking the Pulse® U.S. 2017 study. As a result, just 27% of physicians say they find pharma websites to be a credible source of professional information.

I hear now that pharma companies are mostly mute when it comes to what doctors have gone through in the last few years. Physician burnout is very real, and now, as patients flock back to their doctors, they wonder what happened to their free time.

Pharma companies should be providing more information on patients to physicians beyond clinical drug data. What are patients doing now, and how do they view certain health issues? For example, is the message around weight loss for new diabetes drugs really effective when it comes to compliance?

Drug samples are still effective

In self-reports, the availability of drug samples led physicians to dispense and subsequently prescribe drugs that differ from their preferred drug choice. Physicians most often report using drug samples to avoid cost to the patient which may not lead to a written Rx.

Overall, physicians do like drug samples, but there are caveats. One physician told me that a drug company dropped off a sample to her with an attached sheet indicating which insurance plans have the lowest co-pays for the product. This helped her determine who should get the samples based on the samples.

It’s been my experience that measuring HCP marketing is easier than measuring DTC marketing, and great HCP marketing may actually do more to support brand objectives than DTC spots.

Pharma generally needs a small dose of empathy when talking/marketing to physicians. They have been through a lot and need help.