Why isn’t Pharma using new digital technology?

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With all the tools that are available today, it is still surprising that the pharmaceutical industry stick to the old concept of static display content. Today this content is digital, typically PDFs on iPads, but still the same static page format.  Why is this the case and what can pharma do?

Tablets – Make the details interactive

Today most pharma companies have tablet-equipped reps in the field, and doctor feedback suggests the devices provide a substantial boost to details. However, there’s plenty of room for improvement in reps’ use of these tablets, and risk-averse firms may be limiting their opportunities to engage with healthcare professionals by concentrating digital investment in simply digitising existing printed materials. All too often, sales reps are using digital versions of existing sales aids – PDF’s on a screen.

Recent research by Manhattan Research show that tablets clearly enhance details, lengthening rep visits and stimulating doctor interest in follow-ups, with 54% of US doctors agreeing that they make meetings more valuable. But getting the most out of tablets requires understanding where they’re most valuable.

As with all new technologies it takes time to fully develop the new opportunities. The power of tablets is in their ease of use and portability and the fact that they can be interacted with. In terms of content, it is animations and videos where tablets shine –particularly when they’re being used for mode of action explanations or for comparing product choices. Doctors expect to be wowed, and where tablets are merely replacing printed materials, the full capability of the iPad is lost.

The key here is to make e-detailing interactive and to let the doctor physically handle the iPad. Getting doctor’s hands on tablets in meetings makes them more likely to spend more time with the rep, to research further information on-line, to request samples, and to prescribe the drug discussed. Reps should not just show the doctor how a product works, they should let them discover themselves by using an interactive application that enables the doctor to explore the product and its mode of action. Don’t just tell the doctor how cost effective your product can be, let them work out sample metrics with number of patients, time and dosage. Don’t just tell doctors how your product differs from competitors; let them compare your products based on selected criteria.

Websites – Make the Content Relevant

Many pharma companies have shifted back to allocate their digital spend in product sites and other properties they own and away from third-party sites and social media. This change is being driven by renewed regulatory fears, as well as reorganisations and efforts towards multichannel integration. Doctors typically rely far more on third-party sites, journals, and apps than they do on on-line pharma company sources when formulating treatment plans and doing in-depth research. Doctors say they don’t use these pharma resources because of concerns about bias and because they aren’t sure they’ll find the information they need. However, they could be persuaded with improvements to site navigability and search-ability, as well as fresher more relevant content. Furthermore, doctors accessing manufacturer Web sites and on-line promotion programs often aren’t seeking them out; instead they are coming across these sites while doing research (49% of the time, in the case of company Web sites according to Manhattan), suggesting the importance of search and content adjacency advertising.

 So what are the opportunities?

  1. Use the full interactive power of the iPad. As a rule, ensure the detail can be used interactively and handed to the HCP – people engage much better when they are ‘doing’.
  2. Don’t just animate, bring your message to life – Don’t take the standard detail piece and animate some charts, instead tell a story and bring it to life to engage your audience.
  3. Do what you do already offline – clear consistent messages. Ensure your HCP on-line material is consistent with what is being used on your iPads and make sure this content is optimised for all devices for re-use on all digital channels.
  4. Make it Mobile
    Figures from the US suggest that 83% of doctors have a smartphone. They also suggest that 62% US doctors are likely to abandon a website if not optimised for smartphone. Incredibly less than 35% of top brand pharma sites are mobile optimised – is yours?

There are many ways that pharma can get smart and engage more effectively with doctors who are increasingly turning to digital sources for information.


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