At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak many non-essential healthcare services were stopped in order to free up capacity to treat COVID-19 patients. Due to this there are now backlogs to access treatments across a number of therapy areas such as oncology (particularly detection of cancers) and non-essential surgeries. This is just one example of the pressure HCPs are under and therefore engaging with them increasingly difficult.
A recent report from Accenture found that while companies have changed their methods of engagement, they need to do more to better understand and meet the expectations of HCPs and their patients.1 Pharma and medtech organisations can shift their communications to a blend of virtual and face-to-face to fit in with HCPs’ busy schedules.
Digital communications such as email and social media provide an opportunity to go beyond information sharing, to gain insights. Social monitoring, followed by strategic email campaigns can be useful tools to understand and share content that is useful and relevant to your target audience.
Virtual meetings and advisory boards
The switch from physical to digital meetings following COVID-19 has been rapid – over 60% of engagements through 2021 were delivered digitally vs face to face and this trend looks set to continue. When considering how best to balance this approach it is important to think about these 2 considerations:
Objective of the engagement – How likely is it that this objective can be achieved using the chosen engagement channel? Most objectives can be just as ably achieved using digital engagement platforms as face-to-face but this should be checked.
Number of and proximity of attendees to each other – Avoiding unnecessary travel time with digital engagement is helpful, but for a discussion that involves a small multi-disciplinary hospital team, this may be best served by a face-to-face meeting
Advisory boards can be a useful forum to gather insights from HCPs. Their versatility to be delivered virtually or face-to-face means you’ll be able to pick the approach that best suits the group. When delivered virtually this avoids the burden of travel for participants, and can sometimes be timetabled to avoid the need to cancel clinics – especially as online meetings are usually most effective when kept under 3 hours in duration.
This type of engagement can also go further with digital engagement and insights; simple online surveys ahead of the meeting can help focus the discussion to make the best use of a shorter meeting timeframe. This approach can also be used to understand initial consensus (or lack of) on particularly contentious topics on the upcoming agenda.
Despite the pressure on their time and the inevitable rationalisation of extra educational and networking activities, many HCPs will continue to prioritise key medical conferences as a minimum. Exhibiting and/or sponsoring here provides many opportunities to engage and gain insights from HCPs. While not all activities involve pure digitisation, many lend themselves to extending their use using digital platforms after the event (e.g. video of conference highlights).
In addition to an eye-catching exhibition stand to help generate an audience in the exhibition hall, here are some of our tips for maximising engagement and insight generation:
This is a big investment and so make sure that you set clear goals for both the insights you are seeking to gain and the information you need to impart to attendees. Ensure everyone involved with delivery of the event on the day understands these and the part they can play in achieving them.
Live expert presentation ‘shorts’ with Q&A at your exhibition stand are a great way to deliver disease area messages and understand what’s on the mind of the audience. This may be filmed and (with permission from the expert) edited and shared on digital platforms after the event
These can involve a large investment of money and time to create and deliver and so are usually best employed when there is new important data or evidence that needs to be shared widely. Create an agenda for the session that you are holding, who the speakers are, and the value that this will offer the audience and make this available ahead of and during the event to increase engagement. The use of polls to understand live consensus for information being shared and Q&A sessions that leverage the weight of audience opinion can also provide valuable insights that can be taken forward from the session.
What video/visual/written content is required? Which expert views should be captured and recorded? Who should we aim to set up time with at the event? How can the outputs of the symposia be efficiently and creatively shared?
Since COVID, HCPs are exposed to an increasing volume of digital content and one prominent channel for them is social media. The usual rules of engagement on social media apply to pharma companies, with stringent consideration of approvable yet helpful content. This works well on platforms such as LinkedIn where the key to standing out in a crowded information space is to produce content that is unique and educational (rather than promotional) and the aim is to build engagement rather than to ‘sell’.
Varying your content format is a good way to keep content feeling new while communicating similar messages. It is good to have a longer-form video/podcast that communicates approved disease area messages in detail which you can then break down into simple infographics to reinforce. Podcasts are increasingly becoming favourable for HCPs as they are easy to consume while on the move. Furthermore, they often follow the structure of an expert interview which promotes authenticity and encourages the listener to draw their own conclusions2,3. Combining this with more strategic email campaigns can provide many opportunities for HCPs to consume your messages and content without them feeling repetitive.
Passive monitoring of social media can provide insight into the topics that HCPs are passionate about and the challenges that are being faced in practice. Following a trending hashtag is an easy way to hear industry news straight from the HCPs. This is also a useful way to identify KOLs in the area. It has been found that 72% of physicians follow other physicians on social media for treatment info, personal connections, practice management advice or, to consume entertaining content.4
The challenge of engaging HCPs to communicate with them and gain insights has accelerated further since COVID-19
Companies have already changed their methods of engagement, but HCPs demand they need to do more to better understand and meet the expectations of them and their patients
The use of available digital engagement platforms have been and can be applied effectively to most meetings, including advisory boards and with additional thought these engagements can be made even more effective and time-efficient
Social media platforms actually lend themselves very well to broader educational or disease area messages rather than promotional ‘selling’ and so can be a helpful platform to engage HCPs in this way
Activities such as ‘social listening’ and hashtag analysis can provide valuable insights about your audience needs and who they look towards for advice
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Find out how Triducive’s amplified Delphi process can help your organisation generate data and mobilise advocacy to see better decisions actioned by getting in touch with a member of the Triducive team or schedule a meeting directly with the team today.