Embracing Digital Innovation: The Future of HCP Engagement 

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Digital Innovation

Engagement. The elusive piece of the puzzle that companies strive to obtain and hold onto once achieved.  That’s the fickle thing about it. Engagement changes mature, evolve over time. And this being the case, doesn’t it make sense that companies’ customer engagement strategy should change too?

In a ‘normal’ year, companies have to pivot and move to keep their relationships fresh and actively participate in their back and forth to keep business moving. Throw in a global pandemic and 2020 managed to squeeze in several years of digital transformation into mere months. But even with these new digital rollouts, many companies have yet to maximize their value and leverage them to their fullest capabilities, instead opting to still try the ways of yesterday even with growing restrictions and roadblocks.

Life science companies, in particular, have the opportunity to reevaluate their customer engagement strategy and find new ways to interact with healthcare professionals (HCPs) more efficiently, such as text messaging for HCPs.

Some of these companies are not even aware just how much they can harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI), on-demand video, and texting with their HCPs through a channel of communication that they prefer, without portals and logins and more and more red tape. Striving for this ease of use should be at the top of the list for life science companies wanting to stand out from the crowd. 

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Demand Keeps Rising

COVID restrictions forced pharma reps to interact with HCPs remotely, causing the number of emails they sent to increase fivefold,1 while their use of virtual meetings increased by a factor of six. And while many HCPs didn’t immediately embrace this new digital form of healthcare, they have since adapted to this new world of telehealth as a way of still connecting and caring for their patients, as well as reps. Two-thirds now want fewer in-person engagements with reps than pre-COVID times, and they want far more digital contact,2 a sure sign that these digital advancements are here to stay.

With this shift to a more remotely interactive relationship, the meeting times of these conversations have increased from an average of three minutes to eighteen minutes. This large jump in time spent with the reps and HCPs interacting helps to not only foster their relationship but to deliver their information in a more thoughtful and laid out way. 

This is in part due to the efficiency of this heavily digital era where you don’t need to travel between meetings or even walk down the hall.  Physicians can have meetings back-to-back from one spot in their office and streamline their meetings, note-taking, scheduling, and more with a click of a button. 

A Shift in Email

Unsurprisingly, email content has also seen a change during these unprecedented times. The majority of life science companies who used to send high-level emails are now drilling down into more specific, pertinent data tailored to the HCP’s needs.

These companies have refined a system or personas to be able to pump these out more regularly and more targeted than ever before. With ever-changing compliance and security regulations, they need to be assured that the information they are pushing out is as up-to-date as possible and approved for use.

This is the main reason reps rely on ways to customize their content quickly and effectively to meet the HCP’s requirements for specific tasks they may have which is why many companies have been leaning into modular concepts and communication blocks that are pre-approved and compliant. With this increase in emails being sent to doctors, only about 80% of them are opened meaning the sales reps’ thoughtful, tailored messaging falls on deaf ears.

Text Messaging for HCPs

This is why text messaging has become more and more desirable for pharma reps far and wide. With a simple click-clack of a phone’s virtual keyboard, the reps can communicate directly to the HCP with compliant, relevant information, send forms or QR codes for coupons, and even schedule meetings.

Text messaging also allows for a repository of past communications for the reps to use a resource later into their relationship which is key to understanding their patterns of behavior and being able to tailor their interactions with them. Grouping customers together based on similar reaction times, similar questions or interests, or other traits help reps to have a better understanding of the best cadence to interact with them and how best to get them to engage moving forward.

Since text messaging provides a better engagement rate & delivered instantly in the hand-held device many of these HCP Engagement Solutions are based on rich text messages. 

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The Hybrid World of Tomorrow

But even with all these digital innovations coming out of the woodworks, these data points all really point back to one thing: engagement. There will always be some HCPs who prefer face-to-face meetings even though the majority are changing their tune currently. And there will always be relationships that need more hand-holding than others.  That is the name of the game, the piece of the puzzle that only the sales reps can truly know. 

This means that the reps need to pay more and more attention to the clues and details of the individual HCP’s requirements in order to decipher what is going to work best in those particular relationships. Without this human touch, without this human insight, these relationships have no glue, no stickiness. 

Those reps that narrow in on their customer preferences across all touchpoints and interactions will be able to navigate this ever-shifting hybrid world of in-person and virtual interactions and really achieve something special; a lasting relationship that is mutually beneficial. And those are the ones that last the test of time. 

Reps who use the tools available to them such as text messaging for HCPs and virtual meetings to improve their observations of how to nurture those relationships with their physicians are the ones who are ultimately the most successful. Those are the ones who clearly navigate this new digital world and come out the other end with lessons of the path they forged to tell others.

Without this forward-thinking about the new digital transformations happening all around us, across all verticals, is all for nothing. It is with eyes open and minds willing to adapt that will shape the future.