By Gareth Thomas, Managing Director, Cegedim UK
In this article on reaching the changing NHS, Gareth Thomas explains why he believes multi-channel communication strategies can transform the focus of face-to-face representative visits and create a whole new relationship between pharma companies and healthcare professionals.
Online information sources are playing an increasingly key role in the new NHS. E-detailing, the use of online technology to deliver information across the NHS, is on the increase, as pharmaceutical companies begin to embrace the lower cost of sale to gain access to increasingly remote medical practitioners. But e-detailing cannot replace the face-to-face representative visit, in whatever form it now takes. Organisations need to create an integrated multi-channel strategy that maximises the strengths and opportunities of each approach. It is only by proactively monitoring and measuring interactions across each channel that pharmaceutical companies can costeffectively tailor and deliver the right messages to the right people at the right time.
With GPs increasingly refusing representative visits and, according to the latest figures from Cegedim, some 70% now prescribing to practice guidelines, many pharma companies are beginning to question the value of face-to-face GP relationships. Indeed, an increasing number are embracing the larger group meeting to deliver tailored messaging and forge a stronger, practice-based relationship. However, such meetings significantly increase the cost of sale. In attaining lunch, speakers and the availability of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), this customised marketing, while critical, is expensive. Furthermore, it is hard to gain access to the increasing number of new prescribers – such as those providing community-led care for the co-morbid and patients with specific conditions such as Parkinson’s. It is little wonder, therefore, that companies are looking for lower cost solutions that also offer opportunities for direct relationships at both practice level and with the growing number of prescribers across the NHS. As GPs, nurses and pharmacists increasingly turn to the Internet for medical information, there is a growing recognition that e-detailing can play an important part in reaching the key audience.
Indeed, pharma companies are increasingly using live and recorded conferences and clinical presentations in addition to the e-detail. By providing clinicians with access to information at a time convenient to them, these companies are actually increasing the time spent per product at a fraction of the cost. The e-detail, furthermore, offers an opportunity to deliver a greater breadth of information, from links to health service guidelines to product benchmarks and prescribing comparisons. Critically, this eases the information gathering for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and practice managers. And for the pharma company, the online approach provides an unprecedented opportunity to measure response, quantify levels of interaction and respond to specific information requests. But e-detailing alone cannot replace the face-to-face visit or the strong direct relationships that still have prescribing influence, even in the new NHS. The relationship between sales rep and practice may be changing, but it remains vitally important. Without it, pharmaceutical companies will lose the key opportunities for local collaboration – from trials to primary care clinics – that are a growing component of the sales and marketing effort.
It is, therefore, becoming very clear that while e-detailing is of growing importance in a pharmaceutical environment with lower margins, shrinking patents and increasing competition from both generics and parallel imports, it is no silver bullet to be used in isolation. To maximise the value and effectiveness of online communication, organisations need to become far more precise about monitoring and measuring activity across multiple communication channels.
As pharma companies are discovering, achieving consistent messaging is a recognised problem in today’s highly complex NHS environment. And there is a pressing need to effectively manage the overlap between different sales and marketing teams at multiple touch points, from Primary Care Trust to KOLs. Adding the online component to the mix reinforces the need for proactive monitoring and measurement across every channel.
Indeed, combining online communication with face-to-face visits – whether they are with individual clinicians or larger meetings – is extremely effective, but only if the meeting reflects the actual online interaction. For example, the attendees of a meet and greet lunch should be defined in part by their response to the e-detail: those who have actively engaged with the company on a specific product or issue require a very different message to those passively receiving information. Leveraging feedback to the e-detail, the representative should spend time addressing relevant concerns about prescribing, side effects, even a patient specific issue.
With this approach, the face-to-face visit becomes a fantastic opportunity to reinforce the contact made online. The multi-channel approach also provides further insight into clinician behaviour and activity that enables reps to improve the prioritisation of sales activity. Furthermore, the experiences during the face-to-face visit can be supplemented by follow up online activity – such as webcasts from KOLs or updates on relevant patient trial information.
However, such complex, tailored multi-channel communications can only be successfully achieved if an organisation has the right infrastructure in place. Without an integrated information source that ensures every interaction is recorded, monitored and measured, organisations risk inconsistent messaging and will fail to maximise opportunities. With such a rapid change in the way pharmaceutical companies can – and must – communicate with the NHS, it is difficult for many to make the shift, not only to multiple contact points, but also to the new messages. This multichannel model changes the entire nature of the discussion between pharma companies and the increasing number of individuals with prescribing powers.
The pharmaceutical company that can leverage the requirement for information with specific tailored messaging, delivered in the most appropriate way at a specific time, has the ability to attain a completely new relationship with individuals across the NHS.
Cegedim is the European leader in the production, use and distribution of data and services linked to medical information and CRM activities.
For more information, contact Cegedim UK at www.cegedim.co.uk