Engage Physicians Via Smartphones

At a time when doctors are pressed for time as never before, and health care marketers are trying to wring maximum value from shrinking budgets, digital technology has become a leverage point. Transparency regulations mean that pharmaceutical companies cannot give doctors the pampering they have come to expect; at the same time, increasing patient loads and paperwork often leave physicians too busy to see sales reps or read the latest drug literature.

Enter the smartphone -- a device that, according to a recent Knowledge Networks study of nearly 11,000 physicians, is now owned by more than half (58%) of doctors. (This compares to 25% ownership among those ages 13 to 54 in the general population, according to KN's The Home Technology Monitor.)

We found that among all doctors with smartphones:

  • 89% use them to check email
  • 90% surf the Internet on the go, and
  • 18% take part in mobile "e-detailing" -- studying information from pharma companies about their new drugs

We were also able to compare some of our results to a survey conducted two years ago on the same panel -- and found that adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) had grown to 50% among PCPs (up from 38%) and 52% for specialists (from 42%). This is another sign of physicians' growing adoption of new technologies for saving time and consolidating information.

But, when using smartphones for marketing, taking a one-size-fits-all-physicians approach can lead to missed opportunities for connecting with key decision makers. The real artistry -- and value -- comes through integrating in-person visits, e-detailing, and digital approaches to create real engagement with the doctors who have the greatest value for your marketing.

Our research showed that younger (ages 40 and under) doctors are more likely to have a smartphone (67%, versus 58% for ages 41 and above), and are significantly more likely to be using them to check email and surf the Internet. This means that taking a run-of-the-mill marketing approach to the mobile space could earn you more detractors than fans; you will be speaking to a disproportionately young audience -- so make sure your look and feel is fresh and innovative. Even a hint of stodginess could be a turnoff.

But thinking just young-versus-old is too simple by a long shot. Take specialists like oncologists and pb/gyns; we found they are much more likely to have a smartphone -- and these are the doctors that marketers increasingly want to speak to. We also found that only 12% of specialists expect to decrease the time they spend with sales reps in the next six months. Given the value attached to every oncologist as a potential prescriber, perhaps your smartphone approach for selected specialists should try to complement -- and not replace -- a sales rep visit.

And how can you learn more about the physician targets you need to reach? We learned that 29% of PCPs and 24% of specialists are already taking surveys on their smartphones -- giving you access to some of the most desirable doctor subgroups for marketing. And 67% of doctors -- PCPs more than specialists -- say they are interested in taking smartphone surveys. Seek out their opinions through studies that respect their lack of time and the smartphone format -- short, simple and engaging surveys that can inform your approaches to exactly the right physicians.

Smartphones are not just brilliantly nimble devices for reaching PCPs and specialists; they allow you to learn about and develop a relationship with the doctors who can mean the most to your marketing. With an innovative approach that serves the doctor's needs as well as yours, you can take full advantage of the engagement and time-saving features that are making smartphones so valuable to physicians.

Tags: health, mobile
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1 comment about "Engage Physicians Via Smartphones".
  1. Robert Kadar , August 8, 2010 at 2:33 p.m.

    Great post here by my colleague Jim Vielee. We too are seeing accelerated mobile usage by physicians and increasing interest by pharmaceutical clients to use mobile as a way to reach their targeted physicians using a balanced education/promotions approach.
    Robert Kadar, Physicians Interactive, www.PhysiciansInteractive.com