Right off, let’s assume the best of all possible worlds for pharma marketers. Let’s posit the existence of the totally available physician.
What would that look like?
Here’s a pulmonologist, Dr. Friendly, who wants to know everything there is to know about your product and how it will affect her patients with COPD. She takes the time to explain exactly what she knows about the disease state and treatment protocols she uses. Dr. Friendly even explains her understanding of the various medical options, including your own product. By doing so, she reveals some gaps in her knowledge — gaps that might give you an opening to fill in.
How does she research data? What platforms does she use? What treatment is right for which patient? Most important, who are the KOLs (key opinion leaders) who instill trust and able to deliver reliable data to her? Who are her referring physicians? Does she need access to information on reimbursements?
Being an intelligent and reasonable professional, Dr. Friendly answers all your most-pressing questions. She gives feedback on persuasive studies and based on the study’s details, how willing she is to change her prescribing habits. And knowing all this information in aggregate, we can understand why Dr. Friendly behaves the way she does.
Wouldn’t that be a great world to live in?
It’s actually not so fantastical. After all, physicians are dedicated to delivering the best treatment and achieving optimal outcomes for their patients. The latest data is certainly available. And there are more channels than ever on which to deliver that data and, one hopes, drive new behaviors.
So what’s the problem?
For one, every doctor is unique. Each wants different, very specific kinds of information. Each has different knowledge gaps, brand perceptions and preferences.
In the case of Dr. Friendly, she has generously made available her time, views, knowledge and habits, so you know exactly where to jump in, and with what information, in order to gain her confidence and have a shot at influencing her protocols.
But, you protest, Dr. Friendly doesn’t exist in the real world.
Or does she?
Let’s assume that there is a digital environment, where she goes regularly to find her preferred KOLs and gets treatment information. Maybe it’s also a place where she engages to learn more clinical information. She doesn’t have to pack a bag or work a few days into her schedule to do this. She can spend five minutes or an hour there, obtaining the right intelligence to satisfy her curiosity. She views in-depth talks on demand, quickly absorbs charts and graphs on studies, tests her knowledge with interactive quizzes, and reviews appropriate patient profiles for the drugs she may consider. She can also learn what resources are available to help the patient access the treatment.
Maybe the content is engaging enough for her to provide personal feedback on her experience — through an online survey tool, or directly to the content creators (whereas she likely wouldn’t share this kind of feedback directly to pharma).
Now, if we’re doing our job right, we can use all this interaction and direct feedback to paint a picture of Dr. Friendly — her views, her knowledge, her habits and her gaps. She doesn’t even have to generously explain it to us: she’s already done so just by the nature of her activity. We can couple that interactive data and feedback information with Rx data to further refine what Dr. Friendly may respond to, and when.
That gives us the perfect opening to provide her with the information consistent with her preferences or her educational gaps, thereby streamlining content for her individual needs.
It would be much better than the mountainous mess of Big Data. What to call it? Actionable Insight? Accurate Access? MicroMarketing? Personal Preference?
Whatever name you give it, it works. And there’s no impediment to our doing it. We certainly have the technological means, the wealth of KOLs at our disposal, and the understanding that each physician is unique, with disparate knowledge gaps, prescribing behaviors and questions. Putting that together, why couldn’t we offer physicians the opportunities described above — the environment where they are delivered what they want, when they want it, from the people they trust, and in the process, give us new insights and openings for what she needs next?
In fact, we can.