The great reset of frontline HCP relationships

This article was first published on PM LiVE on 22nd April 2022.

As drivers, we can see the value of an electric car

But until the wider ecosystem and infrastructure catch up with customer demand, the patience of drivers who want to move with the times will continue to be tested.

Post-COVID-19, healthcare professionals (HCPs) are in a similar position when engaging with pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Advances in virtual communications and a wholesale re-evaluation of how HCPs spend their time means that they’re more questioning of what they want from interactions with pharma. More than ever, HCPs want new information, in a way that’s convenient and personal to them.

As a UK cardiologist said:

“You need to show us that you’ve got something new, something that we don’t already know.”1

But many pharmaceutical organisations remain trapped in a traditional way of working. They’re yet to be bold enough to act upon a seismic change in the HCP relationship – and the pressing need for a tailored, bespoke approach to interactions.

As a German primary care physician said:

“There are always reps who are pushy and who just say what they want to say and basically, they don’t notice that you don’t want to hear it.” 1

In a launch excellence context, pharma can share something new and exciting to benefit HCP practice and patients. From our research we know HCPs value and look forward to these key moments of interaction with pharma. So, there’s a need and an opportunity to make the absolute most of these precious moments.

Implications for pharma

With continued shifts in treatment pathways combined with growing HCP confidence in multiple communications channels, it’s crucial to gain insights ahead of launch.

Launch is not the time for assumptions, especially with limited time or budget. Launch planning is the moment to ensure we have the right insights on who we need to engage with, the channels that will make an impact, what content is needed and when to engage.

An omnichannel approach isn’t only about connecting all the channels to give your customer a fluid experience. Nor is it about creating a single piece of content and marketing it on every channel and platform available.

To craft a successful omnichannel engagement plan during launch, you need to have the right research and the right insights on what, when and who will truly make an impact.

It’s the reason why many pharmaceutical companies are systemically re-evaluating the role of their field teams with a refreshed investment of skills and tools. A knowledgeable, skilled and engaging field team with the right purpose and capabilities to engage the right HCP – and with the right method at the right time – can have a significant impact on both the pharmaceutical company and HCPs.

How we reset HCP engagement

As a French primary care physician said:

“I’m not looking for really rare or cutting-edge scientific information if it’s of no use to me. What I want are useful things.” 1

It’s going to take bold behaviours to challenge existing processes, models or methods.

We begin by placing ourselves in the position of those we’re talking to. Considering their needs, how they best serve their patients and anticipating the most optimal contact that can be provided. Less of ‘What do I need to say?’ and more of ‘What does the person I’m speaking to need to hear?’.

If we do this properly, the implications on the traditional model of pharma will be far- reaching. But those organisations who act in the most radical way will be most likely to succeed.

Why agency relationships need to change too

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all had to be bold in trying new ways of working.

As we continue, leadership needs to lean into this moment of bold behaviour. It will require deeper honesty and evaluation of the relationships between business functions and the transformative solutions required. Which in turn demands the need to look at the way in which agencies are engaged too.

Traditional procurement models categorise agencies into the services they offer instead of the value they bring. This limits the opportunities for agencies to bring their full potential as integrated partners. Over the last 24 months, agencies and the agency landscape has changed systemically too. The old model just no longer fits.

This new era calls for agencies who can work across ecosystems, who collaborate across functions, who can challenge their clients as partners and offer smart launch excellence solutions to maximise insights.

Just as some car manufacturers are facing being left behind because they didn’t look at the wider ecosystem fast enough, pharmaceutical and biotech companies who place expectations on an old-school, multiple-agency approach to engage HCPs across a scattergun of tactics may now also find themselves struggling during launch.

Today we all have more choice. In the context of limited time and budget, we must make smart choices that make the biggest difference. This requires the right insights, an integrated plan and importantly integrated agency partners who live your purpose and who will partner to deliver launches faster and with impact.


1 The Creative Engagement Group HCP Research, July 2021


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