By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)
Does this scenario sound familiar? Your sales force got cut last year so you have less reps trying to see more and more HCPs. But a lot of these potential customers cut their staff last year or took on more patients or simply don’t want to spend the time with a drug detailer. So you may only see them once or twice a year (if you’re lucky). Of course, the HCP has a legal and moral obligation to keep himself current with all the latest treatment options. If he’s not hearing about your product from you, where is he (or she) hearing about it?
More often than not the answer is the web.
Your HCP customer may be part of a physicians’ network like Ozmosis or Sermo. Like Facebook for doctors, these members only social networks provide a protected and private space where physicians can compare notes and talk about a range of subjects including patient diagnosis, hospital policies and yes, new treatment options. Ozmosis allows Pharma companies access to their community through sponsored areas of their site . Sermo takes it a step further with “Ask Rx”, a feature that allows HCPs to ask reps from Pharma companies direct questions about their products. Both sites seem to offer a variation on the traditional detailing model (since sponsorship from healthcare partners pays their bills) but the approach is definitely “opt in” versus “interruption based” and the Pharma company has less of a personal relationship with the potential client. And ,of course, the Pharma company only controls the message in the part of the site that they are participating in. It’s not uncommon for one of these sites to feature an area sponsored by a product like Xanax and then find a physician’s rant against the very same product on the site’s blog or message boards. Tricky waters to navigate but still a great way to connect with physicians in a non-crowded and direct environment.
Of course, many HCPs are opting for the new trend of “academic detailing”. The Independent Drug Information Service is the leader of this movement and their RxFacts.org site provides a significant resource for physicians. As the site text explains “Academic detailing is a method of outreach education that combines the interactive, one-on-one communication approach of industry detailers with the evidence-based, noncommercial information of academia. The term “academic detailing reflects this hybrid concept.” Much like the traditional detailing model reps from IDIS visit HCPs to brief them on treatment options and best practices. Since IDIS members base their findings on surveys of medical journals and other objective resources, it’s more important than ever for Pharma companies to provide data and resources on their products that has been independently verified and is easily accessible. Educational websites and making education materials easily available online can help the IDIS in their efforts and turn potential foes in to friends.
Finally, physicians (like everyone else) are not immune to prevailing trends in consumer tastes. Consumer health sites like WebMD offer not only a resource for patients but a gauge for doctors to measure patient satisfaction with various treatment options. WebMD’s user reviews can number in the thousands ( a recent search for user reviews of the antidepressant Lexapro turned up 2798 Total User Reviews), a powerful source of data on the overall effectiveness of the drug and patient satisfaction with the results. With this sort of patient peer review gaining momentum, is it any wonder Pharma companies are starting to slowly embrace social media and recognize the need for dialogue with consumers?
Ultimately, the genie can’t be put back in the model. The “special relationship” between Doctors and Pharm reps is a thing of the past. Now numerous different sources are whispering in the physician’s ear. The question to ask is … are you whispering in theirs?