Marketers Must Help Decode the EHR for Pharma

Many healthcare marketers still struggle to convey the importance of the digital medium in what is now undoubtedly a mostly digital world.

But with major forces in healthcare aligned around the CMS's Triple Aim, industry has new impetus with which to zero in on some of its most nettlesome digital hang-ups. “Now when you go into business planning, you have to use that as a lens: What can we provide in a value-added services, beyond-the-pill type of approach that is going to achieve these goals for a provider,” said Lisa Flaiz, co-leader of the Janssen Digital Center of Excellence, at MM&M's April SkillSets Live “Digital Disruption for Today's Pharma Marketer.”

Janssen itself has reset its digital priorities, and a big one is figuring out how to leverage the EHR to gain competitive advantage.

See also: Why the Holdup in Patient Portals?

More than 80% of physicians have adopted an EHR system, notwithstanding the fragmentation in the market, doctors' high level of dissatisfaction with these tools, and the fact that only 14% of office-based HCPs share data with ­other providers (ONC, 2014).

Their pervasiveness has raised eyebrows throughout pharma. What's happening with EHR “reminds me of the early days of being in the digital center of excellence [DCOE],” Flaiz recalled. “Social was exploding. It belonged to corporate comms, brands, PR — there wasn't anyone who didn't think they owned it.”

The same thing is happening now with EHR, but with a different cast of characters: trade, pricing, medical affairs, R&D, marketing, and the DCOE — all want a piece, she said.

If EHRs are now having their own pharma moment, there's a big opportunity for marketers to help unscramble the potential. But they should first clarify their place.

See also: EHRs, Patient Portals, and the "Four P's"

They can look at EHR from the standpoint of placing banners and other messaging and tailoring it to physician needs. But that's a challenge best left for media agencies. For brand ­managers, there is a whole host of more strategic EHR opportunities: clinical decision support, integration with the hub and patient-assistance programs, patient engagement and education, and scraping it for other information of value.

Decoding the potential starts with digging out what's going to be valuable for HCPs. Flaiz suggested looking at those tools that go “hand in hand” with EHRs: Almost 70% of prescriptions are being written over an e-prescribing or electronic medication ordering system.

Through these tools, “You can reduce friction points around benefits verifica­tion and prior authorization,” she said.

Marketers can also assist their R&D, HE&OR, and other colleagues by sharing EHR data with them. “Outside of marketing ... there are lots of disciplines and functions that would be interested in seeing some of this data,” Flaiz said.

Attitudes and priorities often precede real change. We just might be seeing the beginning of biopharma figuring out not only how to become a valuable part of physicians' digital work flow, but also how to leverage these media to stay a truly essential part of medical practice.

Marc Iskowitz is editor in chief of MM&M.