Digital IDs become focus as drugmakers seek to track doctors' behavior online

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Organizations such as DMD Marketing and Align Biopharma are trying to circumvent the classic catch-22 associated with whether and how HCPs log-in to sites.

Several companies in the medical marketing space are aiming to simplify the website log-in process for physicians — or bypass it entirely — in response to doctors' tendencies to overlook online medical content in favor of sites like Wikipedia.

Requiring healthcare professionals to log onto pharmaceutical websites to access information, such as how to get samples for their patients, can be time-consuming for users, but requiring no login makes it difficult for marketers to track a website's audience, especially when users have increasingly started to block cookies.

Enter DMD Marketing and Align Biopharma, two examples of organizations that are trying to circumvent the classic catch-22 associated with whether and how HCPs log-in to sites. Their efforts come at a time when pharmaceutical sales reps' access to physicians is declining, and physicians prefer searching the web rather than going to professional websites to find answers when they are pressed for time, as a recent survey conducted by CMI/Compas found.

See also: Easy navigation beats out trustworthiness for health info, survey finds

Align Biopharma, a life sciences industry standards group that launched in January, is working toward industrywide identification and authentication. The group was created by cloud-based software company Veeva Systems, and its members are Allergan, AstraZeneca, Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Novartis, and Pfizer.

Executives employed at a handful of those pharmaceutical companies started talking about finding a way to partner to address this issue while attending a Veeva conference last summer, recalled Scott Cenci, VP of global therapeutic operations IT at Biogen.

“What we said was there may be an opportunity for us to look at how we can partner in areas where we don't compete, such as ID management or opt-in communications,” said Cenci. “The focus is around improving the customer experience; and for the biopharmaceutical industry, that's the HCP, which is the bulk of our focus.”

Indeed, the initiative will allow HCPs to use a single sign-on to access online content, including websites, portals, virtual events, or webinars, published across the websites of all of its member companies, rather than multiple sign-ons, which are often the industry norm.

See also: As users move to mobile, Google says they made 200 million queries for info about cancer drugs

“Sometimes, digital has made it difficult for HCPs to access [information] because of the regulations of having to have very specific information on who they are, and verification that they're actually a licensed professional before they get that information,” explained Paul Shawah, VP of commercial strategy at Veeva and president of Align Biopharma. “Managing 50 different user IDs makes it hard and, therefore, they end up going elsewhere for information.”

The organization this year plans to release a set of standards for other drugmakers to adopt, and it also has plans to work with third-party industry sites such as Doximity, an online physician network that requires its users to register.

DMD is taking a different approach to the log-in issue. The company developed an audience identity manager (AIM), which comprises a tag and a reader that requires no sign-on. The tag is a code that DMD deploys to a HCP's browser after he or she chooses to opt in. Clients, including healthcare agencies or drugmakers, can then attach a reader code to any webpage where they want to track users and find information about that user, including their full name, medical specialty, National Provider Identifier number, and state of residence, explained David Reim, chief product officer at DMD Marketing.

See also: An EHR strategy can't be measured in clicks, says Lilly exec

He said that while a single sign-on is better than multiple sign-ons, focusing on using a single sign-on is “highly unproductive” because it still requires an HCP to log in at all. “All manufacturers will have certain information [that] requires a sign-on — for example, to get samples — but it's a tiny fraction,” said Reim.

So far, the company has tagged close to a million devices, including mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers used by about 550,000 unique individuals who are physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurses, said Reim.

Roger Korman, DMD's chairman and CEO, declined to share the specific websites involved but said the AIM reader is currently available for use on about 200 websites created by drug companies, medical publishers, medical associations, medical education and communication companies, multichannel marketers, and HCP job sites.

“We're aspiring to put our reader on medically relevant professional sites…so that manufacturers can, with much greater precision, understand healthcare practitioners' behaviors, where to reach them, the context in which to reach them, or have an understanding of the content they're looking at, so targeted, more relevant information can be delivered in the digital environment,” said Korman.

See also: Report: 3 tips for pharma to provide beyond-the-pill services

DMD compiles the data by therapeutic category, and clients are able to compare their website traffic and performance in the respective categories.

“We can tell a client, ‘This individual doctor that's on your target list came to one of your digital properties three times this month, and they spent a total of six-and-a-half-minutes at those properties,'” said Reim. “You can compare that to their actual individual usage in the pharmaceutical manufacturer category.”

So far, the company sees the highest penetration among healthcare professionals in oncology and diabetes. In those therapeutic categories, up to 70% of the targeted HCPs have been tracked on their devices, said Korman. Healthcare professionals who specialize in urology, cardiovascular, and rheumatology care are among the top five most tagged as well, with the AIM identifier reaching roughly 45% of targeted HCPs in those therapeutic classes.

DMD's identity tracker is only available in the U.S., where there are no laws governing the gathering of digital activity data.

See also: PulsePoint launches health vertical for programmatic advertising

“The key principles are being absolutely transparent in what we do and providing control to the individual,” said Korman. “We make sure that healthcare practitioners can easily opt out of receiving emails. And if they so choose to opt out of digital tracking, then they will be opted out of digital tracking.”

For traffic coming from outside the U.S., DMD is able to identify that it's coming from overseas and does not place a tag onto their browser.

Currently, it is testing the application of the AIM identifier in ads aimed at HCPs reading online content in a consumer-like environment with programmatic advertising technology company PulsePoint.

“If PulsePoint could serve to an AIM-tagged device, that would raise the value of the ad,” said Korman. “We're committed to a test and we don't have a timeframe around it yet.”

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