Pharma companies have succeeded in providing higher quality information to healthcare providers since the start of the pandemic. But HCPs are also more likely to feel misunderstood and “spammed” by too much content, a new report from Accenture has found.

Arriving in the wake of similar research conducted last year, the study examined how HCPs were grappling with COVID-19 and how the pandemic impacted their relationships with pharma.

Last year, the researchers noticed a positive change in HCP reaction to the content they were receiving from pharma. That trend continued during 2021, but there remains plenty of room for improvement, according to Suzy Jackson, a managing director in life sciences at Accenture.

“There’s a real risk at the moment that there’s a lot of spamming going on, and a lot of overcommunication,” she explained. “Although [the content] has rotated into interesting, helpful messaging, there’s still a lot of room to grow in terms of being continually helpful and thoughtful.”

The report found that 86% of HCPs found content that goes beyond product information from pharma companies to be “truly helpful.” Eighty-three percent said the content is “more relevant” now than it was before the pandemic. About half of HCPs surveyed said they preferred hybrid meetings with sales reps, even in a post-pandemic world.

Still, much of the content directed at HCPs continues to get lost amid the clutter.

“Quality has gone up, but the quantity has gone up as well, which represents an interesting challenge,” Jackson said. “There’s still a need to be thoughtful about what you’re providing and where you’re providing it.”

A quarter of HCPs said they believed pharma companies could do more to understand them, a trend that was particularly pronounced among oncologists.

“Just because the quality has improved, it doesn’t mean HCPs feel they have a totally symbiotic relationship in which pharma companies fully understand what they’re going through,” Jackson explained.

Clearly, tapping into a deep understanding of HCPs’ needs will be integral for pharma companies moving forward. That’s because HCPs are as open to engagement as they’ve been in some time.

The report found that 41% of HCPs said they would be more likely to open emails and listen to sales reps who understood patient and HCP needs. Similarly, 38% said they’d be willing to meet with a rep again if they felt well understood.

The solution might need to be a holistic one, Jackson pointed out, one that focuses on branching out from field forces and developing how each touchpoint interacts. That could include reevaluating conferences, webinars and lunches, among other interactions.

“Pharma companies shouldn’t view field forces as just a standalone channel,” Jackson stressed. “They need to view them as part of a more holistic engagement strategy.”

Pharma companies might also attempt to improve their responsiveness and the quality of scientific exchange. The latter could mean providing more opportunities for medical education programs, offering more time with medically trained reps and creating opportunities for physicians to collaborate with their peers.

Ultimately, it comes down to pharma companies evincing an increased willingness to better tailor all communications.

“It’s important to continually question what relevance really means,” Jackson said. “Keep re-defining that relevance, and understand that the relationship is an ever-changing thing that needs constant attention.”

And, of course, pharma must do everything in its power to reduce clutter.

“Just because we’re seeing encouraging signs that content is becoming more useful, resist the urge to overdo it and spam people and send a lot of things,” Jackson continued. “Remember: If there’s a meaningful interaction — just one meaningful interaction — that will mean they may be more likely to engage with you again. It would be a shame to damage that with too much content.”