The pharma industry may recall that during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a deliberate effort to cultivate a “digital culture” at their companies. 

Remote work was widespread as part of social distancing measures and organizations did what they could to maintain an atmosphere and identity amid one of the great social crises of modern times.

Now, a report out of EPG Health finds that pharma companies’ priorities have shifted as they enter 2024.

Pharma companies will increasingly prioritize gaining a deeper understanding of the needs and behaviors of healthcare professionals (HCP) next year, the report found. Using multi-stakeholder research, the report surveyed HCP, pharma and service providers.

Nearly 60% of pharma respondents said HCP insight is the top priority for strategic HCP engagement in 2024, followed by improving customer experience and optimizing content for digital consumption.

The latest study, released Tuesday, builds upon a previous EPG Health report released in 2021 which found that pharma’s main priority was “a shift in digital culture in mindset.” 

Three-quarters of respondents said they’ve experienced progress in this area in the last two years, with most saying scientific information via digital sources has improved.

The report also found that pharma leaders are putting medical science liaisons at the top of their list of priorities, overtaking Salesforce as the “most important channel” for sending information to HCPs.

“Our findings demonstrate that the industry is making good progress with its digital engagement efforts, and it’s interesting to see greater emphasis on medical rather than marketing-led activity for the first time,” said Jonathan Macdonald, chief operating officer at EPG Health, in a statement.

Still, there’s work to do when it comes to pharma actually listening to HCPs. 

Respondents indicated they preferred independent medical websites – as well as scientific meetings – as their main channel for engaging with scientific content.

HCPs are also increasingly turning to social media to consume scientific information, with 41% of respondents saying they consider social media important, compared to 33% in 2021. That number rises to a whopping 64% of HCPs under the age of 34.

Despite the rising power of social media among HCPs, however, “pharma has reduced emphasis on social channels in the last two years,” EPG Health noted in a press release.

“The industry’s shift toward focusing on HCP needs and behavior is welcomed and apparent,” said Matthew Hellyer, head of insight at EPG Health, in a statement. “With pharma strategic priorities having, on occasion, been misaligned to HCP demand, there is a clear requirement to build data strategies that will ultimately support deeper understanding of their digital behavior.”