Healthcare marketers have long been constrained by siloed approaches to targeting and engaging healthcare provider (HCP) and direct-to-consumer (DTC) audiences — a practice that results in wasted budget, disjointed messaging and suboptimal script lift. Increasingly, marketers are turning to AI and real-world data to help them unify their HCP and DTC engagement, target precise patient audiences and their associated HCPs, drive Rx lift and improve outcomes.

In this TrendTalks session, “Breaking Down Silos: Unifying HCP and DTC Marketing for Improved Outcomes,” sponsored by Swoop, attendees discussed how they are using new tactics to target DTC and HCP audiences. Moderator Tim Callahan, VP, sales at Swoop, explained that in addition to building out custom audiences, marketers are leveraging patient and HCP audiences to act in coordination.

Panel participants agreed that the increasing overlap between the HCP and patient audiences is creating new opportunities to uncover content, channel and message affinity for those audiences. “Doctors and patients consume a lot of the same media,” said Jennifer Ryan, director, patient marketing, microbiome at Ferring Pharmaceuticals. “They’re on Facebook as much as they’re browsing The New England Journal of Medicine.” HPCs are digital citizens who are used to browsing quick headlines and five-second attention span media interaction. In those instances, “they’re just consumers,” she said.

This new viewpoint is prompting pharma marketers to adopt a more consumer-centric approach when targeting HCPs. While piloting peer-to-peer social  programs with key online HCP influencers across  different social platforms, Leanne Miller, associate director, CX and commercial acceleration at Organon, realized that for certain disease states and brands, the  messaging was reaching patients, or healthcare consumers, as well. “We found that many patients are following their doctors on Twitter or TikTok, which is a huge opportunity in the women’s health space. There’s so much organic conversation already happening on TikTok ,” she noted.

Amy McCann, formerly director, customer marketing & HCP experience at Sunovion, leveraged targeted HCP attributes to build look-alike HCP audiences. “Attributes can help find likely and valuable new engagers,” she said. “You’re using the known HCP audience to expand your audience to HCPs who may otherwise not be receiving your messages.” Similarly, AI and data can be used to enhance target lists and reach high priority HCPs. Examples include identifying HCPs with high social and referral influence, as well as uncovering primary care physicians and general practitioners who act as specialists but likely don’t appear on specialty lists.

McCann also had tremendous success working with a vendor that tightly geo targeted messaging to HCPs. “While serving up access messages to the target HCP, patients in that geo location can get messages about therapeutics they could ask their doctor about. On the flip side, the HCP can get specific messages about insurance coverage for their patients for that product. These have been known to produce exceptional ROI.” Indeed, Swoop has seen campaigns that deliver highly relevant, coordinated messaging at the point of care repeatedly drive meaningful script lift for customers.

Participants agreed that the most successful strategies include multiple channels in the mix. “It’s important  to have a good channel mix ,” said Lori Holland-Hancock, director, channel strategy and engagement team at Merck. “When you start to harness the power of omnichannel and other capabilities, your marketing strategies are no longer one or the other, it’s how they work together.”

Better access to data is giving marketers a more robust understanding of their audiences’ needs and enabling them to take more media strategy decisions in-house. Agencies can be great partners, agreed the panelists, but Joyce Ercolino, director, digital excellence at Harmony Biosciences, reminded listeners that they must be “aligned and constantly talking to each other.”

Coordination of key messaging is critical. “It’s great to have collaboration partners, but ultimately the omnichannel team should centralize as the subject matter experts,” said McCann.

While panelists agreed that a more personalized customer experience is the goal, they continue to struggle with barriers to sharing information. “Why can’t commercial and medical share more information,” asked Sohni Dailey, director, omnichannel operations at Bristol Myers Squibb. “We need to start reevaluating old rules and press the envelope a bit.”

As HCP detailing continues to evolve, brands are finding ways to get more bang for their advertising buck by having marketing help shape sales narratives. Miller noted that while HCPs don’t want to lose their relationships with their reps, they’re also not always interested in having a conversation if  there’s nothing new to share, so we need to help find unique (and compliant) ways to get information in front of them.

While new technology can help reps find opportunities to maintain those key HCP relationships in a post-COVID environment, participants said it was important to generate sales rep buy-in to using digital tools and spoke about the challenges they face working with sales to increase ROI.

Dailey noted that while “change management brings reps along on the journey so they leverage digital capabilities to enhance their face-to-face interactions and understand how it can help them move that needle,” participants said it isn’t always easy to pivot from an old school approach to detailing.

Using real world data, such as a recent diagnosis trigger, can create personalized insights that can help reps and other engagement professionals such as Medical Science Liaisons use their time more productively by ensuring they are providing HCPs with information they are seeking and find most useful. “Our group spent significant budget on a project to segment HCP behaviors,” noted Jen Yip, associate director, digital trials and patient engagement at Novartis. But in addition to creating that information, companies need to then follow through and create a full cycle of training and processes in order to ensure the information is used properly, or it can be frustrating to spend that much money and not get improved insights.

The most successful change management starts at the top. In the end “you need leadership alignment at the top level, or it’s not going to work,” remarked Amy Turnquist, principal, life sciences at North Highland.