As programmatic, next best action, artificial intelligence (AI), predictive modeling, and other omni-channel strategies within healthcare provider (HCP) media gain rapid adoption, so too do we see a narrowed focus on targeting providers via their National Provider Identifiers (NPIs). Target lists have myriad reasons why they are preferred or sometimes required for promotion and messaging. However, point of care channels – electronic health records (EHR) in particular – are uniquely positioned to leverage near real-time and real-world data to optimize promotional impact.  Specifically, to consider the value of a target encounter.  In doing so, marketers can consider HCP behavior that occurs during these encounters at the bottom of the funnel, where accelerated care plan decision making occurs. 

In this article, we examine the stages of the pharma marketing funnel, explore the impact of EHR messaging to HCPs lower in the marketing funnel, and share a case study that reflects that impact.

Pharma Marketing Funnel

The pharma marketing funnel is, broadly speaking, three stages: Upper, Middle, and Lower. Each stage has its own goals and tactics, based on proximity to actual diagnosis and treatment.  The Upper and Middle Funnel stages leverage broad-reach media solutions designed to reach the maximum number of physicians of interest, and these outlets fulfill a crucial general awareness role.

It is critical to remember that the Upper and Middle Funnel strategies are very far removed from the clinical encounter and are intended to drive general awareness and receptivity to pharmaceutical branded treatment. This doesn’t lessen their impact or importance. It highlights that they require a different set of objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). There is value in bringing brand awareness to a relevant provider while they watch their favorite video streaming service, but that distance from the encounter requires a different approach and different expectations.

These Upper and Middle Funnel stages include both non-endemic (outside the clinical setting) and endemic (within the clinical setting) outlets. Non-endemic outlets offer the broadest possible reach and efficiency, with the unique ability to reach and engage providers when they are engaged outside the clinical setting. Endemic publishers dive deep into the specialty area of choice, associating with medical societies, peer-to peer clinical discussions, medical reviewed content, and the need for HCPs to stay current in their fields. Endemic publisher display and native content often fills more of the role of middle of the funnel, effective at driving engagement with branded pharma content and assets

They effectively “soften the ground” for Lower Funnel marketing.

Lower Marketing Funnel and EHR Messaging

Expectations around audience reach through electronic health records (EHRs) should align with a bottom of the funnel approach.  Namely, the touchpoint is not necessarily about broad reach but rather conversion, with a highly curated audience in that final point of encounter and prescribing decision.  Messaging in EHRs should not be the first time a relevant HCP becomes aware of brand messaging, but it is the most important, final time they can be educated just prior to when important care plan decisions are made.  At Veradigm, we typically see a 6% to 20% overlap between our audience and the target lists provided by our clients. However, we can draw a direct connection between the relevance of the EHR environment and accelerated diagnosis and treatment.  The case study below reflects that impact.

Case Study

This bottom-of-the-funnel conversion case study involves two-year measurement of a branded medication for a chronic behavioral health disease that ran awareness messaging on the Practice Fusion EHR platform.* Practice Fusion is primarily used by small independent physician practices with a high index of primary care. The study objective was to see if brand awareness messaging in an EHR, accelerates time to treatment. The measurements took place in Practice Fusion which is a closed system.

Targeting Parameters

The campaign utilized several parameters for targeting:

  • We received a typical list of high decile NPIs
  • We added a layer of specialty targeting; although primary care does diagnose and treat this disease with regularity, specialists are more typically engaged with this diagnosis
  • Finally, we included patient-centric targeting. That is, we used deidentified, HIPAA-compliant, structured data real-time during the encounter, to ask questions re. potential triggers:
    • Is the patient diagnosed but not on medication?
    • Is the patient on medication but potentially a candidate to switch based on tolerance, efficacy, or insurance coverage?

Analyzing two years of data, we found a marked difference in the timeline to medication initiation. This was not just for the brand advertised—which initiated at 180 days on average—but for other therapies in the medication class as well, which initiated, on average, even sooner.

Obviously, this data may include some bias and noise. Some of the other brands in this medication class also advertised within Practice Fusion. Many of these physicians have been reached via other ecosystems. These sorts of overlap are supposed to occur when you reach the bottom of the funnel. It won’t be the first time these providers are touched with brand information—but it may be the most important.


The result? Within our own closed system, we see our providers writing brand prescriptions nearly twice as quickly: 64% of patients diagnosed by providers in the test group were prescribed branded medications within 6 months vs. 26% of those in the control group. [1]

Real-world data (RWD) gives marketers the ability to evaluate and enhance targeting more quickly than the 90- to 120-day lag time associated with evaluation of external performance datasets. RWD provides the ability to leverage the inputs of multiple data sets to observe key predictive indicators. This, in turn, enables targeting enhanced and optimized beyond what is possible with the client-provided HCP target list. Ultimately this leads to quicker screening, care plan creation, and improved patient care.

*The workflow services operate in a manner that is compliant with HIPAA and other applicable laws. The Practice Fusion EHR displays advertisements in an iframe window adjacent to the EHR workflow that is separate and distinguishable from the clinical and practice management workflow within the EHR. No biopharma or device advertisements appear during the prescribing workflow consistent with applicable law.

[1] Sample sourced from Veradigm Dataset from Jan 2021 – June 2022