Post-COVID, healthcare organizations are recalibrating to find a new marketing equilibrium. This #TrendTalks panel discussion, sponsored by OptimizeRx, focused on how healthcare marketers are balancing HCPs’ need for information with the need for relevancy; how they are using AI, machine learning and real-world data in marketing strategy and execution; and how they are personalizing patient and physician communications.

MM+M’s 2023 Healthcare Marketers Trend Survey revealed that while budgets fell 8%, healthcare marketers said they are devoting more of that shrinking budget to reach HCPs and less to reach consumers and payers. At the same time, research shows that physicians want more relevant information on patient affordability, prior authorization and patient eligibility, and are less interested in pure marketing and advertising information.

Panelists discussed how they are balancing patient and HCP comms. “I’m a passionate, inclusive patient marketer,” said one participant. “The opportunity to build a relationship begins at the point they initially see your banner or website. That’s front end.”

“Too often, marketers tend to look at patient services as a back end,” noted Sonja (Sparkle) Fisher, former associate director, U.S. patient marketing at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a viewpoint she believes misses the mark. “There’s a richness of data, insights and behaviors that can help us understand how we can help HCPs with tools and education they really want,” she added.

As the industry moves into more specific, smaller patient populations, patient and physician journeys have become more complicated, noted Claire Phillips, marketing director, anti-infectives, GSK. “As that web of community grows, more people need access to information.”

The opportunity for pharma marketers to serve as an educational resource for a host of HCPs is becoming more important as medicine shifts toward more specialized patient populations. “HCPs for smaller populations in the rare space are starting to do their own variation of Teach Back programs within their institutions,” said Fisher.

Providing more education on insurance coverage and patient support programs is an important component of a personalized patient approach going forward and will require more coordination among HCP and patient marketers as well as patient support programs.

“There has to be consistent and complementary messaging and empowerment from the patient and HCP so they can follow up with their insurance company and have a point of contact with patient support,” noted Sandy Sexton, senior director, Dupixent consumer marketing at Regeneron.

Taking a data-driven approach to understanding which patients are getting access and which are being rejected is one way to identify where challenges exist and help HCPs and patients address those concerns head-on, noted panel co-moderator Dr. Aaron Noll, senior AI solutions engineer at OptimizeRx.

Data can also support HCP educational efforts. “Being totally customer-obsessed is key, but you have to have the right customer intelligence data layer,” said Kelly Tullo, omnichannel marketing director at AstraZeneca. “You need that platform in place in order to deploy resources and be super relevant at the right time.”

Access to the right data can help marketers uncover patient behaviors, anticipate when patients will be meeting key clinical leverage points and alert HCPs on how to reach patients at precisely the right time. “We need to refine the data to anticipate when patients are meeting care milestones and be actionable,” [1] said Noll.

Christine Mendoza, associate director, digital enablement at Endo International, worked with multiple cross-functional teams to identify patients who had failed to adhere to their treatment cycle to create a patient adherence campaign to address the issue. “Now we’re able to meet the audience right where they are,” she said.

To truly succeed, new approaches require buy-in from the top down. “To be successful with these new and innovative marketing tactics, the desire to do something new and different has to start at the organizational level of the organization,” noted Suche Subramaniam, associate director, customer experience and commercial acceleration at Organon.

With 90% of medical practice now using EHRs, using data against specific triggers can be a successful strategy, but there are caveats. “It’s about where pharma has to stop in terms of prescriptive selling,” said Phillips.

Subramaniam mitigated the risk by triggering communications through a distributor. Tullo includes her   compliance partner in meetings. “It’s been tremendously helpful to have her in the room, asking questions to make sure it’s in range of what we should pursue,” she added.

Phillips noted that while there are many ways to do EHR messaging, messaging must meet brand objectives in a way that pays off.

Participants also discussed an increased focus on an omnichannel approach. “Omnichannel is a way to provide the right information at the right time and personalize it to how patients and HCPs consume information,” said Noll.

The experts agreed that pharma needs to be more open to a “test and learn” approach and recognize that even when some efforts fail, something is learned. It’s an approach that the CPG industry uses to its advantage. Pharma can benefit from being more experimental, but it requires work and a shift in mindset.  “That’s a muscle movement that big pharma just does not have yet,” said Subramaniam.