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6 minute read

Building trust with HCPs: 6 takeaways from our industry webinar

Our latest webinar brought together industry perspectives from across commercial, medical and digital roles to explore the issue of trust in pharma and how this impacts HCP engagement.

Here, we summarise 6 key takeaways from the conversation that will help you inform your digital strategies.

by Graphite Digital
30 November 23
  • Webinar
  • HCP Relationships
  • Trust

Our recent webinar explored one of the key issues underpinning the relationship that pharma organisations have with HCPs — trust. You can also watch the recording in full here.

The webinar conversation was a follow up to our recently published whitepaper, in which 80% of HCPs cited a lack of trust in pharma-provided digital content and platforms. Participants raised concerns around the objectivity of data, promotional language, a lack of transparency, and difficulty in accessing content and platforms.

In the webinar, our panellists were simultaneously surprised yet not surprised at the outcomes of the report. Trust amongst HCPs is an issue that pharma has been trying to tackle for many years, but there was some shock and concern that levels of trust remain as low as they appear to be.

The good, the bad and the ugly: HCPs want balanced content

As Michelle Bridenbaker commented, HCPs want to see “the good, the bad and the ugly” when it comes to digital information and content. This transparency is essential for building trust and giving HCPs the confidence to make well-balanced and informed prescribing decisions.

Michelle added “A bad patient experience is also terrible for the [pharma] brand. If that patient is the wrong patient and they use it, that will be that doctor’s impression from there on out. We need to provide completely scientifically robust information that allows clinicians to make the right decision.”

Although it might feel counterintuitive as a marketer to include non-favourable information and outcomes within your content, this will be beneficial in the long-term when it comes to strengthening your brand perceptions and the wider HCP relationship.

Dan Johnson added “The times in which we build trust the most are the times when things aren’t going so well, for example when you have a bad clinical trial result or some supply issues. How you turn up and communicate here is infinitely more important for building trust than when things are going well.”

We need more collaboration between teams

Colleagues across Commercial, Digital and Medical need to collaborate more closely and recognise that they all have a place in the customer journey. This will allow for more trust and alignment internally, resulting in better experiences for HCPs.

Maria Nieves Alvarado explained, “Excellent customer experience is a team sport. If we are truly focusing on customer needs and interests, we need to look at every piece of the puzzle. We need to make sure that Medical teams are involved from the beginning, from the creation of the strategy and the content, to respond to the needs and preferences that HCPs have expressed time and time again in research like this.”

This was built upon by our other panellists, with Dan Johnson talking of the need for teams to be aligned on overall objectives, but with unique touch points that different teams can deliver upon.

If pharma organisations are truly going to be empathetic in our approach to HCP outreach, they need to remove silos between teams and start being more joined-up.

Meet the customer where they want to be

Michelle Bridenbaker remarked, “HCPs can’t trust you if you keep pushing things out to them that they don’t want, on the channels they don’t desire, in a way that they don’t find appropriate”.

She spoke of the arrogance of assuming that HCPs have enough time to come to pharma-sponsored platforms and change their behaviours and habits. HCPs want to go to the channels that they go to anyway, and it’s up to pharma companies to make sure that they’re also there.

These sentiments were echoed by Andrew Binns, who talked about how the pharma industry is fixated on creating new websites and platforms and then expecting HCPs to come to them. He highlighted the importance of pushing content that’s useful, easy to absorb, and relevant on a channel that an HCP actually wants to go to.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for owned digital channels if they’re done well. Astellas’ Maria Nieves Alvarado explained “Digital channels allow us to really get to know our customers and listen to them. We can better understand how they use our content through analytics, and give us the opportunity to be quick at reacting and creating new content. We are able to personalise content and engage with people in a high frequency — this is a great opportunity to connect and expand on face-to-face interaction.”

Technology should be convenient and easy, that’s why people will use it. If the digital platforms and content that pharma organisations don’t meet this basic need, we can’t expect HCPs to use it.

Is frustration what HCPs are really experiencing?

Is it really a lack of trust that HCPs feel about the information provided by pharmaceutical organisations, or is it more that inappropriate content and messaging erodes trust in pharma organisations and the wider sector?

AstraZeneca’s Andrew Binns commented, “I genuinely don’t see how HCPs can’t trust pharma because the content we provide to them is compliant and medically robust — I think it’s more frustration with the type of content that we push out to them, which is often pretty poor.”

Pharma organisations tend to create content in a non-empathetic way, based on what they want to send HCPs rather than what HCPs need from pharma. This need for content amongst HCPs is there, but the vast majority of pharma organisations are not currently meeting it sufficiently.

Michelle Bridenbaker added, “We’re competing with the likes of Google, MedScape and UpToDate. It’s sexy, it’s glossy, it’s visually appealing and multi-modal. HCPs want to learn and consume content in different ways just as we all do. We need to create content that can educate and inform prescribing decisions, but also be entertaining, easy-to-digest and in line with what they expect from us.”

Strategies need to be informed by data and insight

We all agree that creating relevant, quality content that meets HCP needs will be key for building trust and driving engagement. But what do pharma organisations have in place to inform that process?

Dan Johnson commented, “We need to leverage technology and AI to assess the content that we have shared with HCPs in the past so we can identify the level of impact that different types of content had across different HCP groups. Sometimes what HCPs tell us they want in market research activities contradicts what the data tells us.”

He spoke of the need for a holistic approach to seeking insight, balancing the findings of qualitative insights and market research with the picture that the data and analytics presents. This was echoed by Andrew Binns, who highlighted the importance of not relying solely on market research findings due to things like people’s unconscious biases. He talked of the value of ethnographic research to really understand HCPs in their real-life context, but noted the high cost of this was a barrier to most pharma companies.

This commitment to being driven by insight is something that needs to be adopted by all teams for it to be effective. Michelle Bridenbaker added “Medical is very good at being data-driven on the science but I think some of us need to get better at being data-driven on our activities, particularly customer engagement. It’s important as that’s the language that our digital team members speak, and that’s the language that commercial understands as well.”

Consistent and quality messaging will build trust over time

Is it that HCPs don’t trust the actual content that pharma teams are providing, or is it that they don’t trust the industry as a whole? If it’s the latter, Takeda’s Dan Johnson believes it’s crucial for pharma companies to show up every day on relevant channels and touch points with consistent, high-quality content that genuinely helps HCPs solve their most pressing problems. Trust is something that’s difficult to build but easy to break. We need to take a long-term view and approach, there’s no quick fix.

Andrew Binns talked about the importance of creating highly engaging content and following the principles of the ‘AIDA’ marketing framework in HCP comms — attention, interest, desire, action.

“We need to create highly attention-grabbing content that shifts HCPs out of their apathy, changes their habits and drives misconceptions from their mind. Then we prompt their interest, let them evaluate the scientific narrative, stimulate their desire, and drive action from them. It’s a very standard conversion funnel in non-pharma sectors and there’s no shame in us using it as a guideline.”

Thank you to our panellists

The event was chaired by Rob Verheul, CEO at Graphite Digital, and featured an industry panel with:

  • Andrew Binns, Head of Digital and Innovation, AstraZeneca

  • Daniel Johnson, Head of BU GI, Neuroscience, Vaccines and Established Brands Switzerland, Takeda

  • Michelle Bridenbaker, Global Medical Information Lead at Idorsia / Vice President elect at Medical Information Leaders in Europe (MILE)

  • Maria Nieves Alvarado, Associate Director, Omnichannel Marketing Excellence - International Markets, Astellas Pharma

Want to know more about HCP relationships?

Webinar: Is trust the key factor in HCP engagement? Watch the recording

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Is trust the key factor in digital HCP engagement? Explore this in our latest whitepaper

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Creating better digital experiences for HCPs: Q&A with Maria Nieves Alvarado at Astellas Pharma

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