Engaging health professionals – when every second counts
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Florencia Casares, Senior Consultant, Health and Wellness
Whether you’re disseminating health-care research or sharing an innovative new treatment, working with health care professionals is essential to improving patient care. Communicating with these busy professionals can be challenging in normal circumstances, let alone amid a global pandemic.
How do you engage front-line health care professionals in a meaningful way when every second counts?
The starting points must be information, innovation and relevance. Treatments or self-care products must be clinically relevant with a clear, innovative and unique benefit supporting a defined patient need. Communication must also follow Health Canada Guidance and the IMC Code of Ethical Practices.
As COVID-19 overwhelms healthcare systems, putting HCPs at the centre of the storm, people are still getting sick from other causes. Chronic diseases and immune-compromising conditions such as cancer, diabetes or hepatitis C put patients at increased risk. It’s more important than ever to communicate with HCPs, establish a meaningful value-based relationship and empower them with timely information that is clinically accurate and referenced, and easily shareable with their patients and peers.
So how do we communicate with health care professionals without adding more pressure? How can life science industries and self-care brands add value and clear benefit in their communications?
Go digital. If you’re not engaging health care professionals online, you’re likely not reaching them effectively. HCPs are enormous consumers of social media and spend an average of 23.3 hours per week online including 15 on mobile devices and 13 on social media1. HCPs are 58% more likely to access internet and media at work compared to average Canadians, and 21% more likely to do so when commuting2.
It’s not just what you say, it’s also how you say it. A doctor at Toronto General Hospital told us, “there are too many COVID emails at the moment.” Preferred HCP communication channels include text, Twitter, web, podcast, video and then email. You need to engage your audience in the ways they want, use and need. Always consider your medium when developing your content. At a time when we all suffer from screen fatigue, consider audio messages and very brief content with a low copy count. Consider texts, Tweets and WhatsApp messages, with plenty of infographics.
Be direct and have empathy. For consumer messaging, the norm is 6-second videos and 140-character messages. As the demands upon HCPs are greater than most, we use short, direct and purposeful communications to engage medical experts. Life science companies and self-care bands often address complex topics. Accordingly, the content “prescription” is often a heavy dose of copy. However, even complex content can be broken down into smaller pieces. Use links and provide easy paths to access additional information. If HCPs want more content, make it easy for them to access it. Focus on your core message, and execute with excellence.
Be insight-driven and evidence-based. This is an audience that gravitates towards data and science. Content should be based on facts, described objectively and in a balanced manner. All communications with HCPS should be able to withstand any test for scientific rigour. Before issuing content, consider having an HCP with expertise in the area review it. Ask them if the information is meaningful and useful. If not, don’t use it.
Reference accessible sources. Your content should be based on accessible links that support any stat, fact or figure. HCPs need to quickly access the root source of any claim. Avoid password-protected, membership or subscription-based resources. Always provide links to credible, peer-reviewed, third-party sources. If the only source available is a new publication that is subscription-based, try to secure publication use. Purchase online posting rights and post the study in an accessible channel.
When possible, be local. The highest-performing content is delivered at the right time and at the right place. Use geo-targeting to personalize local information by postal code, region, or specific areas of practice or research interest. If you can’t geo-target, source expert statements from local key opinion leaders to make your information relevant for your intended audience.
As partners in the health and wellness of Canadians, research-based pharmaceutical companies and self-care brands play a vital role in providing health care professionals with accurate, up-to-date information to support patient care. Just as the demands upon HCPs are evolving, so is the communications landscape. What worked yesterday may not work today. Make your content relevant, timely, appropriate and easy to access.
On behalf of everyone at the Argyle Group, we’d like to thank all health care professionals for their passion, professionalism and care for Canadians – not just during public health crises, but every day and every year.
1Source: Vividata Winter 2020 – Canada 2IBID
About the Author
Florencia Casares is a Senior Consultant for the Health and Wellness team at Argyle. Florencia is an international communications professional with extensive experience in the Middle East, Europe, and Canada. She specializes in HCP relations, internal communications, and stakeholder engagement for consumer health and pharmaceutical companies.