Does Pharma Need to Adapt to a New Normal for HCPs?
The pharmaceutical industry has always had an awkward relationship with those healthcare professionals (HCPs) who write prescriptions for their medications. Pharmaceutical sales are where the two fields come together. It is also where professional relationships are both made and broken. With HCPs now facing a new normal in a post-COVID world, does pharma need to adapt?
Medical doctor, healthcare administrator, consultant, and P360 guest contributor Dr. Stephen Engle, M.D. thinks so. In a recent blog post, Engle laid out the case for a new relationship between pharma and HCPs, a relationship built around a new understanding of the environment doctors and advanced practice nurses now find themselves working in.
Engle cites two primary factors as the basis for his post:
- HCP dissatisfaction with their interactions with Big Pharma, and
- HCP burnout and work overload.
Engle says that pharma needs to adopt a new way of communicating with HCPs that accounts for a different kind of work environment. He lays out several suggestions as to how this can be accomplished.
At the top of Engle’s list is relevant messaging. In other words, pharma needs to tailor its sales messages more specifically to targeted audiences. There is no point in sending information about a new drug to a doctor whose practice is unlikely to need that drug in large volumes. For example, a typical GP does not need information on chemotherapy drugs.
Educate and Inform
Engle’s second point is arguably his most important: pharma needs to get away from sales-based messaging and pay more attention to education and information. Doctors and advanced practice nurses do not need to be convinced to prescribe a medication they know works. Therefore, sales-oriented messaging becomes superfluous.
They do not need to be encouraged to prescribe. They need to be educated and informed about what a particular drug does. They need to know how it works, why it works, and how well it works. Produce a good drug and an informed physician will be happy to utilize it.
Be Cognizant of Time Constraints
Today’s HCPs are busier than ever before. They have a lot to do and very little time in which to do it. As such, pharmaceutical sales reps help themselves and the HCPs they contact by being cognizant of time constraints. Their messaging is more productive when they figure out the ideal time to deliver that message. Get the timing wrong and even the best message will not be received very well.
Tailor Messaging to Practice Structure
Engle makes an interesting point in his piece about practice structure. He explains the different approaches taken by employed doctors and practice owners, even offering statistics to show how prevalent each model is. But more importantly, he explained that HCPs respond to pharma messaging based on practice structure.
For example, employed doctors are not necessarily free to make prescription decisions independent of employer policies. On the other hand, private practice owners are free to prescribe as they see fit. Pharma needs to tailor its messaging accordingly.
The Relationship Is Changing
Engle makes a solid case that the pharma-HCP relationship is changing. It is changing in ways that are not necessarily demonstrated through job postings on the Pharma Diversity website. Nonetheless, tomorrow’s pharmaceutical reps will be working with HCPs whose work environment has changed drastically in recent years. They will have to build relationships based on a new normal for HCPs.
If pharma learns to adapt, then things should go smoothly. If not, both pharmaceutical reps and HCPs could be in for a rough ride. That is the way things go when people are learning a new normal.