One of the most pivotal aspects of doing business in the healthcare industry is targeting and engaging healthcare providers (HCPs). HCPs are essential for driving growth and success, so understanding how to reach them through digital channels is crucial. Although healthcare providers are now more accessible than ever (thanks to the internet), they are also more inundated with information. Therefore, it proves difficult for healthcare organizations to stand out and communicate their message in such a noisy digital landscape. Consequently, having a concise digital engagement strategy is paramount to outperforming the competition.
Expanding on the Digital Landscape
According to 2021 data, nearly 70% of healthcare providers are digital natives. Digital natives are those born or raised during the age of digital technology. This is important to note because when a healthcare provider has had positive personal experiences with social, mobile, and digital technologies, they’re more likely to expect business interactions to go the same way. As a result, healthcare providers want to be able to find the information they need in the most efficient way possible.
Although the switch to consumerization has been in full swing for quite some time for most industries, the healthcare industry has been slower to adapt. In a world where the digital realm is commonplace, digital native healthcare providers are still subjected to the regressive practice of interacting with businesses face-to-face.
In 2017, a survey of healthcare providers found that roughly 60% of their B2B engagement came from a field rep. Dichotomously, only 8% of engagement came from a combination of face-to-face, email, and virtual meeting interactions. With businesses placing such emphasis on face-to-face interactions, they may be spreading themselves too thin.
Prioritizing Digital Channels for Effective HCP Engagement
Rather than take a single-channel approach, businesses should be looking to use a blended approach to digital engagement. Having a multichannel digital strategy will bring the divide between a company’s value and the HCP’s expectations that much closer.
In order to improve and strengthen HCP interactions and drive conversions, you’ll want to amass accurate and timely information surrounding each individual that takes into account past interactions. In doing so, you’ll be able to build an individualized customer journey and establish more concrete relationships.
While the push for digital engagement may seem like the only way to pursue digitally native healthcare providers, it’s important to recognize that these providers still crave some degree of human interaction. Instead of doing away with face-to-face interaction altogether, try to use them in tandem with digital engagement. This will help in:
- Educating the customer when they are ready to learn
- Increasing customer satisfaction
- Extending overall reach
- Driving sales growth
- Boosting resource efficiency
An In-Depth Look at Digital Channels
Recently, a two-year study was conducted by a global life sciences company to measure the impact of digital HCP channels in an emerging growth market. This case study included three distinct segments: reps who engage with healthcare providers using face-to-face interactions, reps who engage with HCPs using a digital-only approach, and reps who use both digital and face-to-face interactions.
As it turns out, the company’s reps that incorporated a blended approach of digital and face-to-face interactions outperformed the combined sales growth of the other two segments by 3%. Additionally, the study found that using digital engagement strategies lowered the cost of interactions and improved cost efficiency for the hybrid reps by 80%. A few of the most effective digital HCP engagement channels include:
Using emails to extend the outreach of your HCP interactions may be both cost-effective and powerful, but make sure that your emails are relevant, targeted, and offer valuable content. Otherwise, you may run the risk of healthcare providers unsubscribing or, worse, flagging your emails as spam. In fact, 66% of providers want to receive relevant emails from reps, and 35% of emails sent from field reps are opened by healthcare providers, compared to a 3% open rate for corporate emails. That being said, you probably want to start using emails in your HCP outreach strategy to:
- Schedule face-to-face calls
- Send materials
- Offer new product information
- Extend invitations to online or offline events
When using email in your digital outreach strategy, having an accurate list of addresses is vital. This makes your sourcing strategy a high priority when trying to increase HCP engagement. To ensure that you have the most up-to-date HCP contact information, it is a good idea to quality-check existing databases. This will allow you to assess each database and see where the gaps are.
Managing and understanding HCP preferences are also necessary when it comes to email engagement. This requires you and your target HCPs to be on the same page in regard to how information will be stored and managed. Understanding HCP preferences may allow you to send more targeted and relevant emails that are more likely to be opened and acted on.
Remote engagements and meetings may help complement current face-to-face relationships by overcoming geographic barriers, providing more scheduling flexibility, and allowing for more effective conversations. The average duration of engagement in a face-to-face meeting is six minutes compared to 14 minutes in remote meetings. This provides an additional 133% of engagement time to address HCP needs.
Virtual events have become more and more commonplace. Businesses can take advantage of this by hosting digital HCP events such as educational webinars or virtual trade shows. These types of events may help you reach a larger audience and can be more cost-effective than traditional, in-person events. In-person programs cost 3.5 times more per person than virtual events. Now that virtual events have gained popularity and momentum, it is time to make the switch.
A newer technology that businesses have at their disposal is augmented reality (AR). AR is an immersive method of blending digital information seamlessly with a user’s real-time experience. Healthcare businesses can utilize AR in their interactions with HCPs by providing an immersive experience that can be used to educate them on products or services. Moreover, AR can provide medical companies with a competitive edge by differentiating their product offerings.
Tips for Developing a Well-coordinated Digital Strategy
For many companies, a successful digital engagement won’t happen overnight but rather be the result of a slow and steady build. Creating an effective digital HCP engagement strategy requires careful planning and execution. The rate at which each of these healthcare businesses is able to digitize their HCP engagement will likely differ. There are several common internal barriers that need to be overcome for a business to excel successfully in digital HCP engagement. They include:
- Prioritizing digital methods of engagement
- Having a lack of communication between channels and departments
- Insufficient consumer data
- Having trouble creating, integrating, and distributing content
Once these barriers have been addressed, your business is on the path toward building successful bonds with HCPs in the digital arena. Having an active executive sponsorship is the number one factor when it comes to achieving HCP engagement in the digital age. Furthermore, before embarking on a digital HCP engagement strategy, it is imperative to set clear performance goals and have means of measuring whether they are being met. Doing so will help ensure that HCP engagement is a priority for your business and not an afterthought. Other factors that have been found to contribute to successful HCP engagement in the digital age include:
- Implementing a data management plan
- Understanding the customer journey
- Creating content that is HCP-centric
- Ensuring content is delivered through the appropriate channels
It is crucial to note that having a successful digital engagement program requires businesses to stay up to date on the latest technologies. HCPs are constantly overloaded with content, and companies who can find new and innovative ways to break through the noise will come out on top. Digital HCP engagement is not a one size fits all solution, but with careful planning and execution, your business can develop a strategy that is tailored to its specific needs.
Build Your HCP Digital Engagement Strategy with Levo Health
Now that you understand how important it is to have an HCP digital engagement strategy, you may be wondering where to start. The process can be daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. Levo Health is a full-service healthcare marketing agency that specializes in developing digital HCP engagement plans that are tailored to each individual business. If you are ready to take your HCP engagement strategy to the next level, contact us today and see how we can help exceed your goals.