Pharma’s engagement with HCPs evolving, finds new poll


Understanding the needs and behaviour of healthcare professionals is the number one priority for pharma as it interacts with the medical profession in 2024, marking a gradual shift away from a focus on digital engagement.

That’s the conclusion of the latest survey on HCP engagement by EPG Health, part of IQVIA, which monitors the pharma industry’s strategy in this area and updates an earlier poll carried out in 2021, in the midst of the pandemic.

The study found that 57% of pharma respondents cited ‘HCP insight’ (needs and behaviour) as their top priority for the coming year, followed by ‘improving customer experience’ at 47%.

Providing good content for digital consumption also scored highly at 45%, but its rank suggests digital engagement is exercising the minds of pharma companies less than during COVID-19 – not least because two-thirds of HCPs say they have seen an improvement in this area in the last two years.

“There are signs of a back-to-normal mentality creeping in, with pharma’s own channels dominating future investment plans while emphasis on virtual meetings, webinars, and social media is set to reduce in the year ahead,” according to EPG.

That may not be wholly wise, however, as there is a mismatch with HCPs, of whom three-quarters prefer to consume this content via independent medical websites rather than through pharma channels. In addition, the trend for HCP use of social media for content is upwards at the same time as pharma is reducing its emphasis on this area.

Medical affairs more important

The survey says the growing attention to HCP needs and behaviour ties in with other changes taking place in pharma, including the rise in the importance of medical affairs functions.

For the first time, it found that medical science liaison (MSL) activities – listed as critical or very important by 84% of respondents – have overtaken salesforce (77%) as pharma’s most important channel for delivering scientific information to HCPs.

That also reflects a recognition that HCPs want disease-focused content, according to the poll. While supplying brand information is still pharma’s top priority over disease awareness, 27% of pharma respondents expect to increase their budget for the latter in future, versus 17% for the former.

There is still a long way to go though, as less than a quarter (24%) of pharma companies are collating and analysing their own HCP engagement data, and even fewer (20%) are measuring behavioural change or impact in practice for most of their HCP education activities.

“Our findings demonstrate that the industry is making good progress with its digital engagement efforts, and it’s interesting to see greater emphasis on medical rather than marketing-led activity for the first time,” said Jonathan Macdonald, chief operating officer and architect of EPG’s Impact Outcomes Framework.

“However, pharma recognises there is still a long way to go, particularly around the use of data and understanding the true impact of its engagement activity,” he added.

“Without going beyond the basic reach and interaction metrics that many still use to determine impact, you cannot assess whether real value is being delivered for healthcare professionals.”

The Future of HCP Engagement Impact report can be downloaded here.