The council of experts: a unique engagement to improve patient care

In this article, Dave Rear discusses the need for medical education and the challenges associated. He offers his thoughts on a unique engagement technique for healthcare professionals to improve patient care.

Improving patient care is a constant calling among healthcare professionals. To engage physicians, brand managers understand they must incorporate the common goal of elevating patient care into their promotional medical education programs. Following this principle not only leads to delivering critical information about the brand, but also better informs providers in their goal to optimize patient outcomes.

Because of increased “regulatory conservatism”, developing promotional medical education can be challenging. Promotional content that is not presented in the context of cutting edge disease state and outcomes management may be seen as self-serving. In addition, brand data shared without application to clinical treatment does little to fulfill clinician needs. Even when there is compelling content, industry regulations such as the Physician Sunshine Act have significantly decreased the pool of speakers who can present to their peers. While some saw the rise of new channels and tools as an opportunity to increase engagement, they did little to enhance content. These issues, compounded by demands on physician time, have affected the development and execution of promotional programs.

“Because of increased ‘regulatory conservatism’, developing promotional medical education can be challenging.


In this increasingly constrained environment, how can brand managers today deliver critical information that is seen as credible?

More complex drugs necessitate a greater need for promotional education

After several years of drought, the industry drug pipeline is brimming with new potential therapies. In 2012, the FDA approved 39 new medicines to the market. For 2013, expectations are much higher with 54 new drug applications already filed.

In this environment of more — often complex — drug choices, dissemination of brand data is essential to help providers understand the underlying science and clinical outcomes of new drugs. With a greater number of new therapies available, it would seem that promotional education would remain a critical core strategy to any communications plan because it would efficiently arm clinicians with new knowledge to optimize their clinical care approaches.

However, in spite of the rich pipeline, brand managers are struggling with how to promote their products to physicians. The rise in regulatory conservatism, concerns about firewalls, and the need for transparency have impacted the brand manager’s ability and approach to providing product information. Limited resources also have made it more difficult for brand managers to effectively disseminate information about their products. To best fulfill clinicians’ and brand managers’ needs requires approaching promotional education differently.

A council of experts combines many perspectives

There are many approaches to building effective content for promotional programs. One of the most common is to select one or two therapeutic experts to review information that may be outlined or developed at the agency as directed by the marketing team. At face value, this presents several advantages. Cost is minimal, efficiency is high, and time to execution is shortened. However, this traditional approach has its limitations. One or two reviewers cannot provide the diversity of input and perspective that a larger group may offer. The content can lack depth and breadth required to be clinically valuable. Speakers may be less likely to fully stand behind the material, and the information brand managers want to share about their product may not be fully validated. The result is a program perceived by participants as not being relevant to their practice.


“Medical education programs developed by a council of experts are likely to be comprehensive, balanced, and informative…”

A different approach is to establish a council of experts — a collection of healthcare providers who are leaders in their field — dedicated to helping the brand manager develop content. This group of experts provides multiple perspectives. They collaborate and synthesize their knowledge of the disease state, the treatment guidelines, and the brand. They identify patient case studies that would spark discussions. They also ensure the brand’s promotional messages are appropriately applied. Medical education programs developed by a council of experts are likely to be comprehensive, balanced, and informative, which help physicians who participate decide on a preferred course of clinical action.

Establishing such a council also demonstrates the company’s commitment to enhancing patient care and to developing high quality education programs. In addition, it gives the brand team the opportunity to build a lasting relationship with individuals who are shaping the clinical care of patients.

Identifying the appropriate individuals to serve on a council can be enhanced by working with a promotional medical education company. They have knowledge of the disease state and familiarity with leading therapeutic experts in the field and can help set the context and objectives for the program. The medical education company can also facilitate the development process and provide input and direction on strategy and content. Lastly, they can ensure the principles of adult education are followed.

Once the council has been established, it can be branded to provide a sense of continuity and credibility to the programs that are part of it. The council members can also weigh in with their perspectives on the best ways to execute how the content should be delivered.

Choosing the appropriate channel

The council of experts may be helpful in identifying the preferred channel for their peers early in the process. Just as research advances have accelerated the pace of disease state knowledge and new drug introductions, today’s technology enables a range of different approaches to delivering promotional medical education. It can be executed as regional live meetings, teleconferences, or web-based programs.

“…today’s technology enables a range of different approaches to delivering promotional medical education.”

At this point, the sky is the limit in terms of communication channels. To give the council a foundation, a website can be established as a means of accumulating and organizing all of the resources and activities related to the initiative.

Live meetings remain the most valuable means of learning and in the context of a council, it would be worthwhile to consider a series of colloquia, a type of symposium that incorporates the active engagement of participants with the program faculty rather than merely sitting back and listening to didactic presentations. Holding colloquia regionally minimizes physician travel, keeps the audience size small, and allows for greater participation. Another channel of choice is delivering content via a newsletter, which can maintain ongoing awareness of key issues in the therapeutic area and provide additional exposure to the council and its members.

Regardless of the channel choice, the promotional education program’s success still will depend on the strength of the content. Clinicians are not easily lured by the latest technology. They attend not because of the bells and whistles but because the programs were created in collaboration with a council of their peers.

The outcome is a win-win

Great content is the result of great collaboration. Establishing a council of experts to help build a medical education platform offers brand managers various benefits, including the ability to build relationships with a greater number of therapeutic experts, produce sound content that meets providers’ needs, and deliver information about their brand. Promotional education programs developed by a council of peers ensure that content retains its ethical purpose: to facilitate the highest quality of patient care. It may also help improve many of the perceptions surrounding industry-sponsored medical education in today’s atmosphere of scrutiny and skepticism.


About the author:

David Rear, RPh, is President of Advanced Clinical Concepts, a medical communications company that delivers scientific content to facilitate better clinical decisions and advance patient care. For more information, visit

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