• Express Pharma Online
  • Express Healthcare
  • Express Computer Online
  • Express Hospitality
  • Express Travel World

eDetailing: The future for pharma communication?

Dinesh Chindarkar, Co-founder, MediaMedic Communications elucidates about eDetailing – where technology and graphics, married with rich content, come to the rescue of mundane communication

Dinesh Chindarkar

Detailing has always been the backbone of doctors’ communication with the pharma industry for over the last three to four decades. This print tool, though has undergone quality improvements in terms of its content, visual appeal, some added gimmicks etc; all these have been value-adds within the box. Nothing has challenged it so far.

With healthcare providers (HCPs) getting increasingly busy, the print communication gets poor attention with hardly five to 10 per cent of the total message delivered at times. Many a times, the doctor says that he has seen the detailer over and over again and asks the sales representative to just name the brand and/or leave samples and move on. All the cumulative hard work of the brand manager, marketing manager and the sales representative goes for a toss when the doctor does that. This also affects the sales person’s psyche and morale because of which his work gets adversely affected. A major complaint of the field people, including managers, is that they cannot talk beyond the brand name and one or two points; just because they had a bad experience with the doctor not being receptive or not allowing them to speak more.

Within the current scenario, isn’t the doctor justified to refuse him? Isn’t the medical representative justified in insisting on finishing his detailing after waiting for so long? Is the communication tool incomplete or lacking something interesting to convey its message?

Welcome to the era of eDetailing – where technology and graphics, married with rich content, come to the rescue of the mundane communication!

With the advent of technology, video content, graphics, motion and interactivity, and newer digital tools are challenging this visual aid and redefining communication. This version of detailing adds an ‘e’ of electronic to it, making it completely different from the current mode of communication. A different form of eDetailing is one where communication is sent to doctors on the PC without a personal interaction. But we are talking of eDetailing in the context where the electronic detailing aid is used by the sales rep in person-to-person call.

The objective of having a rich, content – driven conversation with the doctor, so as to discuss about newer medical advances, sharing updated information and help him make the right decision for prescription can be achieved using eDetailing. All this can be done weaving the brand within the conversation rather than the brand dominating the communication.

With a range of devices available from the high end i-Pads to lower end tablets, one can choose the right one based on the needs and budgets. However, the biggest two challenges in eDetailing are:

  1. Approach and understanding of technology
  2. Changing mindsets and training people

eDetailing is not just digitising communication. A lot of pharma companies today have moved to converting their existing content of the visual aid into a presentation format and this they feel is using digital technology. No it is not! Digital medium is a medium by itself and each media has its own nuances, advantages and disadvantages, their own strengths and weaknesses. One has to build up on the strength and minimise weaknesses, just like with people. If the MR makes a powerpoint presentation to a doctor using the visual aid, how is it different from using a print media? This is just like repackaging the radio and listening to it on a TV. Will that really be utilising the key advantages that a television offers?

The approach to the content has to be radically different. What does digital media really offer? It gives an incredible video streaming experience, rich graphics, interactive animations, the technology of touch, audio effects, navigational framework etc. All of these have now to be utilised keeping in mind the key messaging that we need to convey to our TG.

Instructional design forms the basis of any eDetailing project and forms the core of building communication. There are various approaches to eDetailing based on the category in which one is operating, the nature of the brand, the amount of science available in it and the level of HCPs‘ understanding around it. Considering today’s limitations of time, a MR should be able to set up the story easily before he meets the doctor and deliver the key message within the anticipated time. If the MR is able to deal with this efficiently, the whole communication can be effective. If he can break the same story in different parts and present to the doctor during different visits he can create one strong message going to the doctor. Another critical advantage of eDetailing is in equipping the MR to answer variety of queries through handy information capsules.

In eDetailing there is also a possibility of creating an analytics back-end, wherein key things can be recorded, like which doctor has seen the story, spent how much time on which part, where the interaction was maximum etc. This data can be collated real time and based on that feedback can be given. Taking eDetailing to a new level, the MR can connect the doctor to the medical team in his office through his device and get any queries sorted out. Also, he can encourage and involve the doctor in the interactive presentation through guided questions and lead him into conversation. Another advantage of eDetailing is compiling all data in an interactive form, where the MR can open up a product manual to showcase references or showcase a latest CME video to get across an important point. Patient-centric case-studies, interactive CMEs, lead-in medical cases etc can make a doctor completely involved in the communication process. Any interesting data can be shared with the doctor there and then or could be requested for with a follow-up.

Though all this sounds like a dream after four decades of mundane detailing, there are certain hurdles that one needs to overcome. The hurdles with using the right technology which works all the time is critical. The connectivity, band-width, actual model of detailing, the software used and the interface of promotion are all critical in making the technology stronger. Even if the technology is good it is critical to train your people, especially unlearning old things, which is difficult. People are resistant to change. With a long history of regular detailing, it is really difficult to change the typical ‘senior management mindset’. To bring them out of their comfort zone is a challenge for the industry. Companies need to do a thorough training – both on the mental front to encourage them for usage and on the usability front to make them tech-savvy. It is critical to take rational decisions knowing the internal limitations, rather than copying someone. If there is a clear understanding of technology with a simple vision, one can have a convinced internal buy-in. It should be understood by all stakeholders that the idea is more important and bigger than the technology!

Industry Insights

Indian pharma industry is one of the fastest growing markets, registering a consistent double digit growth. This is fuelled by a burgeoning middle class population, robust economy and increase in lifestyle diseases.

In recent times, diminishing returns due to lack of differentiation, stringent regulatory environment and limited market access have pulled down this growth. Another major challenge is capability building. Traditional model of ‘product detailing’ is met by a huge resistance from doctors. This significantly impacts the confidence of the modest sales representative. New avenues in the form of media, distribution, promotion to enhance customer engagement therefore represent the next big opportunity. The conventional visual aid has ceased to aid both the doctor in conveying the ‘right’ marketing message as well as the medical representative as it is perceived as a ritual for any sales call. The time for a versatile gadget to replace this ritual is now.

We have a long way to travel from ‘detailing to discussion’ and add value to the call measuring in one to two minutes. In a fragmented market dominated by hundreds and thousands of branded generics, the task of increasing the in-clinic share of voice for the brand is the core objective for any marketer.

Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) represents a method to address these needs. Our medical representative is successful in initiating a CLM by making a sales call. However, the time to deliver the marketing message has reduced significantly as most of the e-savvy HCPs are already updated with the latest development in the medical field before our friend proudly walks in his chamber to present the ‘latest’ study in a particular disease or a particular molecule. This is due to the explosion in the social media space. This results in a rapidly diminishing return on a sales call.

A recent PwC research shows that 20 per cent of clinicians refuse a sales call. Any day on the field, from our own experience, the difference between planned and actual calls will corroborate this. In this changing environment, there is a need to shift from product centric approach to customer centric approach thereby aligning marketing campaigns based on needs and interests of customers. Understanding customer needs calls for an in-depth customer profiling and segmenting them to tailor a targeted sales and marketing strategy. The message may be conveyed with the sales representative who can be equipped with interactive tools, as well as other channels like social media and community portals. Finally a loop back into marketing with real time feedback serves as a tool and resource for content development. This helps the marketer to measure the effectiveness of the campaign. He should look at adding value beyond the pill.

To develop this framework which helps the marketer update the content with minimum lag, digital is the only route. Leaders in this space will have to build social authority to drive change. We need to keep in mind that doctors and patients have adapted to social media faster than pharma companies and with the increasing penetration of smart phones and improving spectrum bandwidth, this is heading for an exponential rise.

There is an increasing pressure on pharma companies on containing the SG&A to deliver the same results. This will lead to an increasing spend in digital as a media. According to Ernst & Young, in Pharma 3.0, balancing the free-form messaging of social media, with the control, consistency and mass reach of traditional (Sales Rep) media, can offer the best of both worlds. The need to reduce cost + need to improve access + need to enhance quality of interaction + the need to reach new customer groups = need for change in pharma.

- Manish Bhagat, Chief Manager - Strategic Marketing, Abbott Healthcare


#1 Patrick Green 2013-08-07 01:26
Dinesh and Manish,

I couldn't agree with you both more. This is the age of the empowered physician, and digital is the only answer to the multichannel question. Medically recently wrote white paper about this very topic. It is worth the read if you have a few minutes. http://info.medikly.com/physician-value-index-whitepaper

Add comment



Security code