These days, as pharmaceutical marketing has moved from traditional face-to-face towards digital, physicians are not always aware of the new ways they’re being marketed to, which means more transparency is essential for success.
In fact, a new piece in The New England Journal of Medicine, written by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, discusses key digital marketing tactics targeting physicians, outlines concerns about the influence over physician decisions, and makes recommendations about how to update policies to keep up with the constantly changing pharma marketing space.
“Pharmaceutical companies currently spend 25 percent of their marketing budgets on digital technologies, such as websites and social media,” the authors wrote. “Electronic health records (EHRs), social media and mobile applications represent new ways for pharmaceutical companies to conduct market research and to market directly to physicians.”
According to the piece, anonymized EHRs provide pharma companies with patient information and insight about why physicians choose certain treatments. Therefore, EHRs can be used for direct marketing to physicians through banner ads, sponsored clinical resources and much more. “Unlike traditional forms of advertising, digital technologies enable tailoring of advertisements to individual physicians on the basis of data from clinical encounters,” the authors wrote.
Additionally, social media platforms that are restricted to physicians are way for companies to reach out, using marketing tactics like sponsored discussion forums. Also, mobile applications allow companies to market to physicians, using data that tracks the type of information physicians are looking up and targeting sponsored alerts accordingly.
“Traditional marketing, including visits by sales representatives, gifts to physicians and lectures by opinion leaders, influences treatment decisions even though it mostly occurs outside of patient care settings. Although marketing can lead to reductions in under-treatment of some conditions, it has more often been associated with over-diagnosis, overtreatment and overuse of brand-name medications,” wrote the authors. “Digital advertising creates new pathways for reaching physicians, allowing delivery of marketing messages at the point of care, when clinical decisions are being made.”
So, the authors recommend a three-pronged approach to fix policies to address the insidious nature of digital marketing tools that are integrated into electronic resources for patient care. First, they recommend greater transparency from EHRs, social media sites and mobile applications about what data are collected and how they are used. Secondly, they recommend physicians to use the same caution with online interactions as with in-person interactions with sales representatives. Lastly, the authors suggest that professional societies issue guidelines calling for firewalls to keep marketing out of patent visits.
The authors wrote, “Digital technology is changing the nature of marketing, and policies intended to limit its influence are lagging behind. But the medical profession can enact policies to ensure that patients, not advertising, remain the focus of care.”
We’ll have more on the latest in pharma marketing at ePharma. Join us February 24-26 in New York, NY.
This piece was contributed by @AmandaCicc.
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