Health care providers (HCPs) like doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and more have always needed information from pharmaceutical companies in their daily work, but if your organization isn’t prioritizing the digital experiences you offer, you are likely struggling with HCP engagement.
Your reputation, engagement metrics, and campaign efforts may be falling short—especially if you aren’t proactively working to understand exactly what HCPs need and making your content easy to find. Implementing digital engagement strategies can help improve HCP engagement, as well as position your organization as a leader in the field.
We’ve worked with prominent pharmaceutical organizations in the U.S. to build successful HCP engagement strategies and transform the way they operate to do so. Together, we’ve learned a lot about core UX practices that have a direct impact on business goals. After fifteen years of designing and building highly-engaging platforms and digital strategy for pharma companies, we’ve been able to pinpoint which efforts increase engagement and the common standards that leading organizations are holding themselves to.
Below are the UX best practices we’d recommend for biopharmaceutical leaders and marketing teams at pharma companies who are looking to better engage with the HCPs who rely on the information they produce.
Best practices for building HCP engagement strategies
Building a strong HCP engagement strategy is critical to the success of your organization. Here’s how to get started.
1) Research how HCPs are looking for information today
As an evidence-based design company, we place a high value on gathering data about how the people who use your tools and content are actually using them—and understanding how your business can provide a better experience.
To increase HCP engagement, it is essential to do up-front design research early in a new initiative (or before a redesign) as well as throughout your project. This regular research cadence allows you to continually iterate and improve on the experience HCPs have with your content.
After you gather preliminary research data on how the HCPs that use (or don’t use!) your digital tools are looking for information, it’s important to socialize the research findings with product marketing teams, agencies, and other promotional marketing decision makers in your organization. Tell the story about how healthcare professionals want to consume content.
Your team may be wrongly assuming that HCPs are engaging with information in a specific way. For example, on a recent project with one of our pharmaceutical partners, the team used research findings to build out campaigns with similar messaging across different platforms (email, Doximity alerts, up-to-date, etc.) so that if the HCP wasn’t engaging with email content, they’d receive the same message from other platforms—even a Google search. The goal was to create an omnichannel experience for healthcare professionals who we discovered are accessing information in a wide variety of ways.
2) Implement a compliant SEO strategy
We’ve seen quite often in our work that HCPs are relying heavily on Google to find information today. Find out whether the HCPs that you serve are frequently Googling what they need to know and clicking on the first few results. If so, you should be exposing as much of your content to search engines as you can while complying with industry regulations.
A few key things to consider to increase visibility:
- It’s important to code your digital properties in a way that ensures search engines can interpret the content appropriately.
- Search engines assign higher credibility to sites that are usable, fast, and mobile-friendly. If these are not current requirements for your digital properties, they should be.
Ultimately, you should ensure your SEO is on par and serving your content to HCPs when and where they need it—setting you apart in the industry and improving HCP engagement.
3) Audit your content against the jobs-to-be-done for HCPs
One common misconception we’ve noticed among the pharma leaders is the belief that HCPs are resistant to information from the makers of the products they prescribe. In fact, we’ve discovered that this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.
Healthcare providers often tell us that pharmaceutical organizations can provide them with the most reliable information about their own products. The difficult part is finding the right information at the point of need—often when HCPs are working directly with patients and looking for product information the same way they’d search for any other type of digital content.
Take the initiative to discover and think carefully about the jobs-to-be-done for HCPs who need the specific information your company can provide, and audit your content against that information. Does your content answer the right questions, and is it accessible through the methods HCPs use to research information today?
During this auditing process, don’t just inventory and address what you have today, ask yourself what are HCPs asking for that you don’t have—or what your competitors have that you may be able to develop. Use this exercise to address content and service gaps and create a plan to fill them.
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4) Determine how easy it is for HCPs to find and use your information
Now that you have data on how healthcare professionals are looking for and accessing your content, and you know more about their jobs-to-be-done, take a look at how your organization is connecting the dots and improving digital engagement by making information quick and easy to find.
When performing this audit, consider UX essentials like:
Think about the navigational experience of HCPs who come to your site or portal looking for information that’s important to them. How are you providing ways to help them find what they need? Do you rely only on a navigation menu to surface content, or are there other prominent areas where you can showcase popular or in-demand content?
In your research, make sure you find out what language healthcare professionals are using to find and search for information. Identify whether you’re using the same language and where there may be discrepancies.
Avoid terminology that’s too specific to your organization and isn’t meaningful to healthcare providers. Instead utilize terminology they’re familiar with and use regularly. Doing this can increase your digital engagement and position your company as relevant and well versed in the healthcare industry.
Understand how healthcare professionals prefer to use or engage with different types of content. Do they want video, text, downloadable documents to print out, or something else? (This should become clear in the research you conduct.) Then, determine how well your digital experience meets those needs.
For example, if you have important content that HCPs need to be able to access quickly from a mobile phone, it shouldn’t be buried deeply in a PDF that’s hard to download and digest. Instead, that content could be presented on a webpage with an option to download a PDF version if preferred.
Digital accessibility is usability. Ensure that your content can be used by your entire audience. Make sure your PDFs are accessible and that healthcare providers using a screen reader can find and read them. If you have video content, like a video showing the Mechanism of Action for a product, make sure closed captioning or a transcript is available.
Your digital engagement goals will suffer if your audience cannot access your content successfully. To increase HCP engagement, make sure that your content is accessible by everyone in your target audience. Inclusive design can help you expand your reach and show your target audience you care about diversity—a non-negotiable in healthcare.
5) Develop a non-clinical, non-marketing design aesthetic
In the research stage of many pharma projects, we’ve learned that healthcare providers have become universally sensitive to marketing materials. If there is one piece of feedback we hear constantly from HCPs, it’s something like this:
When I go to a site and see a photo of a patient dancing across a field of flowers, I know I’m being sold to.
HCPs are regularly inundated with marketing content and solicitation, which also makes them cautious about how much and to whom they give their information to, making it more challenging than ever to increase HCP engagement through digital channels.
In the course of your UX work, your team should be thinking about your approach to your overall brand aesthetic while addressing privacy concerns in forms, account creation, and other requests for data and information.
Having a good design system in place can help. When you define a global system with coordinated design and component standards (as well as a pattern library), it provides guardrails for product teams and brands. This helps eliminate issues like visual noise and excessive marketing imagery, and puts focus on what matters from a brand perspective: your logo, brand colors, and the exact information that the HCPs in your audience are looking for.
6) Think critically about how you measure the success of your HCP engagement strategy
As you implement a regular research cadence, pair the findings with measurement goals to determine the success of your efforts. You can use analytics, event tracking, heat mapping, and usability testing to continually measure HCP engagement, implement research-based solutions, and improve over time.
Tie meaningful goals to HCP engagement
Make sure you’re establishing goals that are tied to the information or content type you’re measuring and the job-to-be-done. This will help you measure for true engagement and not just empty KPIs.
For example, if a healthcare provider is looking for dosing information, and they navigate to the manufacturer site, find what they need, and quickly leave, this interaction can be considered a “win.” Don’t make the mistake of assuming that metrics like longer time on site mean “better” engagement if your goal is to give healthcare providers quick and efficient access to the content they need.
You can identify various tactics and solutions to measure all levels of engagement. If healthcare professionals access your content with buttons or download links, focus on measuring those events. For long-form content, measure scroll depth on that page. In general, avoid measurement for measurement’s sake—and don’t focus on surface-level KPIs that don’t tell the full story.
Engage with HCPs when and where they need pharmaceutical information
Like many people, healthcare providers have access to more digital tools, information, and resources than ever before—and they’re in need of timely, easy-to-find digital information that can help them work better with their patients.
Pharma companies like you have an opportunity to improve your reputation among HCPs, increase trust, and provide the most relevant content to your audience—positioning you as a leader in your field. You can get there by listening to the voice of the people you serve and making your digital experience a business priority. The right HCP engagement strategies can transform the way you do business.
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