Text Messaging Redefines the Pharma-Physician Relationship

Text and Pharma
Text Messaging Redefines the Pharma-Physician Relationship

Size matters. Why do you think you never hear of “Little Pharma?” The pharmaceutical industry is a massive, sprawling, vibrant ecosystem all of its own — and as such, it’s an essential industry that can never take a break. Not for a holiday, nor (especially) a worldwide pandemic.

Medications and vaccinations for all types of disorders and diseases must continue to be discovered, developed, produced, and marketed.

But like most of the world, the industry has experienced tectonic paradigm shifts in its business model this year. Beyond all the digital triage — ie the telemedicine and virtual appointments — drug company sales representatives’ relationship with healthcare providers (HCPs) have also been perhaps forever altered.

Face-to-face conversations between doctors and pharmaceutical reps — once the standardized norm — have (at the moment) virtually all but disappeared.

As have lavish dinners and hobnobbing conferences. Even the once simple strategy of dropping off samples at the doctor’s office with the aim of striking up a conversation (and some business)… has faltered.

In our current reality, communications have gone almost entirely digital — triggering pharma reps to quickly regroup, reevaluate and refocus their energies on strategic multichannel campaigns. Unable to visit doctor’s offices, reps are now launching new drugs virtually — encompassing video, email, and SMS text messaging solutions.

Texting Isn't New to Pharma, But Adoption Is Increasing

Sure, a novel coronavirus is complicating life as we once knew it — but there’s nothing entirely new about healthcare representatives (HCRs) integrating text message marketing. We’ve been on this path for years.

Brands like Pfizer have been increasingly texting consumers, airing D2C (direct-to-consumer) TV spots that offer attractive discounts in Text-to-Save programs. Addressing the full spectrum of the customer funnel, companies have also sent out refill reminders, important updates or alerts, and other vital CRM initiatives.

Changes in the field at large (ie evolving pharma guidelines, physicians moving away from private practices in favor of larger healthcare systems that often limit contact with reps, heavier workloads, increases in the amount of mergers and acquisitions, etc) were already pushing the industry in this direction. But COVID-19 has certainly expedited the inevitable gravitational pull to other credible sources and means of connection.

Rx: Increase Doctor Engagement, Boost Results

Known as 'detailing,' the one-on-one promotion of drugs to doctors by drug reps has been a multi-billion dollar enterprise for decades. But field reps, by their very nature, work out in the field — meeting with doctors in their offices, at the conference, or networking at other social events.

But as doctors have cut back on these in-person meetings, pharma reps must look to other methods to connect and engage. And in 2020, they do so while striving to keep socially distant, often working remotely and from home.

According to a survey released last year from Indegene, a leading global pharmaceutical and healthcare solutions provider, a majority of physicians look to medical journals, both online and offline, as a source of the least-biased pharma-sponsored information. Real-world evidence (RWE) was another highly trusted and credible channel.

Other popular sources included brand websites and email marketing — both of which are important elements of a multi-channel campaign, yet present their own unique drawbacks. Amplify your strategies by adding a strong SMS text messaging campaign to: 

  • Engage with time-scrapped doctors by quickly and efficiently providing them with info they already want to have (ie journals, RWE)
  • Send automatized SMS notifications to a segmented list of providers (ie specialists most receptive to certain medications or treatments)
  • Include easy-to-use Link Shorteners to seamlessly route HCPs to respected journals with a single click — circumventing the pratfalls (or abandonment) of websites that can be tricky to navigate
  • Automatize scheduled reminders in advance of remote meetings or slide presentations
  • Enhance open rates (SMS is 5X more effective than email, with 98% open rates vs email’s 18%)
  • Follow up on any important email campaigns with an SMS text alert to expedite awareness (average response time for SMS is 90 seconds while emails from a known source are 90 minutes)
  • Utilize our 1-on-1 Chat feature to seamlessly connect in real-time and a time that works for both schedules
  • Raise awareness and stir excitement for product launches with a variety of promotional SMS campaigns

It’s a perfect prescription for success.

A Healthy Outlook for Technology

As the Wall Street Journal recently noted, “The industry has long considered the launch of a drug crucial to its sales performance.” And yet, it adds that “drugmakers can’t [currently] draw on the very tactics long counted on to give new products a strong start.”

But innovation is the most defining hallmark of the pharmaceutical industry. Eric Dozier, Vice President of North American Oncology at Lilly said, “We have a responsibility to make sure we inform doctors, given that cancer is not going to take a break.” Naturally, the same could be said of any other malaise.

At the time, the company was planning to release its newly FDA-approved cancer drug. It launched in May of this year, marked by a launch fueled by the digital tools, platforms, and virtual meetings that will likely continue to redefine the future of the industry.

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