COVID-19 Vaccination: Role of digital in engaging physicians

The highly regulated pharma industry makes it challenging for marketers to streamline programmatic initiatives within the space with COVID-19 vaccine content.

By Dr Harshit Jain,

The Covid-19 vaccination efforts have gained considerable speed world over to tackle the spread of infection and contain the virus outbreak. The developments are encouraging – pharmaceutical companies in a short span of time have done an impeccable job in coming up with Covid-19 vaccines. Challenge, however, remains for pharma marketers because of the limited access they have to physicians in the current scenario. Physicians are a key component in the governments’ drive to spread awareness towards vaccination and influence consumers to receive vaccination.

After the deadly second wave, the awareness for vaccination has surely grown. Yet, there are still sections which are grappling with mistrust towards Covid-19 vaccines. As per a study by Pew Research Center, physicians must be engaged to ease any mistrust that people have and spread awareness, especially in the scenario when there is a lot of buzz around Covid vaccines being given to children too.

Right strategy and filling the gap with digital

Physical visits to physicians have almost come to a halt at the moment, and that is when digital can play a crucial role in elevating the level of awareness and spreading of information to them. Post the virus outbreak, the adoption of digital technologies has grown immensely among the pharma industry. What is important for pharma marketers to recognize is that the strategy to gain attention of physicians does not work out when they are not seeing patients online or are not practicing medicine or indulging in medical research.

But when will physicians be most open to receiving Covid-19 vaccination messages? It is only when they are advancing their knowledge about medical treatments, products, and diseases. These are the times when physicians are highly receptive to the messaging from pharma brands. As per an Accenture study, 69% of physicians now see pharma brands’ “digital patient education” more helpful than they did prior to the virus outbreak. Physician-only platforms enable pharma brands to engage with physicians efficiently and garner desired outcomes. Putting it simply, engagement, at the highest level, happens on digital when physicians are on professional websites.

It is for this reason, pharma brands intending to engage physicians effectively should target physician-only platforms, medical journals and professional networking sites meant for healthcare professionals. The messaging’s effectiveness depends highly upon important and meaningful facts and vaccination material and delivering the same in a non-coercive manner to gain physicians’ attention.

COVID awareness journey: Being contextual to take brands far

The highly regulated pharma industry makes it challenging for marketers to streamline programmatic initiatives within the space with COVID-19 vaccine content. To boost engagement with physicians in the digital space, the messaging needs to be contextual – so to optimize campaigns with real-time metrics. What boosts a COVID campaign’s capacity to gain attention is nothing but relevant platform-centric messaging and consistent communication across the channels. Apart from that, monitoring and analysing metrics in real time help with insights that can be used to adjust campaigns and help identify opportune moments to target physicians. It also helps draft messaging that elevates engagement. This kind of strategy provides pharma marketers critical information about messaging that resonates most with physicians.

Telehealth platforms to play a crucial role

Covid has pushed physicians to tend to patients online, leading to a spurt in consultations on telehealth platforms. Pharma marketers can cash in on the trend to effectively roll out marketing campaigns to increase awareness about latest research as also potential side effects of the vaccines. Telehealth platforms are a key space in pharma marketing that presents the key moments to inform a physician – when they are with a patient. At this moment physicians are attentive to patients while interacting with them during the consultation workflow.

A strong digital foothold would enable pharma brands to drive awareness about vaccines. In this aspect, the pharma industry had been a laggard prior to the pandemic. To educate physicians as Covid vaccination drive is on, digital can surely go a long way.

(The author is Founder and Global CEO, Doceree. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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