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Our Bureau, New Delhi November 30 , 2021
The future of pharmaceutical companies’ communication with doctors would be a hybrid model of digital communication supported by physical connect, as almost 40 per cent of the doctors prefer the model, according to a recent survey on the trends in pharma communication post Covid-19 pandemic by Rediffusion Healthcare.

With patients being more concerned about their health and taking efforts in managing it themselves by buying devices, downloading health apps, buying maximum on online, markets need to rethink their communication and the mode of reaching patients will be more through digital than conventional means, says the company, which focuses on branding activities for healthcare firms.

“Going forward, the ability of companies to digitise fast, optimise the use of data analytics and improve customer experience will be the biggest differentiator in the industry,” said the survey report.

With the field force grounded, it became difficult for pharma brands to reach out to doctors during the Covid-19 period and events, conferences and congresses were either cancelled or moved online, with brand reminder activities nearly coming to a halt. Brands gained a lot due to their earlier brand equity.

Doctors prescribed brands mainly because of quality, trust and efficacy and they did not need to meet the medical representatives to remember the brand name. Almost 47 per cent of the doctors said that they prescribe more branded products as they are trustworthy and high on recall, 27 per cent said they prescribed mix branded generic and top brands in the category. Sixteen percent of doctors said that they prefer to prescribe more cost effective generic products, while 10 per cent said they prescribe branded generic products as they are more cost effective.

Most favoured communication mediums that worked for pharma majors to reach doctors were WhatsApp and telephonic calls, corporate communication platforms, and online video communication platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Communication through networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Practo and Docplexus and through blogs and microblogs also came handy for such communications.

Pharma companies adapted to the changing situation and reached doctors post pandemic with the in-clinic detailed conversation moving from the doctor’s chamber to hallway conversations where doctors allow medical representatives to detail products, medical representatives detailing from outside the consulting room, tabs changed to big size VA which are visible from a distant and drastic decrease in usage of LBLs and samples which use to act as quick brand reminders.

“Nearly 40% doctors prefer a hybrid model with a mix of once a month in-clinic visit and reminders through digital media like phone, videos, social media etc.,” it added. Pharma companies are now bucking up to the trend and making themselves digital savvy. The future could be a mix of print and digital communication, with 30 per cent physical and 70 per cent digital communication. In clinic discussions will be more at the speciality level, where digital medium will play a big role to communicate key messages.

Around 83 per cent of the doctors now feel personal branding - adapting newer ways to reach patients - is very important. 63 per cent of them look up for help from pharma companies to create disease awareness videos, 60 per cent for creating patient related activity and camps, 30 per cent to get patient appointments on online platforms and another 30 per cent for managing online and digital presence.

More than 60 per cent opted for teleconsultation/online consultation during pandemic times but now prefer in-clinic consultation and doctors also confirmed the change in buying behaviour of the patients as 30 per cent of the patients opted to buy medicines through online portal.

“Digital engagement is here to stay and the trend is catching up, marketers will have to be more innovative and use creative ways to engage doctors and help them connect to patients,” concluded the survey.

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