Interaction with learners

Realizing the potential of omnichannel in medical communications

The digital revolution is, without a doubt, the most important event in the dissemination of information since Gutenberg’s printing press.

In 2020, nearly 70% of all healthcare professionals (HCPs) were digital natives. Their personal experiences in daily life involve many digital interactions, which have naturally shifted into their professional lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced healthcare professionals and medical affairs teams to shift their information-seeking and education behaviors to primarily digital channels. Surveys show a five-fold increase in email, a six-fold increase in digital meetings, and social media usage at 70%; today, 87% of healthcare professionals want a choice between digital/hybrid education.

The digital revolution has had a profound impact on modern society and shows no signs of slowing down. Is it time for medical affairs teams to take a step back and better understand the needs of their audience and how to communicate with them?

Medical Affairs requires a new approach that creates a personalized experience for HCP audiences, allowing us to deliver the right content, at the right time and in the right place. This approach requires an omnichannel strategy.

What is an omnichannel strategy?
Omnichannel strategies will enable Medical Affairs teams to create personalized experiences that put our audience at the center of our communications planning, meaning they can find the information they need and ensure we meet their educational needs with a suitable format (e.g. text, video, infographic, podcast) according to their preferences. It is important to note that omnichannel is not a digital strategy, but a strategy that adapts to all the channels used by the public.

Specifically, omnichannel means that Medical Affairs teams can align the scientific narrative to a specific point in their relationship with the public. They can educate healthcare professionals from knowledge of particular therapies to the ability to trust and consider them at the time of clinical need.

Traditional Medical Affairs activities have typically focused on providing high quality medical information as a top priority. Omnichannel also enables Medical Affairs to create a more convenient self-service experience to facilitate medical education, ensuring that the content healthcare professionals need is available on their own terms.

What value does this bring to Medical Affairs?
Omnichannel offers opportunities when implemented well:
* Content delivery that respects audience time, channel and format preferences, maximizing the value derived from each piece of content
* The creation of an educational journey, avoiding the communication dead ends created by single content initiatives, by providing connected content that allows the learner to continue when it suits them
* Building trust: aligning content with audience needs leads to more potential touchpoints; creating consistency across touchpoints builds recognition. The more healthcare professionals recognize our scientific narrative, the more they begin to trust our content.

Omnichannel also means that the average 12-minute physical MSL meeting can now be relationship-focused and critical conversations. All other content is available before or after.
Many companies recognize the need for omnichannel engagement, but there’s a lot of work to be done to realize its potential. A 2021 survey of medical affairs professionals found that 67% of their organizations had ambitious plans, but only 27% were satisfied with their progress.

Data-driven insights?
Omnichannel starts with information and an understanding of our audience: their clinical challenges, educational needs, channel and format preferences. More data provides greater precision on how, when and where we deliver medical content, but medical affairs teams often overlook the digital data sources and platforms already embedded in their organizations, such as HCP online platforms and customer relationship management (CRM) tools such as Veeva. , as they are considered commercial tools.

A robust omnichannel strategy will ensure that data is captured and used effectively, to increase the impact of communication programs.

A simplified framework for an omnichannel strategy
A comprehensive omnichannel strategy requires a framework based on this checklist (see image).

And then ?
Omnichannel offers the opportunity to provide a better experience for healthcare professionals, improving audience engagement and improving the impact of education by providing content that is accessible, practical and relevant. However, to fully deliver on this promise, we need to reconsider how we interact with our audiences and, most importantly, how we plan, create and deliver our medical content in a more agile way.

david barnes is Director of Digital and Engagement at Adelphi in Healthcare Communications and Dom Sloane is director at Ology Medical Education