Mobile Medical Apps: A Great Way of Reaching HCPs?

Damon Lightley featued in Clinical Business ExcellenceDamon Lightley, Marketing Director at Genetic Digital was approached by one of the editors from Clinical Business Excellence to write an article about medical apps.

The article has now been published and appears on page 8 of the August 2012 issue of Clinical Business Excellence. It is titled: “Mobile Medical Applications: A Great Way of Reaching HCPs?” A PDF version is also available.

Mobile Medical Apps: A Great Way of Reaching HCPs?

The Benefits of E-Details

The benefits of e-detailsThere is no doubt that face-to-face promotion and presentation has been the major sales method of most medical device and pharmaceutical reps for decades. But the chance to sit down for a leisurely chat with the average over worked GP is fast diminishing.   It is an expensive and time-consuming way of getting things done and of getting the message across.  Pharma and healthcare companies are clamouring for more and more people ‘in the field’ as it has been proven that the face-to-face sales approach is inevitably the best.   But with doctors often feeling  “ambushed” by sales reps, is there a better way of making personal contact with physicians and getting information over in a way that does not have them looking at their watches every few minutes?

The Internet offers an option in its global dissemination of information, but if a rep is not sitting eyeball to eyeball with the medical professional, can they be sure they have understood or appreciated the benefit of the information being given, or will they simply move on if they have a question that does not appear in the FAQ list?

Enter the era of presenting information using tablets like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy.  A survey carried out in 2011 found that 70 per cent of the doctors polled, either already used or planned to use an iPad in their working life in some capacity.  So, if a medical rep turns up to do his presentation with an iPad along with a truly interactive e-detail aid the possibility of engaging the medical professional will be increased.

Initially it might be a good idea to hold a brainstorm meeting and ask sales reps to list what they see as the benefits of using tablets. Get feedback from friendly KOLs too and then plan the content, along with a list of all the functional requirements that will be needed.

As you plan your presentation, design your e-detail aid to work and render properly on the various platforms, i.e. iPad, Android etc. This will mean using an intuitive interface. Focus on making any tablet based presentation work fast and elegantly. Don’t try to cut corners with this, you need to make a good first impression, to engage interest from the word go and if there has been any compromise on your design or material it will be obvious.

It is definitely not a good idea to introduce strata of intricacy by cluttering up the presentation with features that are not going to be important to the users. Trying to cram too much in is likely to be the biggest mistake, under the misapprehension that: “The more features your presentation has, the better it will look.”  This doesn’t work. The simplest detail you can manage will invariably be the most successful in terms of your viewer remembering the message and prescribing his or her intent.

The benefit of developing an e-detail specifically for a tablet is that this device has been built specifically for you to interact and engage with any content. For example, one idea that makes a good visual impact is showing how a medical device might work. You can present product catalogues, or perhaps provide a dosage calculator to enable interaction with the medical professional. You could think of including videos or perhaps 3D images.  Try to devise engaging ways to present clinical data and always try to include mode of action demos, and even, for the more fun-loving professional – educational games!

There is no doubt that arriving with a sleek iPad will make your presence feel less intrusive than struggling in with abulging briefcase full of large product catalogues and other sales aids.  As technology races on at pace, it makes sense for pharma and medical device companies to take advantage of the benefits tablets and e-details offer.

Leveraging KOLs Online

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)Key Opinion Leaders can be crucial for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. Respected in their field, these “thought leaders” are usually highly experienced and qualified physicians who influence their peer’s medical practice through articles they write or presentations that they give. It’s common that pharmaceutical companies engage KOLs during the drug development process, as they can provide advocacy and valuable marketing feedback.

Physicians often have to choose between a wide range of drug options for their patients, and often turn to key opinion leaders for knowledge, advice and guidance on pharmaceuticals, healthcare products and treatments. The credibility that KOLs possess is valuable and hugely desirable for pharmaceutical companies who wish to develop and distribute new medications. KOLs establish this credibility through years of experience and qualifications.

KOLs are incredibly important for medical and pharmaceutical companies, forming a critical part of any marketing plan. KOLs have a lot to add to a pharmaceutical marketing campaign, whether it’s bringing scientific studies into focus or creating an academic buzz for a particular product. Often this discourse can begin years before a drug or other product is brought to the market. KOLs can help establish the need for a drug, skew clinical trials in the products favour, downplay the side effect, neutralise critics.

KOLs Online

Leveraging the influence of a key opinion leader is a complicated process which requires an understanding of the KOL’s contribution to their industry or specialism, the ability to identify and understand their existing collaborations and relationships, as well as their degree of involvement with various institutions and organisations.

Often KOL management is based on the lifecycle of a product; KOLs involved in clinical trials might be emphasised in the early stages of a product’s life, followed by KOLs with publications at a later stage. Whatever credentials the KOL has, there are various ways of promoting them online, whether they are academic publishers or involved in clinical trials.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a subset of Google which allows users to search specifically for scholarly material online. GS locates journal articles, theses, dissertations, books, reports, papers and research materials from a wide range of sources including academic publications, professional societies, institutional repositories and databases. It’s a great place for physicians and medical professionals to find information about specific products and treatments.

Publishers of scholarly works can apply to have their site included in Google Scholar search, as long as some criteria are met, including providing an abstract of each work to non-subscribers. Libraries and publishes of textbooks can also have their content indexed on Google Scholar and Google Book Search.

Google Authorship

Google author tags were rolled out in mid-2011, and they enable websites to identify authors of content on their site and across the web. Webmasters just need to add simple tags to content which associates it with Google+ profiles. Google+ profile pictures are displayed alongside authored search results, along with a link to see more content written by this author. It gives visibility to authors in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and presents a great opportunity to utilise KOL relevancy and authority to promote search results on Google.

It’s through Google+, Google Authors, +1s and Google local pages that the search engine is increasingly becoming a social network. Ensuring good placing and visibility on Google is now not simply SEO – it’s about building a community of engaged audiences just like other social media activity. It’s thought that some sort of “author rank” will be introduced to identify the relevance and authority of various authors.


Twitter is not the most relevant social network for healthcare and pharmaceuticals, but it is the most timely. On Twitter important real-time communications develop around news events and current affairs. This could include breaking news around clinical tests and new products in development.

Media-savvy individuals use Twitter because they know it is the best way to reach certain individuals who might be less likely to respond to an email.


LinkedIn gives marketers the ability to connect with specific groups of people by employer, job title, location, gender and age. The difference in LinkedIn is that most of its users use the site in a professional capacity, and it’s not just used for HR and recruitment; discussion groups debate industry news and developments…

Posting in relevant discussion groups can create a conversation about a product, service, treatment, and KOLs can “weigh-in” on the subject with their professional credentials laid bare for the world to see. Professionals get taken seriously on LinkedIn.


HARO stands for Help a Report Out, and is an email service which helps reporters and journalists find sources for their stories. It’s the ideal opportunity for key opinion leaders to recommend products, services, treatments and “weigh-in” on important issues facing the associated industry. 30, 000 members, including journalists from the New York Times, ABC News and the Huffington Post, have all used HARO to find sources for their stories.

The HARO email goes out daily, so marketers should have a look when they can if they don’t want to miss out on free PR and media opportunities.

Using LinkedIn to engage with HCPs

Using LinkedIn to engage with HCPsIncreasingly healthcare and pharmaceutical marketing budgets are moving to online spaces. In 2010 eMarketer predicted that online pharmaceutical advertising spending would rise to $1.52 billion by 2014. In 2011 spending rose 23.3% to $1.58 billion, and eMarketer are now predicting that online pharmaceutical advertising spend is likely to reach $2.48 billion by 2016.

Marketing healthcare & pharmaceutical products that tend to specific diseases will require niche marketing strategies. Online and social media present an unparalleled opportunity to reach a highly-targeted group of individuals, that include healthcare professionals (HCPs). Using the various digital media channels at their disposal, pharmaceutical marketers can now produce highly customisable campaigns which target specific audiences based on a number of factors and activities.

But online advertising is not just about selling; it could also be about recruitment, human resources, identifying key opinion leaders and reaching out to them. In terms of marketing to professionals there’s no better platform than LinkedIn ads, which has proved massively effective for B2B industries due to the wealth of personal, professional information which LinkedIn users provide.

For regulatory reasons highly-targeted marketing in this form is very appealing to pharmaceutical companies that want to engage with HCPs. LinkedIn allows advertisers to serve ads to users with certain qualifications or titles, as well as the types of groups they have signed up to and the industry sectors they work in. It means that advertising spend can be extremely efficient and that specific people can be targeted for specific ads.

As well as the professional information which most users submit when using the site, there are also company pages and discussion groups on LinkedIn, which can be great place to engage audiences. LinkedIn groups encourage users to use LinkedIn for longer sessions of reading and sharing information, and promotion through groups can be a good way of targeting specific individuals while they are thinking/talking about a particular issue or topic in a group environment.

The difference with LinkedIn when compared to other social media platforms, is that LinkedIn is business-orientated. Whether recruiting or networking to promote products and services, most users on LinkedIn are acting in a professional capacity, and as such, it is a unique social platform in this respect.

With LinkedIn advertisers have the ability to target campaigns focusing on a particular company, a particular job role or even by geographical location. You can also target members by gender and age. There are over 1.5 million healthcare professionals on LinkedIn, and a quick search can identify:

  • 261, 514 users whose job titles includes the word “physician”
  • 151, 088 users who list themselves as a “medical specialist”
  • 267,883 who identify themselves as a “doctor”
  • 103, 273 who identify themselves as a “clinical specialist”

Because LinkedIn is so business-focused, its user data is ten times more accurate than any other social network’s registration data. It means that most LinkedIn users are being themselves in order to connect with work colleagues or other professionals, and so need to be honest and open about their employer, their job role, academic qualifications and experience. Accurate profile data makes targeted campaigns work – reducing wastage and keeping to budget.

LinkedIn & Google DoubleClick

LinkedIn has also partnered with the Google double click Ad Exchange, which means that targets can be identified based on job titles and employers, and they can be marketed to across Google’s network on a cost-per-click basis. Combined with Google-support capabilities such as re-targeting, this could prove a wise tactic for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies looking to target healthcare professionals.