There is no doubt that more and more doctors are coming around to the use of the digital world – according to Simon Grime Managing Director of Communications for Doctor.net.uk the UK’s largest and most active network of medical professionals. Over 40,000 doctors engage with Doctors.net.uk each day – that’s over 25% of all UK doctors using the same website in a single day.
But, Grime warns, to make the most of the huge potential to engage with doctors online, pharmaceutical companies must first make it their business to understand doctors’ needs and digital behaviours, so that they can be sure that they are providing the right content in the right format.
Grime points out that when contemplating any approach ‘en masse’ to medical professionals, the first thing to bear in mind is that they are not all the same. Indeed, according to his experience Grime has observed that doctors online information and communication needs vary significantly according to such factors as their specialty, the age of the doctor and their nationality.
Work that Doctors.net.uk have done has shown, for instance, that:
- Oncologists are more likely to download medical apps when compared to haematologists. (71% vs 51%)
- Haematologists use the Internet much more frequently to read clinical papers than psychiatrists. (40% vs 8% use the Internet at least twice a day to read a clinical paper)
- Rheumatologists are half as likely to visit pharma-operated websites in a typical month compared to Haematologists. (14% vs 30%)
Doctors.net.uk has also gathered information from other sources specifically data from their partners in the Networks in Health Alliance of Physician networks – which covers more than two million physicians worldwide through its online community networks. They have found from this that there is considerable variation in physician attitudes and on-line behaviour across Europe.
Some interesting statistics that they have posted show that pharmaceutical representatives are most likely to be trusted by doctors in Spain and least likely to be trusted by them in the UK, Sweden and Germany. Interestingly it is in the latter group where the use of the Internet and membership of independent online communities is more advanced and important to physicians that the greatest caution is observed. Surprisingly, the work that Doctors.net.uk has done shows that the use of the Internet by doctors in France is significantly lower than doctors in other major European countries, although this picture, they report, is changing.
There is no doubt that making contact with online professional communities can provide the most effective method of making meaningful long-term relationships with any medical orientated audience. They offer a wide array of prospects and exclusive understanding of the on-line physicians’ thinking and behaviour. In a world where so much information is available, doctors, when they use the Internet are naturally seeking to ensure that they have the security of an authenticated and legitimate online sources within the medical and pharmaceutical community. These communities, therefore, are becoming the communications channel of choice for pharmaceutical companies who wish to reach medical professionals.
It follows therefore that those wishing to communicate with physicians and other medical professionals need first to do their research into the group they want to target with their message. Then they need to understand those groups on line behaviour, if they want theirs to be the message that is received, understood and acted upon.