The decision makers who decide which drugs appear on their hospital or insurance plan's drug formulary are increasingly reliant on information delivered through digital channels, presenting pharmaceutical companies with a digital imperative.

According to the new Multichannel Payer Marketing study released by DRG Digital Manhattan Research (DRG), pharmacy and therapeutics (P&T) committee members are routinely spending as much as three hours a day or more consuming information delivered through digital channels, and four out of five say they prefer digital content to non-digital content.

That preference for digital has a huge impact on the decisions P&T committee members make, as DRG found that "P&T committee members rate pharma apps and websites for payers and healthcare professionals as being as influential on their formulary decisions as in-person meetings with pharma representatives." Close to half (44%) "said they would use pharma digital resources more frequently if pharmas made it easier to find content dedicated to formulary decision makers."

While pharma companies have historically relied heavily on reps and account managers, the DRG study suggests that digital content and resources are critical to these reps and managers' success. Over half (52%) of P&T committee members surveyed indicated that digital content makes their meetings with pharma reps and account managers "more valuable." And even more (56%) wanted the ability to follow up through digital channels.

All told, DRG found that "P&T committee members rate pharma apps and websites for payers and healthcare professionals as being as influential on their formulary decisions as in-person meetings with pharma representatives...underscoring the importance of a more balanced approach to payer marketing."

The need for segmentation

Not surprisingly, DRG's study also revealed that pharma companies need to be thoughtful about what content and resources they develop because different types of payers have different needs. For instance, "two in three of those (65%) at Integrated Delivery Networks associated with health plans want to access trend reports for a disease area on pharma websites, while half of those from IDNs without a health plan are interested in accessing interactive budget modeling features from pharma online."

Put simply, for pharma companies to be successful with digital outreach to decision makers, they need to segment their customers and develop the capability to determine what the specific needs of those segments are so that they can develop the digital resources that they will find valuable.

A collaborative spirit

Perhaps the most important finding in the DRG study was that, despite the fact that the pharma industry has seen its reputational fortunes decline in recent years, even among professionals, P&T committee members are very interested in working with pharma companies "beyond the pill."

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed said they'd be open to working with pharma companies to develop patient-centered digital tools designed to reduce readmissions and two-thirds expressed a willingness to partner on the creation of digital tools designed to help patients adhere to their medication guidelines.

In other words, pharma companies will increasingly find that they need to embrace the concept of pill-plus – pharma products bundled with solutions designed to ultimately boost their efficacy – to win over decision-makers.

What's more, nearly half (47%) of P&T committee members said they're interested in working with pharma companies to facilitate data collection using techniques like remote monitoring. Given that pharma is one of the industries in which data is perhaps one of the most valuable assets a company can have, it would behoove pharmas to take advantage of P&T committtee members' collaborative spirit to forge partnerships that could pay dividends for years to come.

The digital imperative

DRG's study is yet another reminder of the digital imperative that pharma companies face. It reiterates the fact that literally every stakeholder that pharma companies need to meet the needs of, including physicians and consumers, are increasingly turning to digital channels to meet their pharma information needs.

So if pharma companies want to ensure that they have a role in the conversation, they will need to up their digital games.

For more on this topic, see:

Patricio Robles

Published 16 October, 2017 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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