HCP Engagement

The HCP engagement mess we’re in. And how we get out

What is the future of HCP engagement?

While other industries have responded swiftly to the need for a more insightful approach to their digital content during the pandemic, Pharma has been dragging its heels. So much so that it is starting to frustrate audiences and fuelling existing digital fatigue. Of course, we understand the underlying reasons for the industry’s cautious approach – not least the influence of legal and compliance colleagues. However, the increasing gap between the content healthcare professionals (HCPs) are asking for and the content being provided needs to be addressed. HCP engagement must be increased. Preferably yesterday. 

A changing content landscape

It is abundantly clear that there is a broadening gap between what audiences want and what they are being offered. The distance is now so great that Pharma companies risk becoming specks on the horizon. Pharma companies that do not respond to these needs become indistinguishable from each other in the eyes of their audience. Thus, losing visibility, credibility, and relevance. The opportunities and rewards for delivering dynamic content are increasing all the time. However, the market remains perversely slow in responding to its audience’s developing needs. Content needs to evolve to meet these demands. Audiences need content that both captivates and informs. There must be complete alignment and understanding between those collating the information and those tasked with presenting it. Only then will it be fit for purpose in the current climate. HCP-engagement-content So much content out there now relies on formats and techniques that were popular 10 years ago. Do we really think our audience\’s preferences haven’t changed in a decade? By way of example, just prior to Christmas, I reviewed a major International Congress and its industry-supported symposia sessions. I viewed over 70 invitations. Only two of those had prepared an introductory video—namely, Gilead Sciences and Advanced Accelerator Applications International. Need I say more?

Attention span and focus

Recently a client approached me in my capacity as an HCP engagement specialist. They had a specific problem relating to their Advisory Board. Extended periods of remote working during the pandemic had badly impacted levels of attention and focus among Board members. The client subsequently reported a decrease in meaningful interactions with the group. It was clear that people were multitasking during meetings, to the point where the input they were giving was of little to no relevance or value. It was also clear that the technical resources used were ill-suited to the task at hand. Was this an isolated case or a common model for current interactions? Either way, it was clear that specialist knowledge, experience, and applied skills were required to address the situation.

Lack of time is an obvious factor here

We know HCPs are under massive pressure with increased responsibilities. We need to look carefully at each activity and consider the context in which it needs to function. For example, when trying to encourage HCP engagement with an on-demand webinar or symposium it is pointless to use material with a consumption time of 15 minutes or longer. The HCP you are trying to reach has just 60 minutes a day to dedicate to this type of content, broken up into 15-minute sessions. Your 15-minute content demands that this HCP dedicates 100% of their time to you. And they simply cannot afford to do that.

A greater understanding

There is a growing translation gap between the scientists conducting research and those who design and create content around their work. The information might be too densely worded, or it may have been shortened so much that the scientific detail is missing or misrepresented. This leads to content that, either fails to captivate and inspire or is not trusted, regardless of the importance of the research.

Blame shorter attention spans, badly chosen formats, or poor accessibility, but whatever the reason, engagement rates are dropping alarmingly.

As an illustration, a Pharma company presented a three-minute video on LinkedIn, an educational piece designed to enhance understanding of a rare disease. The video featured insights by KOLs and visual aids. It seemed to tick all the standard boxes for engagement and I was enthused about the subject, but my interest in the video faded after just 90 seconds. The presentation simply failed to captivate me, despite the otherwise interesting subject.

I suspect I was not alone.

To reiterate, we have reached the point where digital materials need to move forward from just being digital materials. They need to captivate, inspire and inform, and they need to do so quickly.


Moving forward, Pharma companies need to add another item to their digital content to-do list: ask whether the work instantly captivates, inspires, and informs. If you can tick that box, it’s worth the work. If not, ask why not, and what could be improved? This extra step will save a lot of wasted effort on content that proves to be not easy to digest or effectively invisible.

Where possible, work with HCP engagement experts who specialise in your field, and offer a true synergy of scientific rigor and creative communication. To create riveting, convincing content, these experts should combine a deep understanding of the subject matter with excellent creative instincts to create truly captivating scientific digital content.

Key lessons on HCP engagement

What the industry needs to do is react now.

Immediately, before your audience grows even more distant from you and your message. Seek out the assistance of true experts in creating digital engagement with scientific content. They can deliver the type of content you need in front of your audiences right now, without delay, rather than waiting for the theory to filter down.

Where can you access this combination of skills? Should you use in-house talent or outsource to external specialists? This is a difficult balance to strike and one that relies on budget, time, and resources, among other factors. But we can no longer ignore the need to evolve and expect to remain relevant.

The Pharma industry must react now to prevent HCP audiences from drifting away from them. Seek out the assistance of true experts in creating digitally engaging scientific content. They can deliver the content you need and get it in front of your audience in a timely way. Use this period to learn from them and apply their insights to your own internal efforts for better market alignment. By embracing this specialist knowledge and skill set, your content will reach, influence, and help your audience, and will keep them coming back for more.

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