Best practices in pharma remote HCP engagement

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HCP remote detailing excellence

Remote detailing is now established as an essential pharma marketing channel. Despite concerns that healthcare professionals (HCPs) would be hesitant to change after years of in-person visits, there have been few problems and the channel is widely accepted. Indeed, many HCPs seem to prefer it.¹ With the case for remote HCP engagement demonstrated, companies are now working to fine tune their customer experience — and ensure that their online engagements stand out.  

Anthill has worked with many leading pharma companies to maximise the return on their investments in solutions such as Veeva Engage. Best practices have now been established that deliver quality remote experiences. So, what’s the right way to do it?

An image showing how many HCPs want to maintain or increase virtual interactions - 95% in Germany
Source: Veeva Systems whitepaper: 6 Tips for Getting Started with Remote Meetings

Provide value: What do HCPs want from remote calls? The same thing that they want from any communication: relevant information that’s personalized to their needs and delivered in an engaging way — all conveyed as concisely as possible. The best remote experience is always the one that delivers the most benefit to HCPs. That means great content presented with skill. As more companies implement remote engagements, it’s the value delivered makes you stand out from the competition and maintains access to HCPs.

Be cautious with video: While short mode-of-action animations can work wonders, it’s best to avoid video because it is a passive experience. If you’ve got an HCP online, take every opportunity to engage them in discussion. It also pays to keep things lean from a technology point of view. Many clinical settings lack sufficient internet bandwidth for video to play smoothly — resulting in a frustrating experience as the content loads slowly. Maximize precious time with HCPs and keep video content for follow up communications.

Connect with a click: Design a frictionless experience. HCPs don’t want to be downloading software to connect with your customer teams. (And they may not have administration rights to their computing devices in any case.) A cloud-based solution will ensure that they can connect through a web browser. That way, HCPs just have to click an emailed or texted link. And your chosen solution may also enable a ‘shortlink’ address which a rep can easily read out over the phone, just in case an email doesn’t make it through.

Build omnichannel customer journeys: 75% of HCPs expect a blend of digital engagement and field teams are therefore evolving to a new omnichannel model.2 While in-person meetings were often considered something different to digital channels, remote detailing has been easier to integrate into omnichannel strategies. The high value personal contact of remote can play a key role in multi-stage customer journeys — providing opportunities to discuss material that an HCP has previously reviewed and to kickstart a new sequences of digital touchpoints.  

Balance control and flexibility: Many companies that initially used standard remote software are now moving to more compliant solutions that provide better controls on what content can be shown — or enable specific functionality like the ability to order patient information. Companies are also recognising that reps may need to quickly switch between informal technologies like WeChat and specialised remote HCP engagement solutions as a call shifts from a ‘catch up’ to a full detailing session.

Be professional: Online engagements shouldn’t be overly casual. Credibility is still key. And the basic things really do matter. Customer-facing staff still need to look the part and act in a professional manner when engaging HCPs online. Basic good online practices include controlling your background and looking into the camera to connect with the audience. And it also pays to dial into a remote detailing session a few minutes early to welcome the doctors when they join the call.

Think ’before’ and ’after’: Even if you’re not yet working with omnichannel customer journeys, always consider the pre-call and post-call experience and how other channels and materials can be used to support it. Reps can prepare HCPs (and raise their interest) by sharing materials before a remote meeting. Approved email content, for example, can provide a quick introduction to a topic that can later be explored in detail during a call. Likewise, other channels can empower reps to provide follow-up material in response to an HCP’s questions or enable them to take a ‘deeper dive’ than was possible during the call.

Plan for multiple devices: Unlike eDetailing where you know which device the presentation will play on because a rep brings it with them, remote detailing depends on what the HCP has to hand. Likely, it will be a desktop, but it could be a phone or other device. If your content was designed for a tablet, how might it present on a phone? Is it readable? A slide created for an iPad might contain characters too small to be displayed in a small screen. The good news is that these issues can be planned for – but doing so requires understanding the multi-device nature of remote detailing.

Maintain interactivity: Online environments potentially can produce passive experiences in which HCPs become viewers rather than active participants. If companies are most familiar with running webinars, there’s a risk that the more passive webinar format gets applied to remote detailing. Therefore, ensure active engagement with interactive content that pulls the customer into your product story. Interactivity also generates data. As HCPs engage with your materials they demonstrate knowledge levels, indicate topics of interest, and highlight which content elements should be improved.

Build the engagement: While there are no fixed rules for how to schedule online meetings in pharma, it can be a good idea to keep calls short initially, especially for new contacts. First, the rep and the HCP need to find a setup where the connection and environment allow them to focus on the discussion. So, the first calls could last for just 5 to 10 minutes to establish an HCP’s knowledge level and interests. Later, this can be extended to more fully explore the identified topics of interest. The overall story flow can be co-created with an HCP — established during the earlier, shorter duration, calls.

Empower reps with data: Call-planning data enables reps to deliver more relevant experiences. Some remote solutions even have data dashboards built in, empowering reps to access real time data and get prompts when they are on a call. Getting data in the hands of customer teams — in a clear and actionable way — can be a huge boost to remote HCP engagement in the life sciences. And if data is integrated from other channels too, reps and MSLs benefit from a clearer picture of an HCP's needs and can respond more effectively.

Enable multiple communication styles: A useful approach is to determine different ‘rep archetypes’ and design for them. One archetype could be reps seeking a concise and effective approach (Executive). The next could be those wanting to be available to HCPs and alert to their needs (Responsive). The last archetype could be reps confident with technology and keen to engage HCPs in its possibilities (Digital). In this way, you encourage reps to consider how they can match the tools to their own style.

Blend remote and in-person: Switching to remote shouldn’t mean ending your in-person engagements. In fact, there is good evidence that mixing remote and in-person meetings produces the best results. When engaging HCPs through in-person and virtual channels, such as Veeva CRM Engage, data show three times the promotional response compared to in-person meetings alone.3 What’s clear is that those companies working with omnichannel strategies — blending in-person, remote and fully digital channels — are delivering the best experiences and gaining significant commercial advantage.

Provide great training: Always consider the human factors. How effectively customer teams use remote engagement in pharma depends largely on how confident they are — both in the technology and the techniques to make best use of them. And that requires the right training. A very basic remote training programme would cover:

  • requirements
  • best setup
  • booking a call
  • in case of emergency
  • following up

From that foundation, additional training will amplify the results. You could explain different remote engagement communication styles. You could share case studies highlighting specific strategies, such as connecting remote to other channels. Or provide video tutorials that explain how to use your CRM to better prepare for remote meetings.

Customer journey of remote detailing in pharma
Turn remote sessions into high-value experiences

How can we help?

Are you thinking of implementing remote HCP engagement and need an experienced agency partner? Or are you looking to take the channel to the next level? In addition to optimising your content for remote engagement, we can also sequence your online rep engagements into high value customer journeys that are easy for reps to implement.  

Contact Anthill Agency to learn more

Relevant Anthill services

Remote detailing: get the content, technology solution set up, strategies and training that make your remote experiences stand out. Learn more
Omnichannel: integrate remote detailing into omnichannel customer journeys for best-practice customer experiences. Learn more

More on remote HCP engagement

Remote detailing guide: read our in-depth guide for the strategies, content, and technologies that the best performing companies are now using. Read now  

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1. Reuters: Beyond COVID-19: Life sciences reimagined, 2020
2. BCG: Doctors’ Changing Expectations of Pharma Are Here to Stay, 2021  
3. Veeva: Veeva Pulse Field Trends Report, 2022


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