Navigating the Information Landscape: Q&A with Aaron Noll on OptimizeRx's Physician Survey Findings

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In this insightful Q&A, Aaron Noll, MD, MS, OptimizeRx's senior AI solutions engineer, sheds light on how healthcare professionals leverage various information channels, the type of data they seek, and the role of AI in personalizing and optimizing healthcare communication.

As we traverse the evolving landscape of healthcare, the ways in which healthcare professionals (HCPs) access and leverage information continue to shift. OptimizeRx's 2023 physician survey offers an exploration into the channels that physicians most frequently utilize and the type of information they are actively seeking, revealing an understanding of physicians' preferences, offering valuable insights for life science companies to adapt their communication strategies accordingly. Senior editor Fran Pollaro chatted with OptimizeRx’s senior AI solutions engineer Aaron Noll, MD, MS about the topic.

Pollaro: What are the key channels that HCPs/physicians are utilizing for information?

Noll: In our 2023 physician survey, we found physicians are actively using more than ten types of media and communications, both digital—email, medical journals, electronic health records (EHR) systems, social media, etc.—and in-person such as sales rep/medical science liaison (MSL) visits, and conferences, for example. The survey includes 120+ primary care and specialist physicians and revealed clear preferences on how and when they prefer to receive information from life science companies, and when they find that information most relevant to patient care encounters. The most common channels used and were ranked in HCP’s top three choices were:

  • Email – 74%
  • Journal articles – 73%
  • Sales rep visit – 71%
  • EHR systems – 68%

What kinds of information are physicians seeking? And what don’t they want?

When asked what information they want more of, physician respondents to our survey showed interest in a range of more immediate, tangible types of information such as insurance coverage and drug pricing, upcoming clinical trials, safety profiles, and as one doctor wrote in, “clinical success stories and quality of life improvements.” The top three types of information that HCPs want more of are:

  • Patient affordability – 48% 
  • Prior authorization (PA) process – 43% 
  • Patient eligibility – 33% 

When asked to list “the other types of information that [they] would like to have less of,” physicians responded with “pure marketing, biased information,” “advertising,” “marketing,” and “direct to patient advertising.” 40% of surveyed physicians strongly or very strongly agreed that when the information is “generic and not personalized to their current needs,” they are less likely to engage with it and less likely to adopt a new drug or device.

When is information most actionable for physicians?

Simple—information is most valuable to physicians when it aligns with their specific needs at specific moment in the care journey. For example:

  • Prior to patient visit / when reviewing patient charts – clinical results, patient eligibility criteria
  • During the patient visit – patient eligibility criteria, product information to share with the patient, specialty medication prescribing guidelines, formulary information, patient affordability information
  • Post-visit/when patients are trying to access medications – information on prior authorizations, pharmacy distribution information, patient affordability information
  • Outside of the visit / when conducting independent research – clinical results, specialty medication prescribing guidelines, pharmacy distribution information

Ok, those are some pertinent statistics. So, how can brands leverage these learnings?

Pharmaceutical brands can give providers what they need and want: They want more tangible clinical and patient-access content to support their decision-making and patient care. Information gaps can have a real impact on the ability of physicians to make informed choices. They also want information that is personalized and delivered to them on the channels they are already accessing.

We found that the use of the EHR is growing as a source of communication with physicians with 68% of physicians surveyed relying on them for information. For pharmaceutical brands, the point-of-care is no longer just a marketing channel but emerging as a key part of their overall HCP marketing strategy; and technology is helping to close gaps with real-time information, leveraging new technologies.

Omnichannel marketing and artificial intelligence (AI) have made targeting clinical audiences easier and more precise. Physicians are less likely to read brand messages unless they are personalized.

By integrating AI with real-world data (RWD) and EHR, we can pinpoint the most opportune moments to engage HCPs within their workflow. By applying AI and RWD to the health data in the EHR, you can anticipate significant patient care milestones. For instance, it can alert a brand when an HCP is scheduled to see a hard-to-find patient—such as a patient with a rare disease or alert when a patient is now nearly eligible for a 3rd or 4th line medication—thereby creating an opportunity to deliver personalized brand information when it's most impactful and actionable for the HCP.

What are key takeaways for brands about the best places to devote their marketing spend?

Life science marketers need to revisit where and when they are engaging physicians as well as how they can best deliver the information HCPs are seeking. It’s no longer about generic or promotional placements on select channels, but an immersive strategy that surrounds HCPs with timely, relevant information – aligned to their patients and delivered where they are and when they are making care decisions.

The channels that are growing the fastest for HCP engagement are digital and frequently being used in for clinical decision making. These are the EHR, social media, intranets, and practice management systems. We are seeing pharmaceutical companies engage with HCPs on these classical and novel digital pathways. Omnichannel messaging allows for engaging a physician with the right content, context, and channel to as part of a “next best action” approach. Personalization geared toward HCP interest requires information on which channels an HCP is most likely to action on. For example, serving up an Instagram story when they are utilizing social in between patients or financial messaging in the EHR during an office visit where they spend the most time in clinical workflow.

Our research indicates that HCPs find the information from life science brands most valuable and are more likely to use it if it fulfills three criteria: It corresponds with the conditions and needs of their current patient demographic; it offers practical, non-clinical details that impact their patients, such as formulary status, prior authorization necessities, or financial aid options; and it clearly illustrates the clinical advantages of the treatment compared to existing alternatives.

How can AI play a role at point-of-care to help brands provide physicians with what they need and help them leverage that information in the moment?

To ensure top-tier patient care, HCPs need to be continuously updated on a vast array of information, from innovative devices and medications to the latest clinical trials. AI, trained on RWD, is a vital tool in this regard - it can predict upcoming critical treatment milestones, raising awareness among HCPs at the exact moment they need it in their patient-care workflow. By analyzing patterns in RWD, AI can forecast when patients will reach these milestones and engage with their healthcare providers. It can also discern HCP behaviors to identify which ones are most suited to receive and act on these critical notifications, thus facilitating patient eligibility and access to essential treatments.

In my experience, merging AI with RWD not only boosts awareness and access but also enhances overall health outcomes by streamlining the provider journey, from prescribing treatments more efficiently to facilitating clinical trial enrollment and recommending continuing medical education (CME).