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Tapping NPs and PAs in Life Sciences Marketing

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive: June 2023
Volume 43
Issue 6

Amid the shifting focus from primary care to specialty care, using data-driven tactics can create tailored campaigns and meaningful relationships with nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Life science marketing is experiencing a significant transformation in response to the changing dynamics of the healthcare industry and evolving marketing avenues. In this changing landscape, nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) have emerged as influential prescribers, often overlooked by traditional marketing approaches. However, with the advent of precise data insights, life science marketers now have a valuable opportunity to engage and connect with these important healthcare professionals (HCPs).

The focus for marketers is shifting from solely focusing on primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialty-care providers to recognizing the expanding roles and decision-making authority of NPs and PAs. By leveraging data-driven strategies, advanced analytics platforms, and proprietary algorithms, marketers can precisely identify, reach, and engage NPs and PAs. This evolution in life science marketing enables tailored engagements, measurable outcomes, and a deeper understanding of the unique impact of these providers. It empowers pharmaceutical companies to optimize their strategies and establish meaningful connections in today’s dynamic healthcare landscape.

Rapid expansion among NPs and PAs

The growth of NPs and PAs has boomed exponentially in recent years, presenting a significant opportunity for both the healthcare industry and life science companies. As reported by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs and PAs are the fastest-growing careers among HCPs.1 Projections indicate a 46% in NP career growth and 31% in PA growth over the next nine years. This translates to a significant increase in clinicians joining the healthcare workforce by 2031.2,3

As the projected physician shortage in primary care and various specialties could reach as high as 48,000 in primary care, NPs and PAs are expected to increasingly fill these gaps, fueling the growth of this significant prescribing group.4 While there are many factors, such as burnout, that are contributing to the decline of physicians in primary care, a Harvard Medical School article pointed to fewer medical school graduates declaring primary care as their specialty because it is one of the lowest-paid areas.5 It’s estimated that NPs and PAs now provide more primary care than physicians, with 48.8% of PCPs being physicians, 42.9% being NPs, and 8.2% being PAs.6

The rise of NPs and PAs not only addresses the challenges faced by the healthcare system, including the projected shortage of PCPs, but it also creates a unique opportunity for life science companies to connect and collaborate with these influential providers. By leveraging their growing presence and role in patient care, life science companies can engage with NPs and PAs for strategic marketing initiatives, fostering partnerships that drive innovation, improve patient outcomes, and meet the industry’s evolving needs.

A new era of NP and PA marketing

Through peer networking and professional development, POCN Group gathers data from 93% of NPs and PAs in the US. According to POCN Group’s algorithms, NPs and PAs accounted for 1.17 billion unique prescriptions between October 2021 and September 2022. This equates to an average of 2,281 prescriptions per prescriber. This figure represents 29% of all retail prescriptions, underscoring the need for life science companies to connect with advanced practice providers (APPs). In comparison, the 919,326 prescribing physicians in patient care accounted for 2.85 billion prescriptions, averaging 3,116 prescriptions per prescriber.

Marketers now have a vast toolkit when it comes to reaching NPs and PAs with strategic messaging. In the past, marketers haven’t had access to precise information about the provider they want to reach, like key prescriber data or inferred specialty data. Marketers often had to cast a wide net by sending communications to hundreds or thousands of providers and could only hope that it would reach their target audience. Now, with options like non-personal, multi-channel, omnichannel, and peer-to-peer communications, marketers can tailor their messaging to reach their key prescribing group. These platforms offer a range of tactical offerings for marketers to use to reach NPs and PAs, such as display ads, email campaigns, e-newsletters, influencer-based programs, peer-to-peer programs, video hosting, and podcasting. Because NPs and PAs love to learn and bring new information to their patients, marketers can use inferred specialty data to provide deeper messaging to these influential providers.

To effectively reach this audience, marketers must review and analyze NP and PA data specific to their therapeutic area and disease state. When marketers gain access to prescribing data, they can understand which providers are treating patients in key therapeutic areas and which products are being prescribed. These insights can help marketers identify gaps in their targeting and enables them to dive deeper into NP and PA research to uncover provider preferences, behaviors, and needs.

What marketers need to know about

APPs are a highly engaged group of providers who are extremely patient-centric. Although NPs and PAs have a clinical focus, what sets them apart is their holistic approach.

They prioritize cultivating profound patient relationships and consistently strive to stay informed about the latest information to provide optimal care.

POCN Group data show that while many APPs have an inferred specialty area, a large quantity provides care in general practice, in part due to the ongoing physician shortage. That data indicates that NPs and PAs are writing a significant number of prescriptions for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol management, which are often treated in primary care settings. Information such as this can be useful for life science companies to apply to their marketing strategies.

The opportunity for marketers

The available statistics underscore the significance of engaging with NPs and PAs in the pharmaceutical industry. Their roles in clinical decision-making, coupled with their substantial prescription volume, make them a crucial target for marketers seeking to maximize their reach and impact.

By understanding and leveraging the insights surrounding NPs and PAs, pharmaceutical companies can forge meaningful connections with APPs and drive positive outcomes for patients and healthcare providers alike. To further prove this point, 79% of NPs and PAs in a POCN poll say they influence physicians within their practices.

This growth presents a considerable opportunity for marketers to reach NPs and PAs as the reliance on data for traditional PCPs has become less effective, as APPs have expanded their prescribing power and authority.

Marketers now have access to a rapidly growing segment of the healthcare industry through the availability of high-quality data on NP and PA behavior. As NPs and PAs expand their patient care responsibilities and decision-making authority, they form a distinct market segment that demands increased attention and understanding.


  1. Fastest Growing Occupation. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. September 8, 2022. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm
  2. Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. September 8, 2022. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
  3. Physician Assistants. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. September 15, 2022. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm
  4. The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2019 to 2034. Association of American Medical Colleges. June 2021. https://www.aamc.org/media/54681/download?attachment
  5. Grinspoon, P. Why is it so Challenging to Find a Primary Care Physician? Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. September 28, 2022. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-is-it-so-challenging-to-find-a-primary-care-physician-202209282822
  6. Davis, M. Amid a Physician Shortage, 51% of Primary Care Providers are Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants. ValuePenguin. August 22, 2022. https://www.valuepenguin.com/primary-care-providers-study#Methodology
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