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The Death Knell of Pharma HCP Websites


For years the conventional wisdom has been that pharma brands should maintain dedicated websites to engage HCPs. The thinking is that dedicated sites are a viable opportunity for pharma brands to step up as valued partners to physicians. The concept is simple – to create online resources for HCPs and KOLs to connect and collaborate. Theoretically pharma brands can connect peers, provide meaningful and insightful content to physicians, and in the process promote their products.

Umar Siddiqui, MD

Umar Siddiqui, MD

However, HCP portals have proven to be rather ineffective in practice. Many HCPs look at branded pharma content with skepticism and suspicion. To be frank, they often consider pharma branded content to be purely promotional and without notable clinical value. Many find the quality of the digital experience to be lackluster. Most HCPs don’t trust dedicated HCP websites because pharma brands use them for direct advertising. Rather than providing resources for healthcare professionals, brands are incessantly pushing their products. No matter how useful the portal may seem to be, in many cases it is just another platform for advertising and promotion.

Perhaps by design, HCP portals are outdated and clunky with underwhelming user-experiences. The information on portals is not arranged intuitively. It takes a lot of time to find the information. It’s often a treasure hunt to find the therapeutic area and click on the desired data. And it’s costly. It costs more than $100 to get a single physician on an HCP portal to complete one marketing activity. For modern physicians, time is an indispensable and priceless commodity which they trade off against the value of content accessed.

Attitudes and Expectations are Changing

  • More than 40% of physicians surveyed in specialty groups say that no pharma company is providing quality digital support for their day-to-day practice.
  • More than 60% of pulmonologists agree that it’s crucial that pharma provides educational resources rooted in science and research to gain their trust – yet only 20% say they find pharma websites credible.
  • The majority of physicians who shared their experiences with HCP portals felt that the way the information was provided by pharma on their digital resources was poorly organized and confusing.

On top of these negative perceptions is a dramatic change in HCP’s workflow. The average physician spends greater than 50% of their time in front of a computer, not a patient. With increasing volumes of patients, inundation with administrative responsibilities, and a host of emerging technologies to deal with every day, physicians are challenged to maintain and improve patient care and have little time or patience to navigate confusing websites.

Mismatch of Needs: HCPs Want More Resources, Visualizations, Information

  1. Over 50% of oncologists say they are more likely to prescribe a product if the company has superior patient support (programs) and beyond the pill services, yet only 30% of oncologists agree it’s easy to access valuable beyond the pill services from pharma companies.
  2. Over 60% of gastroenterologists agree that professional video influences their clinical decisions – and yet, about 50% don’t think any pharma company is doing a good job at providing videos for HCPs.
  3. Over 60% of rheumatologists think the information that pharma provides on any website is always just advertisements for their products – but data shows there is considerable unmet demand for non-promotional resources that can increase brand satisfaction.

With increasing time pressure and mobility in workflows, there is a need for mobile information access on the go and at the point of care. Pharma brands with easily accessible, mobile-ready, user-friendly content will lead the race. Conventional HCP portal strategy assumes that doctors have the time and the interest to go to a single company resource for marketing materials. But they don’t. The average physician portal often gets less than 5 visits per doctor per year.

What Content Strategy Works Now?

It is evident that defaulting to HCP portals as a marketing strategy is a vestige of the past. Pharma can help address physician distrust and frustration with its digital offerings by better understanding their needs and challenges – and then providing content and services that go beyond promotion. Brands should ensure that critical content is discoverable in the right channels and is easily accessible for busy physicians.

Content should be easy to discover, navigate, and interpret – ideally suited for mobile. Convenience for the HCP is critical. And video is among the most effective methods to present information and data quickly and easily. This is no easy feat for pharma marketers. It’s imperative to keep on top of the evolving needs and channel behavior and digital preferences of physicians while analyzing and adopting best practices inside and outside the industry. The information and technology options are continuously evolving. Staying well versed with vendors and investment options on limited brand digital budgets is a serious challenge.

Social Media is Ascendent

The adoption and growth of social media for HCPs has become a given. Add a measure of pandemic protocols with a dash of remote WFH and widespread acceptance of telehealth, and voila! There’s a new way of working for all involved. It’s essential to know, and we mean really KNOW your HCP audience.

Here are 5 effective tactics:

  1. Influence the influencer: know the who’s who of key HCP digital opinion leaders in the space.
  2. Get meta: HCP digital natives expect similar experiences from pharma that they get elsewhere.
  3. Break-through the wall: HCPs engage in peer-to-peer conversations in gated walled-garden communities.
  4. Dump the data: get them real-life data in real-time, HCPs will dig that.
  5. Master class of content: craft and curate the digital content – videos, infographics, simulations, interactive.

The bottom line is that HCP focus has shifted away from traditional dedicated HCP websites to social media where mobility, urgency, video, and peer-to-peer conversation is prized. Effective pharma marketers will shift priorities and budgets as they plan for 2023 to improve targeting, enhance digital experiences, drive engagement and prompt HCP behavior change and satisfaction.

Umar Siddiqui, MD, is Chief Medical Officer, LiveWorld.com


Preferences for Accessing Medical Information in the Digital Age: Health Care Professional Survey” – Journal of Medicine (ncbi)

How Physicians Can Keep Up with the Knowledge Explosion in Medicine” – HBR

8 Crucial Steps to Improve HCP Portal Experiences” – DRG Digital

Portal Combat: Pull the Plug on Pharma HCP Sites” – MM+M, Medical Marketing and Media

The Gaps Between HCP Depand and Pharma Supply of Medical Information” – EPG Health

The Across Health Navigator” – Navigator 3.0

How To Build A Game-changing HCP Portal (For You And Your Customers)” – NEXT Pharma Summit

Taking the Pulse U.S., ePharma Physician” – Manhattan Research

Information Seeking Behaviour of Doctors: A Review of the Evidence” – Health Information Library

Best Care at Lower Cost” – The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America, Institute of Medicine

Engaging with HCPs in The New Normal, A Roadmap for Success” – Hawk Partners

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