The present and future of e-detailing

At eyeforpharma’s Online Marketing and e-detailing Europe 2007 conference in April, Hawkinson discussed how the industry currently underutilizes this technology and outlined ways it might expan

At eyeforpharma's Online Marketing and e-detailing Europe 2007 conference in April, Hawkinson discussed how the industry currently underutilizes this technology and outlined ways it might expand e-detailing programs in the future.

Past and Current Uses of e-detailing

According to Hawkinson, e-detailing is generally thought of in the industry as a six-to-eight minute online, multimedia promotional message that provides an interactive and informative brand experience for healthcare professionals. It has largely been used to supplement sales force efforts by providing charts, flash animation, educational games and streamed audio and video. By allowing physicians to gain access to information through multiple channels and at their convenience, e-detailing provides superior physician reach and a complement to traditional detailing, says Hawkinson.

From 2001 until 2005, the signs for e-detailing were good. According to a 2006 study conducted by Manhattan Research, physicians who had not used e-detailing but were interested in it were increasing in number, as were physicians who had already used e-detailing. The number of physicians who had not used it and were not interested was steadily declining. However, trends in the e-detailing market flattened around 2005 and remain flat.

Why the stagnation? According to Hawkinson, pharma is currently providing physicians with a lot of different options, and physicians are not sure which options to pursue. Hawkinson described his own past, unsuccessful attempts as a shotgun blast to see what stuck, trying numerous techniques on different clients. The problem, according to Hawkinson, is that e-detailing efforts right now are overwhelming and confusing, and this is pushing physicians away.

Additionally, pharma's use of e-detailing has stagnated: as Hawkinson said, In the past, a lot of pharma companies used it [e-detailing] in a specific area, to extend at the end or in the middle of a launch of a drug. The time has come to look beyond the six-to-eight minutes.

The Climate is Ripe for e-detailing

The good news, according to Hawkinson, is that all the ingredients for e-detailing success already exist. Physicians like e-detailing: for them, the 24/7 access is like having a sales representative sitting in their offices, answering all their questions, providing information when and how they want it and backing off when they don'st.

Currently, 99% of doctors use the internet to improve their patient care. Says Hawkinson, 70% of physicians consult the internet several times daily for their practice needs, and high speed access is now commonplace. It is no longer possible to blame technology for less-than-stellar trends in e-detailing.

Physicians are far more comfortable with technology than they were even just a few years ago. Doctors regularly use PDAs, cell phones and computers and consult podcasts and blogs for additional information. According to a 2005 study by Manhattan Research, professional internet use rose 12% from 2002 to 2005, while use of conventional information sources (meetings, conferences, professional journals) declined. Let them get comfortable with the new technology, says Hawkinson, and they soon ask for more.

Ways Forward

Hawkinson believes it is up to pharma to find and exploit new avenues for e-detailing. Pharma must utilize this technology earlier in a drug's life cycle than has been done previously, leveraging the internet for product lifecycle management and extending the lifecycle of a product from both ends.

One way to increase e-detailing's reach is to use it to prepare the market for launch. As the sales force is ramping up to undertake the sale of a new drug, an e-detailing program can already be in place, providing useful information to potential customers. Physicians who explore new treatments via e-detailing have the option to ask sales reps for further information once a traditional detailing program is launched.

The industry should no longer look at e-detailing as the drug is launched; we need to try to extend it going forward, says Hawkinson. Instead pharma companies should be asking, How can we actually do it to help the sales reps before they get involved in it? It's about pre-selling to the market.

Another avenue of approach is to target those physicians who are already highly motivated. Success with that target list provides valuable peer influence for the lifecycle of the drug.

e-detailing, Hawkinson stresses, is not to be regarded as a replacement for conventional detailing but rather as a complement to it. It can take the initial pressure off of sales teams, says Hawkinson, and generate an educated, motivated audience when the sales reps are ready to launch a new drug through conventional means.

Integration and Ease of Use are Key

One way to ensure the success of an e-detailing program, says Hawkinson, is to take an integrated approach. It's important to tie in the different avenues of access that will drive physicians to information about a particular drug.

According to Hawkinson, an email invite, for example, should be tied in to a branded website, to professional areas, and to a KOL online program. Places where physicians can request a sample should be linked with information about the drug on infosites such as WebMD or a brand's e-detailing site. By providing this integrated approach, pharma can maximize physician capture rates.

One key factor in increasing e-detailing's success rates is ease of access: one place to register for all the sites (Info site, e-sampling and e-detailing), and connections with Physician Practice Management programs and sales rep portals. Physicians want to be able to log in once but have access to all the information available.

Angeliq: A Case Study in e-detailing

With Angeliq, says Hawkinson, we'sve actually launched a drug without a sales force. Angeliq, a hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women, is not one of Bayer's blockbuster products. The goal was fairly modest: to build awareness and interest, and to get 5,000 MDs to know and be comfortable with Angeliq before the sales reps got on board.

In order to maximize peer influence and lock in a group of dedicated customers, Bayer chose physicians who were already familiar and comfortable with Bayer's current DRSP (Drospirenone) products.

To establish a branded presence on the internet, Bayer provided information on Angeliq on Medscape. For three months before the sales force got involved, Angeliq had its own Infosite which included an area where physicians could get information and request samples. If physicians wanted more samples, they had to register through Bayer's e-detailing program.

Integrated tools include a information site, a hosted destination site, targeted e-detailing solutions, point of care messaging and online access to representatives. With WebMD and Medscape, Hawkinson says, his team knew that they would have access to doctors who were already a captive audience. Bayer provided an expert column as well as links to e-detailing and eSampling sites.

For the first three months of the launch, says Hawkinson, Angeliq's branded presence on Medscape was the only marketing tactic Bayer utilized.

Did it work?

Our goals were reached, Hawkinson says. The e-detailing strategy allowed them to bring the drug up to optimum awareness, so that when sales reps went in, they were talking with doctors who were already informed and interested. The goal to reach 6,000 MDs/HCPs in 9 months was completed in four months, and, already several thousand eSamples have been issued and hundreds of doctors have registered for the program. Of the doctors who went through the e-detailing site, 90% ordered samples.

We are 151% ahead of goal to date in fact we have exceeded the goal for participation in the program but will continue to recruit until the end of 2007, Hawkinson says. Additionally, Bayer was able to track which articles about Angeliq physicians were accessing most often, informing marketing strategies into the future.

e-detailing, according to Hawkinson, is a viable launch channel to do everything from the prelaunch to extending the product on the back end. It's important to make physicians comfortable with e-detailing programs and to tie such programs in with other online marketing strategies. It shouldn'st just be an afterthought, says Hawkinson. e-detailing and eMarketing should strategize with brand teams to maximize and expand marketing programs and marketing success.