Digital Marketing in Healthcare

Written by: Dr. Maya Sharma
About the author: Global Medical Director (Win Medicare, Modi Mundipharma & Signutra) | Ex AstraZeneca, Abbott, Philips



“Pharma Marketing is not my fancy, I want to work in FMCG sector, which has enough space to accommodate my creative juices, speed for the adrenaline rush, competitive intelligence inputs to keep me on my toes” – expressed my marketing colleague. Having worked with the best names in Pharmaceuticals, Medical Nutrition, Medical Devices segments, I – a pharmaceutical physician, have come across crème-de-la-crème of marketing. But to my surprise, Healthcare Marketing was not their first love. They used to aspire for FMCG, FMCD sectors.

Well, all that ‘fancy’ has witnessed a paradigm shift with the advent of Digital Marketing within Healthcare Marketing. Though not even a decade old, Digital Marketing (DM) in Healthcare has spread its roots and made marketers realize its value, which is evident by the inception of the concept and beefing up of digital marketing teams in Pharma/OTC/Medical Device/Medical Nutrition companies.

There are different Stakeholders/Target Customers/Consumers in this ecosystem

Doctors, Dentists, Nurses, Technicians, Dieticians, Pharmacist, other Healthcare Professional/Provider (HCP), Payers, Regulators and Patients.

There are plenty of Digital Tools available as well

Google search, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, E-Mailers, WhatsApp, Blog, Webinar, Medical e-journals, Telemedicine/Telehealth/Teleconsultation

Digital Marketing could zoom in its way and become an important pillar of Healthcare marketing as it offers striking Advantages over Traditional Marketing.

Customized communication to target stakeholders. Now for the same medicine, different customized communication can be generated with ease for different specialist Doctors/HCP relevant to their therapy area. Now customer engagement is more intense, with specialized content driving depth and breadth of scientific communication.

Digital Marketing strategy can be changed overnight, without worrying about the logistics and efficacy of communication. Content is being created and changed keeping in mind diversity of customers, seasonal variations and regional/geographical requirements.

That too at fraction of cost vs traditional face-to-face marketing where the medical representative carries brand reminder along with medical communication tools to engage the Dr and make him recall the brand name in the sea of generic versions at his disposal. Due to economic reasons, DM can be embraced in developing and underdeveloped nations, which can not afford much of traditional healthcare marketing otherwise. 

Continuous Medical Education through Webinars has been leveraged extensively to discuss the latest in medicine. CMEs, E-Medical Journals, Online Doctor Forums, are other platforms for organizations to participate in a non-intrusive way and add value to doctors’ practice. Telemedicine/Telehealth – Current ecosystem has propelled the growth and resulted in more connectivity with patients, monitoring and follow up regimens. Digital tools are helping to engage Investigators, recruit patients in a clinical trial which is resulting in bringing drugs to market much faster.

A screwdriver can not be used to hammer the nail. Similarly, marketers have to be creative, but cautious to understand which digital tools to use and how to maximize desired outcomes.

Inside out vs Outside in (Push or Pull) – Understand what customers/consumers want – ‘What is in it for me’ should be the guiding mantra to not forget, why are we into digital in the first place. Sending 100 mailers will not make the Doctor write your product. Filling a knowledge gap with an update from the latest conference may. Move from a Company Centric approach to Consumer-Centric approach. Similarly creating awareness for patients on special days like ‘World Heart Day’, ‘World Diabetes Day’ etc can increase not just visibility but also the credibility of the company. Campaigns should be designed accordingly.

A new moment of TRUTH: DM is creating a seamless integration with awareness (about the disease domain, treatment option, your molecule/product in particular), helping in consideration (through communication) and trial (e-commerce) of the medicinal products/devices. Digital Marketing has offered us a new breed of young marketers and forced the ‘oldies’ to reinvent themselves, reevaluate and relearn as it has the potential to transform the Healthcare world with innovation, not feasible with traditional marketing.

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