Where Pharma Can Start With Social Media

When people talk of “Pharma and Social Media” they think of replacing in-house reps. They think “out-of-the-box”.  My idea of pharma and social media is completely different.
Introduction
I am using the term “doctors” to denote medical practitioners in this post. In the Indian context, pharma generally refers to them as Doctors. Doctors include all kinds of medical practitioners. The general practitioners, physicians, surgeons, all specialists (including dentists) and super-specialists. In short, anyone who can legally prescribe your medicine to the patient. 
How Pharma Sells
In pharmaceutical sales, the most important customer is the doctor. Though patients buy and use the medicines, it is the doctor who prescribes it and hence doctors are their customers. Pharma companies try and visit as many doctors as possible through their representatives. In general, the numbers of visits to such doctors determine the results. Top-of-mind-brand-recall means more prescriptions. Hence they also try as many numbers of visits as possible to doctors. The whole of pharma strives to increase the time they spend with doctors who wield a lot of power in prescribing their brands.
Quality Time With Doctors
Some doctors see reps every day, any time during their practice hours. Some see on specified time every day. Some see on specified time on specified days. Some do everything to avoid meeting reps. The amount of time that reps get to spend with doctors is severely limited today. So there is an ever-shortening of the time that you get to spend with doctors to influence their prescriptions.  I don’t know how many companies have a record of the average time spent inside the doctor’s cabin by their reps. We used to have such parameters long back. This was used to plan the length of the detailing story and also the number of products to be promoted. Even patients, the paying customers, don’t get to spend quality time with their doctors. 
Challenges
Pharma faces major challenges with their sales forces today. I already wrote about what plagues the industry. Reps today are not able to manage even the normal list of activities that makes the job.  Unless your reps are extremely smart in spending quality time with the doctors and influence them, you have no chance of winning in the crowded market place today. 
My Prescription
You have to fundamentally change how you sell your products in the future. The model of tens of thousands of reps meeting doctors will not go away over-night but greatly reduce in the future. Find out how much time doctors spend online. You will be surprised it is much more than the time they spend with representatives. Go where your customers go. Online. Its not a quick fix for growth. But the way to the future. 
It is high time that the companies learn to use Social Media tools to supplement and strengthen what they already have through their reps. Pharma can use social media tools and do the following to start with
  • Opening more doctors doors
  • To gain valuable time of doctors (supplementing visit time of reps)
  • Relevant exchange of information with quality conversations (share more clinical and informative data surrounding your products)
  • Strengthen your rep-doctor relationships (because of SM activities the prescription push will become more effective and also the time spent will stretch during visits)
  • Build meaningful relationships
  • Train your reps better
  • Improve productivity of reps

This list is only indicative. We are working on a list of objectives, tools and actionable items and possibly a pilot program soon. 
What Next
Using new age tools with old strategies is a sure recipe for disaster. So you need to learn new ways of doing things to use social media tools. I believe Pharma is capable of bringing about “game changing” practices. It just needs to dedicate more time, energy and money. 
My thoughts have been shaping up well for actionable results. You can keep a track of it here http://blog.varadh.com/search/label/Pharma
 Feel free to comment. Call me and I will be happy to talk to you. 
Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com
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