As a child, I remember a small diary at my home. It contained important information of our household. Phone numbers of plumbers, maids, and electricians, a log of money owed to the grocer, and a shopping list—the pages of this diary had it all. With time, these pages were filled less frequently. Now, the important phone numbers are saved on our cell phones, grocery shopping is done online, and the shopping list is saved on an app to take notes. While I might look back fondly at that diary, I know its utility has long vanished. With novel ways to keep up with daily chores, we no longer need to leaf through the pages of a diary when a pipe leaks or maintain a physical log of our expenses.
Digital technology has affected the most basic unit of our existence, so it is not a surprise that it will affect the foundation on which this modern civilization stands, i.e., the way we collect and disseminate scientific information.
In an age marked by accessible overabundant information but limited time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that a particular scientific update is catching the attention of the intended audience. Most healthcare professionals (HCPs) rely on journals, conferences, internet searches, and newsletters to find relevant information. Recently, an increasing number of HCPs are using social media like Twitter and LinkedIn to find articles of interest.
When the target audience uses multiple channels to acquire information, an omnichannel strategy needs to be a part of publication planning.
What is an omnichannel approach? How is it relevant in healthcare communication?
An omnichannel approach is a customer-centric strategy where multiple channels in a user’s journey, like emails, social media, conferences, and face-face conversations, are merged to give a seamless experience to the user without overwhelming them. Giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple have made great strides in creating an omnichannel experience. Amazon Prime is an excellent example of an omnichannel strategy that resolved a major point of friction in the shopping experience (shipping cost) but also layered additional benefits like video streaming, exclusive discounts, and fast shipping. This helps Amazon understand customer preferences, give better recommendations, and deliver a seamless experience.
While the pharma and publication industries use multiple channels like emails, social media, conferences, and face-face conversations to engage their audience, their engagement strategy is missing the seamless merging of these channels to provide a unified experience.
For example, an email sent to an undifferentiated segment of cardiologists will have fewer reads than one sent to cardiologists segmented based on their preferences, past reading behavior, and online activity. Creating a personalized communication experience is a key element of an omnichannel approach.
It is important to employ an omnichannel approach from the point of publication planning. In other words, publication and communication should first be aligned with the brand strategy. After publication, published papers should be shared or promoted via multiple channels to increase impact.
What are the key elements of an omnichannel approach?
- A unified journey for HCPs across channels
- Displaying key messages across different platforms simultaneously
- Integration of multiple touchpoints
- Personalized communication
How is pharma currently implementing an omnichannel approach?
According to a survey, most industry professionals prefer to develop a publication extender; however, not many are devoting time to develop an omnichannel strategy. Publication extenders usually consist of QR/AR codes on interactive posters, video abstracts, infographic abstracts, or key slides illustrating the main findings of the publications. Unfortunately, in the absence of a strong omnichannel approach, the reach of these publication extenders is limited.
Example: A publication extender like a video abstract presented at a conference will capture the attention of your audience for a few minutes. But, an omnichannel strategy in the form of a QR code or a link at the end of the video to download the full text of the paper, followed by a scheduled communication from the author or publisher will help to start conversations around the publication, leading to a better reach.
The healthcare industry has faced major upheaval in the past year, becoming acutely aware of the importance of going beyond traditional methods to engage with HCPs. With multiple touchpoints available for HCP interaction, the industry must employ an omnichannel approach to deliver relevant messages across platforms without overwhelming HCPs.
(Certain sources that were cited here contain links that are now dead and have hence been removed from this article.)