Electronic Health Records and Pharmaceutical Advertising

Liz Sporrer, Senior Media Planner, CMI | Samantha Bogus, Media Planner, CMI

February 23, 2021

Current Landscape

Electronic Health Records have made a huge leap for physicians, completely changing workflows, clinical and administrative tasks, and interaction with patients.

The adoption rate of EHRs has skyrocketed up to 80% in the past 6 years and continues to grow. Due to the sheer number of physicians using these platforms, there is a huge opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to communicate with their target physicians at the point of care. With declining access via sales reps, EHRs are expected to play an even larger role in the future in how companies provide resources within a patient care setting to stay top of mind while prescribing decisions are being made.

The market is very new and fragmented due to the vast number of platforms being utilized, so it is important to understand the reach and opportunities available across the board. Many EHR platforms and networks do not allow brand promotion, and those that do have historically been limited to banners and text ads.

The future of EHRs is largely up in the air. We anticipate the fragmented market becoming increasingly streamlined with EHR systems combining to create cross platform communication.

Best Practices in EHR Advertising

Currently, pharmaceutical companies are actively advertising in EHR platforms and repurposing digital banner ads. Because these platforms are not websites, creative messaging should be adjusted based on best practices in the space. The preferred messages by physicians tend toward making their workflow more efficient and providing value in their interactions with patients.

Analyze Your Audience to Identify Needs

In order to stay ahead of the evolving EHR landscape, we must explore tactics that may not currently exist. Like all channels, CMI recommends taking your audience into account first and foremost.

  • How is your audience engaging across the health IT landscape?
  • How can your brand bring value to the HCPs/Patients at the point of care?
  • What information does your target audience want/need?
  • Discuss with supplier partners, brand teams, access services teams, etc. to find out what integration (not promotion) opportunities exist

Focus on Physician and Patient Needs

EHR advertising needs to be differentiated and specific from other channels so as not to turn physicians off to promotional messaging. Value should be provided to physicians and patients with clinical information and resources. Focusing on the needs of the physician and patient instead of solely on promotional messaging will ultimately increase the perception of the brand with physicians. When developing creative to be utilized in this space, brands should consider tone, brevity, active voice, and visual appeal. Avoid vagueness, claims without supporting data, acronyms, and demands.

  • Keep messages short and to the point, with a clear call to action
  • Use active verbs combined with time statements (ex. Send today)
  • Don’t be afraid to use brand names up front to be as clear as possible
  • Create banners that are visually distinct from the platform they will be running on
  • Refresh creative often to avoid wear out
  • Present problems and provide solutions at the point of prescribing
  • Ex. Highlight common side effect and provide treatment suggestion, suggest supportive therapy, offer financial assistance etc.

When all of these messaging factors were taken into account for a campaign with Brand X across two partners, CMI saw amazing results. Over the course of the campaign, EHR prescribing increased by 388% while prescribing of its competitor decreased by 36%. Further, when the campaign was paused for a month, scripts dropped 13% compared to the previous month. When the campaign resumed, scripts increased 23%.

Rather than focusing on glossy promotional messaging, we need to focus on better equipping HCPs with necessary information as they navigate their EHR system. This can include providing patient instructions, pushing out how brands are coded in specific systems, formulary coverage information, pictures of devices (ex. inhalers, injectables) for use, trial- based evidence, as well as drug initiation and titration recommendations.

The key is enhancing the workflow and acting as a resource without being disruptive. We need to deliver value to the physician to change behavior patterns and to ultimately be successful.

According to the December 2014 edition of PDR’s “EMR Playbook,” More than 70% of prescribers in 2014 reported not having the capability to connect with pharmaceutical brands beyond the prescription through their EMR. HCPs are eager for more information from brands within their EHR systems. PDR’s Physician Attitude Study (August 2013) showed that physicians ranked access to formulary information, patient education, drug production information, patient counseling information and treatment guidelines as the most important categories to be included in their EHR.

HCP sentiment with your brand will increase as a result of providing relevant information within EHRs as their workflow becomes more efficient with necessary information at the point of care. The key is to deliver high value content to priority HCPs in key moments of their work stream, whether that be pre or post prescribing decision.

Measure Appropriately

Because EHRs are not typical display buys, performance metrics are also not the same as traditional banner messaging. Clicks are not everything. Point of care messaging should ultimately be measured with reach and frequency to high value physicians, and in ROI for the brand wherever possible.

Page 3 All metrics should align with the overall brand campaign and goals. For example, important metrics for a launch brand would be increased reach and impressions, whereas a higher frequency to high value physicians would be more critical to a brand later in its life cycle.

Utilize Patient Portals

In addition to driving brand engagements with HCPs, EHRs can be used to the bridge the gap between patients and their HCPs. With the growth of patient portals, EHRs can be used to link patients to their healthcare through ongoing communication and adherence programs. Programs for financial assistance and patient education will create a better overall experience for patients and their HCPs alike. With approximately 30% of first time prescriptions not being filled, ensuring patients are receptive is incredibly important.

Align Strategic Partners

With the adoption of EHRs continuing to grow, CMI recommends creating strategic partnerships to best serve HCPs as the landscape continues to evolve. By creating deeper programs with a few key partners, the brand can benefit in multiple ways.

  • Take advantage of first mover opportunities such as couponing and patient education
  • Benefit from added value opportunities as a benefit of the deeper partnership
  • For franchise approaches within the same indication, segment key audiences to avoid overlap
  • Increased scale of measurement is capable with a larger audience and increased impressions

Looking Forward

Previously considered as a tactic within our point of care or digital plans, with increased adoption the EHR space is quickly defining itself as a separate channel. Following the CBI EHR & eRX conference, SVP Media Beth Barron shared: EHRs should no longer be thought of as just a tactic within our digital plans. This space has emerged as a unique channel for us to strategically plan independent from traditional media. Therefore we can’t rely on standard advertising opportunities such as banners or text links to reach HCPs effectively in this channel. Showcasing the product value proposition throughout the patient journey while supporting our HCPs within their daily workflow is key for our clients to succeed.

Page 4 Although the future of the EHR landscape is uncertain, the upward usage trend, high ROI of campaigns, and proven success metrics validate that it’s a medium worth considering for brands in all different stages of their life cycle.