The Advantages of E-Detailing- For Pharma Marketers

Melissa Wackes, Senior Media Planner | Kristen Kohler, Senior Media Planner

February 23, 2021

Subject: Pharma marketers have to find innovative and cost-effective ways to engage busy physicians yet still deliver positive ROI. E-details deliver on both counts. CMI has extensive experience deploying successful e-details – here we share the benefits (and challenges) of this interactive marketing tool.

E-detail Overview

E-details are longer-format promotional or educational messages that are delivered to physicians through electronic mediums: online via desktop computer or via mobile device. Typically, content is repurposed from pharma rep sales aids and replicates the presentations used in person. There are two primary types of e-details:

One-Time Webinars

These e-details are planned well in advance and promotion is used to drive registrations to view the webinar. The opportunity to engage with this type of e-detail is limited to the date and time specified.

On-Demand, Self-Directed Learning

These e-details are created as self-directed programs and can be housed online via a brand website or through a third party. Content and format varies widely depending on the objective of
the campaign and the developer utilized, however common formats include questionnaire or gaming style, KOL videos, and case studies. Once created, physicians are driven to engage with the materials through emails, direct mail, banners, etc. depending on the partner selected for the program.

Physician Usage

According to CMI/Compas 2013 Media Vitals research across all specialties, 51% of physicians indicated that e-details were somewhat, very, or extremely important in keeping them abreast of medical developments and product information. While physicians still prefer to be detailed by a rep in-person, 35% of physicians surveyed by Manhattan Research in 2012 indicated that online promotional programs were equally likely to influence their prescribing decisions as in-person rep meetings. Additionally, Media Vitals reveals that physicians are willing to spend more time with online programs such as webinars (58% willing to spend more than 5 minutes) than in-person detailing.

The Manhattan Research 2012 ePharma Physician survey gives us further insights into physician content preferences within the e-detailing landscape, which vary slightly based on format. Physicians report they are more interested in self-directed programs than live one-on-one presentations or webcasts. They are most likely to use self-directed programs for information on new products or indications, when a sales rep does not see them, and when they have limited time. Webcasts are most likely to be used when physicians are particularly optimistic or skeptical about a drug and its benefits – time was a very low concern.

Looking at recent e-detailing programs executed by CMI across multiple supplier partners, 86% of physician participants indicated they were satisfied or highly satisfied with the program content and 91% indicated they would be interested in receiving invitations to participate in future programs.

Opportunities for Pharma

According to Encuity, the top ten pharma companies invested $334 million in e-detail programs in 2012. Among CMI clients, we have seen interest in these opportunities grow year over year and expect investment levels to increase.

The various types of e-details offer unique advantages and challenges to Pharma and advertisers:

One-Time Webinars

This type of e-detail is ideal for brands that highly value the use of Q&A sessions and audience interaction to deploy messaging. These e-details also are best for repurposing content from other live programs (speaker programs, dinner meetings, etc.). Because of the one-time nature of webinars, the large upfront cost for content and promotion as well as the inability to control final attendance can be major challenges. These hurdles should be considered when deciding what type of e-detail program to execute.

On-Demand, Self-Directed Learning 

These self-directed and on-demand programs allow physicians to choose a time and place that works for them. Innovative executions allow a physician to pause a program and restart at a later time exactly where they left off, accommodating busy schedules. These programs are available over a longer time period, allowing the content to reach more people than one-time webinars. Additionally, most partners guarantee a threshold of unique visits from the physician call plan.

Some drawbacks to these types of programs are that they remove the ability to have a conversation as with a one-on-one rep detail or live event. There is also typically a high cost of entry due to fixed development costs, which makes specialty execution and achievement of ROI against niche audiences more challenging.

E-Detail Results and Cost Analysis

ROI Results

We’ve collected ROI results across a breadth of clients who have executed on-demand e-details through a third-party. We’ve seen successful executions across multiple specialties and brand life cycles and below is a snapshot of some of those programs.

Specialty TargetedTotal ParticipantsROI Generated
Primary Care15,3602.6:1

In addition, e-details offer the opportunity for the brand to integrate into any current corporate ROI models because detailed data is passed back on the physician-level.

Survey Results

Because live interaction isn’t possible within a self-directed e-detail, there are typically response mechanisms built in to test learning or gauge the physician’s satisfaction with the module. These questions provide great directional information about physicians’ feelings about a specific piece of content and can help project the success of a program. CMI has worked with Quantia to understand their benchmarks for performance on these leading indicators of success. On average, 37% of Quantia program participants completely agree that e-details on Quantia provide quality, relevant information that can help facilitate discussions with patients. In addition, 80% of participants typically recall the segments they’ve viewed and 31% indicate that they plan to increase prescribing as a result of viewing the e-detail content.

A recent branded program that CMI executed through another partner included a series of nine interactive modules deployed over a four-month time frame targeting restricted-access physicians provided by the client. At the end of each module, these physicians were asked a number of questions to test their understanding of the presented materials and to see if they would like a visit from their brand sales representative. After each module, between 21-57% of respondents selected “yes” to request a sales representative, showing that e-detailing can be a great supplement for low-see or no-see physicians.

Cost Analysis

CMI estimates that an in-person detail costs $200-$250, while e-detailing typically costs $100-$150 per physician. Based on physician preferences and the importance of in-person interaction, it’s not expected that e-detailing would replace a sales representative, but it can effectively supplement the sales force. These programs can be used to reach no-see physicians, or supplement regions of the US where sales rep coverage is low. In addition, as noted above, e-detail programs can be used to trigger rep visits, which may be a good fit in markets that are highly competitive.

CMI Recommendation

E-detail programs can be used for brands across all lifecycles and multiple specialties. CMI has seen these programs perform best when there is a detailed, educational message to communicate. In addition, CMI recommends utilizing Key Opinion Leaders throughout these online promotional programs. According to Manhattan Research, physicians are more interested in viewing self-directed programs lead by KOLs (53%) than without any particular expert (44%) or led by a Pharma MSL (34%).

Because of the volume of content within an e-detail and the relative novelty of these tactics to promotional review boards, approval of content through medical/regulatory review can be a lengthy process. CMI recommends facilitating a pre-review of e-detailing when kicking off a program to familiarize the review team, fill any knowledge gaps, answer any general questions, and create a process framework for gaining approval. In addition, repurposing any previously approved content, like sales aids, speaker decks, and KOL videos, can speed the approval process because the review team will
already be familiar with the content.

While content creation may provide a challenge, CMI has seen payoff in terms of ROI and strongly recommends use of e-detailing as a part of the promotional mix to help supplement sales force efforts. These programs can be used across a multitude of strategic objectives to communicate either new information to physicians or to reinforce key science for the promoted brand in a new way.
With increasing interest from physicians and pharmaceutical companies alike, this tactic is an important one to consider in all non-personal promotion recommendations.