June 23, 2024

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5 ways to engage HCPs in medical education

7 min read

How to bring credibility, trust and flexibility into your medical education programs

Researchers publish medical advances every day, and part of a clinician’s role is to stay up-to-date with the latest information on diagnosis, treatment and care. This can make a significant difference to patient outcomes.

For example, in cardiovascular healthcare, patients’ health goals can include blood pressure, cholesterol, heart failure and symptomatic goals. But only 20 to 30 percent of patients reach their goals in clinical practice. Why? With mounting work pressure, competing priorities and education gaps, it can be challenging for physicians to implement changes to dosage or adopt advanced medication.

“The goal of our industry is to develop new molecules and introduce them for clinicians, but we believe that’s not enough,” said Vladimir Bulatov, Regional Medical Director Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa at Novartis. “We need to invest in medical education, to drive awareness and a sense of urgency, and also to drive the utilization of advanced therapies. We cannot do it alone; only in partnership with healthcare professional communities and with specialists in medical education, like Wiley, can we improve treatment outcomes.”

Medical education is critical, but how can you make sure your programs are engaging healthcare professionals?

In a recent webinar, Vladimir joined Peter de Jong, Global Director Health, Corporate Sales at Wiley, and Harriet Jeckells, Senior Director, Content Products and Events at Wiley to talk about a current project and discuss best practice in engaging HCPs in medical education. Here we share five tips from that conversation.

1. Make your content credible

Healthcare professionals look for credibility when choosing where they go for medical education content. According to a live poll during the webinar, 57 percent of providers believe credibility is the biggest challenge in providing trusted educational content to healthcare professionals, above time and budget, engagement, and compliance.

One way to ensure credibility is through editorial independence. In September 2021, Vladimir started working with the team at Wiley to build the Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD) and Lipidology Knowledge Hub. The aim is for the Hub to be a center of excellence for the most advanced, relevant information on the topic for healthcare professionals. As an independent medical education project, Vladimir and Novartis have no influence over the content. Instead, it is driven by an external editorial board – a panel of experts, advised by Wiley.

“It’s really important to engage independent faculty and medical societies in the creation of educational content,” Vladimir said. “Peer to peer dialogue works best in terms of medical education, we can bring our knowledge of drug development in some areas, but the overall concept and the foundations of medical education should be developed by professional, independent faculty.”

During the webinar, participants agreed: in a live poll, 75 percent said that the involvement of independent faculty and medical societies is ‘very important’ in the educational content provided to HCPs, and the remaining 25 percent said it is ‘somewhat important’.

The team at Wiley is taking this further and focusing on CME accreditation in medical education projects. “We see such an uplift in engagement when a society is involved and having CME accredited projects makes a huge difference to level of engagement too,” explained Harriet.

Peer-to-peer learning is another important factor that increases credibility and builds trust.

“We know that peer-to-peer HCP interaction is the best approach, as it brings a high level of trust and acceptance of the information,” Vladimir said. “We engage HCPs directly or through partners, so that they communicate with their HCP communities.”

2. Give the audience the content they need

It’s not only independence and credibility that affect engagement: the content itself is vital. The editorial board of the ASCVD and Lipidology Knowledge Hub curate content such as articles, abstracts, infographics, videos and webinars, with the aim of engaging medical professionals. Over the course of 18 months, they have increased traffic to the Hub tenfold.

Of all content types, Vladimir noted that infographics are most popular, garnering thousands of downloads each. “This resonates with what we see outside of the industry too – we see a trend towards shorter videos rather than one-hour movies, for example,” he said. “Content is getting shorter, more bitesize, and infographics are aligned to that.”

To engage HCPs with your content means meeting them where they are, on their terms. In practice, that involves providing punchy headline content the audience can consume within a matter of seconds, alongside deeper, longer content they can delve into. “It’s less about having each audience member using all of the content and more about having content available in diverse formats so that it’s really useful for every audience member,” Harriet explained.

3. Be prepared to adjust your plans

Meeting HCPs where they are requires a certain amount of flexibility. Harriet explained: “It’s about having a variety of content and letting the audience tell you what their preferences are, and then building on that. With these projects, we have a content plan, and we switch that up based on the audience preferences.”

This could involve considering new content formats, such as podcasts. When introducing new content types, it’s important to consider aspects that are specific to the pharma industry, like medical legal review. Less planned or scripted channels might not be suitable for content that needs to be reviewed, for example.

If there is concern, there may still be ways to use the channel. “You can use different channels or content formats for different purposes,” Harriet said. “If you really want to use podcasts, you could consider using them for a disease awareness area, or you could partner, sponsor, or be a guest speaker. Not everything is fit for every different type of content.”

Whatever formats and channels you choose, it’s important to keep track of metrics in the background, to understand where people are spending time. “We see surprises – different audience types engage in different ways,” Harriet said. “We never try and second guess or stick to one lane; we definitely adapt quite dramatically to the audience and where we’re seeing their preference.”

4. Build trust

Tracking audience preferences raises the question of personalization and privacy: how can you offer HCPs the best experience while protecting their privacy and building trust?

Across the industry, there is a strong movement toward open access, which means anyone can access content without providing personal information. This helps build a baseline of trust. Then, when HCPs want to access deeper content on a specific topic, you can layer in learnings about them, for example through webinar registration.

Harriet and the team ask for minimal information at registration and always ensure it is relevant and actionable. They also make sure it has a wider impact. “Those learnings are beneficial to the entire community, and not just the provider of the information,” Harriet said. “Rather than just gathering the information and keeping it for ourselves, we are showcasing it to bring the whole community together around data points.”

As well as extending the benefit of data outwards, it’s also important to point it back to the user through personalization. For Vladimir, there are three important things to learn about the HCPs who visit the Hub: their key areas of interest, their preferred sources of information, and their preferred channels. “We actually don’t want to know too many details about our HCPs,” he said. “The information we do collect is to help individualize the content we deliver, so it’s for their own benefit.”

It’s also possible to add a level of personalization by tracking country trends. For example, in Japan there is a strong trend toward short content. “With that localization, I think there are ways you can make the journey feel very personal,” Harriet said. “When you lead with what you know about a particular segment of your audience, you can then adapt the content types to them.”

5. Embrace (and evaluate) new technologies

While there are various geographic trends, there is one clear global trend toward more digital content. In a poll during the webinar, 89 percent of participants said their current strategy for delivering educational content to HCPs includes digital content.

With continuous advances in technology, like virtual reality and gamification, this is a fast-moving field that has a significant influence on medical education. “As an industry, we need to build our digital and technological skills and capabilities, follow where the broader education industry is going, and borrow the best examples,” Vladimir said.

Harriet says it’s important to look at the context in which HCPs are accessing and using digital content. She explained: The industry as a whole has been slow to think of HCPs as anything other than their profession. But dermatologists and oncologists are also many other things: they are parents, foodies, fitness gurus, and they’re using the latest consumer and streaming apps. I think framing how we provide digital content within that context is really important.”

Whatever technologies you decide to embrace, measurement is key to ensuring your content remains engaging. More traditional metrics like the number of visitors – to a website, e-learning module or in-person congress – can be good predictors of effectiveness. And data on retention rates can be powerful, especially for optimizing e-learning platforms.

Analyzing data on video views, infographic downloads and article views can all help paint a picture of how a medical education resource is performing. But in the end, Vladimir said, these are just predictors of the real outcome. “I believe that the true impact of education you can always see is through knowledge testing, through surveys and research. When you see a positive change in clinicians’ awareness and sense of urgency to escalate treatment and use advanced medications, you will see that your overall educational reform was probably successful.”

How can we support your next medical education project? Contact us to get started.

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