For Health Care Brands, Getting To Doctors Is Good For What Ails Them

Every year competition goes up for the limited number of medical residencies in the United States. But that’s nothing compared to marketers’ intensifying race to reach those doctors in the field.

While HIPAA’s data privacy regulations have slowed the adoption of programmatic and data-driven marketing around advertising to consumers, companies can still target medical professionals, said Eugene Lee, managing director of the pharmaceutical marketing agency CMI Media.

The pool of public data about individual doctors and the prescriptions they write is unlike anything in the consumer world. Doctors have unique IDs associated with their medical school graduation, physician certification, state practicing license and Drug Enforcement Administration prescribing rights, all of which tie back to an identifiable individual whose medical specialty, prescription history, schooling and hospital residency are also known assets.

All that data means doctors can be segmented in hypertargeted ways.

Roughly half of US doctors have a “no-visit” policy for pharma reps – meaning they’ll only take in-person meetings for educational purposes and not for sales, said Leilani Latimer, VP of global marketing and partnerships at Zephyr Health, which works with life science companies to reach physicians and healthcare professionals.

One Zephyr Health product segments doctors who can be approached in person from those who must be reached indirectly by promotions or media.

The ad targeting firm Semcasting has a health care-specific product that turns hospitals and health care providers into targetable zones. Insurance or pharma brands aren’t allowed to target patients or potential patients based on an illness, but they know which hospitals and doctors are treating specific conditions and what prescriptions are being written.

Targeting an area surrounding a hospital or clinic allows medical brand clients to reach a mobile audience dense with target customers without actually targeting a specific individual or disease, said Semcasting CEO Ray Kingman.

By serving ads to the hospital, Semcasting sees when a mobile device is there consistently over a period of weeks, indicating that it’s a doctor or health care professional’s device, Kingman said. “And since we have such rich offline data, we know who the doctors are by name and expertise and can then use that device as the linkage.”

Lee said some pharma and health care brands have slowly consolidated their siloed teams responsible for targeting doctors or targeting patients.

“Most of the money is still spent on the consumer side, like TV pharma campaigns,” he said. “There’s a growing trend where they need to combine those efforts, which is hard to do with such different data streams and restrictions, and where those strands come together is where the therapy or diagnosis happens.”

The ability to match medical data or doctors to digital channels in a HIPAA-compliant way is also a significant new boost to health care marketing.

Zephyr Health’s Latimer said clients increasingly use data from its platform to reach physicians and health professionals in targetable media channels. “We’ve even been getting interest for the first time from some of these big ad agency companies in licensing our offering.”

Drew Thimme, Neustar’s executive director of health care marketing services, said Neustar has been working with health care clients for three years on a “slow, cautious process” to allow their data to be applied across digital channels.

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