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About one in three Australian GPs is a digital native,1 which has fundamental implications for go-to-market strategies and a critical impact on how pharmaceutical companies promote the quality use of their medicines.

Digital natives were born after 1980 and raised in an environment in which they were surrounded by technology (Palfrey and Gasser, 2013, Prensky, 2001). As a result, they don’t understand the pre-internet world and demand access to relevant information in a form that makes sense to them at a time that suits them.

“The best medical information is the most current and up to date. Things are always changing. I wouldn’t get out a textbook printed in 2012 out to show a patient when I have the internet here!” – GP respondent to AusDoc GP Research, 2019

Frictionless digital experiences

Digital natives have high expectations of the technologies they use. They want personalised, always-on, mobile-friendly and frictionless digital experiences that help them improve patient care.

This was highlighted in a recent article ‘Why engaging with GPs outside of working hours is crucial for pharma’. The article noted that 62% of engagement with pharma content via Access.PLUS takes place outside of the traditional working day.

Pharmaceutical companies that lack an effective, always-on digital strategy risk missing out on the opportunity to effectively support them and keep them up to date with their products.

Before COVID-19, the evolution into digital engagement with rep-triggered emails, e-detailers and always-on online content made good business sense. Post COVID-19, it is critical. Digital natives and many older GPs have experienced the benefits of engaging with pharma content at a time and place that suits them, and it’s not something they are going to give up easily.

It’s tempting to believe that the pharma-GP relationship will return to normal when COVID-19 restrictions end. But logic says otherwise. Pharmaceutical industry and other employers are having to adapt to a new normal in which employees demand the ability to work from home and communicate digitally at least some of the time. Why should GPs be any different?2

Within a decade the digital native doctor will be in the majority

There’s a second generation of digital natives on the way, today’s medical students. People born after 1990 are regarded as secondary digital natives because they were exposed to Web 2.0 as children. They are even more fiercely autonomous than the first generation of digital natives. Moreover, with about one in five GPs retiring every five years1 and younger doctors replacing them, it is likely that more than 50% of GPs will be digital natives within 10 years.

Digital native doctor attributes

These are four attributes of digital natives, according to the Zur Institute, which offers continuing education for mental health professionals:3

  • They are intuitive learners rather than linear. They do not use or easily relate to manuals.
  • They learn via participation rather than passively, as illustrated in the difference between online sources and Britannica.
  • They have a high capacity to multitask and to hop between tasks rapidly.
  • They see the world in less hierarchical terms. The internet levels the playing field, making everyone more equal online.

Research by Australian Doctor Group (ADG) supports the above attributes. It shows that younger doctors seek up to date information from a variety of sources. In addition, they need to easily cross-reference claims from one source against details from another.  

Rather than passively waiting for their quarterly rep visit, this group rapidly navigates and interrogates multiple sources of information online and then forms their own point of view.

Here are three key points from the research:

  • Live information searching is a fluid part of digital native GPs’ consultations.
  • Google searches are becoming more common, including skimming scholarly articles and looking up images.
  • Using the digital edition of MIMMS to confirm prescribing information.

Although GPs of all ages are enthusiastic users of Australian Doctor’s digital ecosystem, it is no surprise that digital engagement is higher among younger GPs than older GPs.

Google Analytics shows that the biggest single segment of digital users of AusDoc is aged up to 34 years old, which makes up 25.8% of all users and the biggest user segment of mobile devices.4

Another fascinating insight from Google Analytics is that 58% of users overall log in to AusDoc on mobile devices versus 40% on desktop and 2% on tablet.

What are the implications for pharma GTM plans?

The challenge of implementing a digital strategy to complement a rep-force can be daunting for pharmaceutical companies.

  1. Consider an ‘always on’ digital strategy to support more traditional GTM plans
  2. Create a directory of information that can easily be found and accessed by doctors at any time
  3. Provide doctors with an easy on-demand platform, whereby doctors can proactively search, connect and communicate with the right industry expert when they want, such as RepCONNECT

Another solution is Access.PLUS, which provides an always-on way to target the thousands of APHRA-verified young GPs who use the AusDoc digital ecosystem.

About Access.PLUS & RepCONNECT

Access.PLUS was launched in 2018 with the vision of offering Doctors the 24/7 opportunity to self-detail and engage with highly valuable pharmaceutical promotional and educational content via hosted eDetails. This empowers doctors to continue to engage and self-educate but on their own terms, at a time and place that suits them. 

They can subsequently opt-in for more information, request samples, sign up for virtual events or join client-owned platforms. These kinds of tools have already been adopted in markets like Japan, where the majority of the HCP community have transferred to online engagement and service support. 

RepCONNECT drives more opportunity for pharma reps to provide great service to their doctors, and ultimately, assist them in providing the very best care to the patients.

By connecting over 82% of GPs using AusDoc and 90% of pharma sales reps using RxTro, RepCONNECT will soon become the largest and most powerful digital communications platform for doctors and pharmaceutical sales representatives wishing to communicate with each other.

References

  1. RACG, GP FTE, by GP age, 2019–20; 2021. Available from www.racgp.org.au/health-of-the-nation/chapter-2-general-practice-access/2-2-gp-workforce
  2. Pharma in Focus, Flexible work beats promotion; 2022
  3. Zur Institute; Digital Immigrants-Digital Natives; 2022. Available from www.zurinstitute.com/clinical-updates/digital-immigrants-digital-natives/
  4. Google Analytics of all AusDoc website data | Date: 22/1/22 – 20/2/22