When pharmaceutical campaigns target healthcare professionals, their first—and often only—audience is doctors. Sure, there’s no question that they have the greatest influence over the prescriptions their patients take. But other healthcare professionals influence patient awareness of prescription drugs, too. Many of those professionals can also write prescriptions.

In the pharma business, the stakes are high and the competition is fierce. So it’s important to consider every relationship patients have with healthcare professionals. Each of them can have an impact on business success. Known as “healthcare extenders,” they’re the people who educate, support, and motivate patients:

  • Nurse practitioners (who have prescribing authority in all 50 states)
  • Physician’s assistants (who can prescribe in 48 states)
  • Pharmacists (who provide critical prescription guidance to patients at the point of purchase)

Of course, doctors should still be your No. 1 priority. But you need to strike a balance between connecting with them and connecting with healthcare extenders. It’s a strategic move that calls for an assessment of your market—and the potential impact healthcare extenders can have on your campaign.

The value of marketing to healthcare extenders also depends on your position in the market—and the resources you have to support your efforts. Consider these three scenarios, where reaching out beyond doctors can be a strategic advantage.

Sound familiar?

Leader of the pack

Perhaps you’ve established a high market share and face minimal competition. Your outreach to doctors is beginning to show diminishing returns. Connecting with healthcare extenders could help you drive new growth and protect your leading market position.

David and Goliath

Maybe you face an established competitor who has solid relationships with doctors. You may have limited resources, and you want to cultivate more creative ways to enter the patient pathway. Healthcare extenders can help you introduce your brand to people from a fresh angle.

Limited resources

If you have a smaller sales staff and limited marketing budget, one of the most popular ways to engage consumers is through healthcare extenders. It can reinforce the limited resources you’re putting toward your media plan for doctors.

Where to start:

If you think reaching healthcare extenders could be a strategic advantage, here are three steps to help you get started:

1. Map it out

Which healthcare extenders will your target consumers encounter along the path to a prescription? That path is different for every medical condition. So it’s important to look at where and when healthcare extenders appear and then consider all of the ways you can reach them.

For instance:

  • Suppose your company is marketing a prescription drug to treat high blood pressure. Someone from your target audience takes their own blood pressure at a screening kiosk within a pharmacy. They get a high reading and mention their concern to the pharmacist while they’re in the store. A well-informed pharmacist could suggest that the customer ask their doctor about your company’s new medication.
  • Later, that same individual visits the doctor’s office, and the physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner checks their blood pressure again. It’s still high. The patient mentions a recent conversation with their pharmacist and asks about the medication—but can’t remember the name of your brand. An educated PA or NP can remind them of the brand name and again suggest they talk to their doctor while they’re in the office that day.
  • If the doctor prescribes your brand, the patient returns to the pharmacy later to pick up the prescription, and the pharmacist can help ensure adherence to the drug’s instructions by answering questions and reassuring the patient about the medication.
2. Score healthcare extenders

Establish criteria you can use to rank the relative importance of each one. Consider factors such as the following:

  • Their ability to write a prescription
  • How much time is spent with the patient
  • Their credibility or influence with patients
  • Frequency of patient interaction (especially with respect to when the patient sees their doctor)
  • Their influence on adherence
3. Plan and activate

Based on your scoring, decide which healthcare extenders to target—and which touchpoints are the most promising to engage them. As you integrate those touchpoints into your overall plan, make sure you can track and measure the results of your efforts.

The bottom line

In pharmaceutical marketing, even small opportunities can lead to big incremental success. Including healthcare extenders among your target audience is worth exploring as part of any media strategy targeting healthcare professionals. Few pharmaceutical marketers think beyond the doctor, so building awareness and consideration among healthcare extenders can be a key competitive advantage.

Reaching healthcare extenders is an opportunity to provide consumers with more knowledge about prescription drugs—and many of those extenders influence the doctors they work with, too. A well-informed physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner can be a powerful ally for you. And in some cases, they may even be the one to prescribe your brand.

Keith  Betz
Keith Betz

VP of Client Services

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