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How engaging is your digital scientific content?

By Matthew Durnham

Earlier this year Intelligenic Health asked 20 pharmaceutical companies for their views on HCP engagement with scientific content.  The audience included senior leaders in local, regional and global teams covering medical affairs, commercial, digital and business excellence functions.

Whilst the companies varied in size, therapeutic interest and digital sophistication, the views expressed were surprisingly consistent.  Firstly, there was unanimous agreement that HCP audience engagement with scientific content, whether 3rd party or proprietary, is considered vital for informing and educating HCPs pre and post licence.  This aligns with research from the major scientific journal publishers stating that HCPs value independent, peer reviewed, scientific material. Not surprising in a world where speciality medicines indicated for complex diseases, comprise most new products in development. 

Secondly, establishing if content had achieved its engagement intent is seen as being difficult to establish. Metrics are perceived as typically being indicative of dissemination activity, instead of true content engagement.

Without exception, this pharma audience stated that engagement data was, at best, sub optimal and potentially important insights would be missed.

The content itself is fundamental to sparking engagement and imparting knowledge about new treatment pathways and modalities, but so is how the content is made available to HCPs.  Like many of us, physicians prefer digital content that is available at a convenient time, location and preferred format.  If the content has a high impact factor and is provided digitally, is this sufficient to generate true engagement?  Maybe, but on reviewing current best practice thinking, it seems achieving engagement might be a little more nuanced.  

Here are 5 key takeaways from the research we conducted over the summer.  

1.         Think about the customer 
What content does the end user value?  What is the experience when accessing and interacting with the content?  Does this experience encourage or enable deeper engagement and peer to peer collaboration? Does the HCP always receive access to content in the same way, regardless of what proactive or responsive communication channel is used?  Over time, are there options to personalise and optimize the content for the physician?

2.      Metrics  
Set metrics that are absolute measures of engagement and can act as strong surrogate markers. Challenge existing metrics.  Do they help you to understand your audience?  Are they activity metrics, or engagement metrics? If there are obvious gaps in the data, consider if these blind-spots are material, or not.  Get the engagement scorecard right.  

3.      What’s working?

Is engagement with scientific content fleeting and superficial, or is there a genuine connection with the content provided?  Use the metrics to surface insights into content performance and impact.  Learn audience engagement behaviours over time. Trends within and across engagement projects, will allow the development of benchmarks and help establish expectations for future activity.

4.      Engagement – tactics or strategy? 
Whilst one off communications will always be necessary and have a place, it is worth considering if the organisational, departmental  or brand digital engagement strategy is current, aligned with customer behaviour, involves all stakeholders and is coherent in terms of its intent.

5.      Keep innovating  
Digital engagement is a broad agenda and technology is moving fast, innovating across all aspects of engagement activity.  Content is being re-purposed into increasingly digestible formats like short video and infographics. Data generation is richer and deeper and AI & ML is helping to uncover the patterns that previously lay hidden.  

If you’d like to learn more about how Intelligenic’s can facilitate customer engagement around your scientific content and surface previously unseen insights, please contact

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