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How Metric Sets Enable You to Measure the Impact of Your Medical Communications

Your goal is to make medical communications impactful to your HCPs — so much so that they make changes in their daily practice that lead to better patient outcomes.

The communication strategies you launch can make a difference in how healthcare professionals (HCPs) treat patients.

Leaders in this industry are excellent at crafting strong, factual scientific messages that change outcomes for patients. In such a data-driven field, why is it a universal struggle to understand, measure and attribute performance?

You aren’t alone if this is a sticking point for your team. Measuring key performance indicators and developing solid analytical strategies has challenged many of us. There isn’t a straightforward, off-the-shelf solution ready at your fingertips. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to measure the impact your communications have on your intended audience.

Assessing the performance of communication strategy components is key to building a feedback loop that helps you see what works and what doesn’t. Once you’ve created a solid metrics strategy, you can expect improved medical communication strategies that resonate with your audience and drive better patient outcomes.

How the Use of Metrics for Medical Communications is Evolving

The pharmaceutical industry is simultaneously going through an analytical renaissance and a period of declining resources and increased competition. The ongoing digital revolution has opened the door for in-depth observation of audience behavior and data-driven omnichannel communication strategies.

But compliance and regulations make navigation tricky in these newly discovered waters.

Traditionally, surface-level metrics like frequency of publishing, and quantity of publications were considered sufficient metrics of success. Now the digital world is teaching us that those are merely indications of activity, not of impact.

To make informed strategic decisions, it’s vital to consider the impact of your activities, not just the activities themselves.

What We Can Learn From Other Industries

Though other industries don’t have these unique constraints like compliance, regulations and strict parameters around patient privacy, the strategies for gathering and analyzing metrics can be illuminating for medcomms leaders.

There’s an opportunity to adapt these methods to be compatible with our industry constraints and useful for creating impactful strategies.

Personas and Journey Mapping

Both business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries understand the value of creating personas, tracking the customer journey to the most granular extent possible and understanding the needs and pain points of the audience.

Within these personas and journey maps, there are different metric sets that can uncover specific insights. With enough different sets of metrics, these insights then can be put together to form a picture of what drives HCPs to take action.

For example, a pharmaceutical company wants to educate a specific subset of HCPs on how the mechanism of action of its new first-in-class drug works using an online education platform. To measure the effectiveness of the communication strategies targeted at this persona, a set of metrics would include traffic to the online platform, amount of registration numbers and feedback medical science liaisons (MSLs) receive from surveys on the credibility of the online platform.

Gathering and Combining Data

Both business-to-business and business-to-consumer organizations have figured out how to track activity and use the data to their advantage. Pharmaceutical companies fall somewhere in between. You have HCPs to communicate with, but also their patients. In a sense, that’s both businesses and consumers.

For an online clothing retailer, website clicks and add-to-carts show consideration from a consumer. A software company that sells to real estate companies might be more interested in how webpage traffic and time on page show that a prospect is interested in learning more.

Medical communications has a more complex journey, but we can still paint a useful picture with analytics. Other industries rely heavily on user-provided, or first-party, data to gather information. Since this is information web users provide themselves, it’s safe and reliable to track.

Combining this first-party data with other, perhaps more generalized data sources can help you paint an accurate picture of the impact of your medical communications. This is because using multiple sources of data like your owned data, self-reported data from HCPs, and data from any online platforms you employ for your information, adds nuance and context that a single metric channel cannot provide alone.

4 Strategies to Measure and Evaluate Your Medical Communications

There’s not one list of metrics that serves as a panacea for medical communications directors. Metrics need to have a strategy all their own, customized for your goals and tactics.

1. Focus on metrics sets, not standalone data points.

Every deliverable, tactic and strategy requires its own set of metrics to fully understand performance. You can’t get a true idea of holistic performance by isolating metrics. A video animation that has a very low number of total views may seem unsuccessful. If the same video has a high click-through rate to the publication it’s a part of, the metrics tell a different story. A small, but highly engaged audience is more of a success than large viewership with poor engagement.

Metric sets vary. The format of the communications deliverables, goals and audiences will all change how you should be measuring. Some examples of good metric sets are:

  • Views, time on page and clicks to measure the engagement of an interactive publication extender
  • Page traffic and downloads to measure the consumption of a text-based publication
  • Online registrations and sentiment analysis survey results to measure how communications have impacted audience opinion

2. Don’t be afraid to guess, test and revise.

As medical communications leaders, it’s important to embrace the unknown. You’ll consistently be operating in an environment of incomplete data. The more visibility you have, the better informed your strategy can be, but there will always be a hypothesis to test and refine.

Using metrics helps you determine benchmarks that will indicate success and data points that validate your efforts. If you find you are off track, there’s no reason not to take a step back, review and recalculate your strategies based on new information.

3. Understand what impacts metrics.

Like a scientist, you have to be open to the possibility that your hypothesis might fail.

Maybe one metric shows excellent results and the rest of your communications strategy is underperforming. Or all the metrics aren’t giving you a clear picture of your results.

Fully understanding all the factors that impact your data analysis is important. Metrics have limitations and can be influenced by external factors. Before you craft a strategy, you need to fully understand what each metric adds to your strategy and how to interpret them as a whole. Staying alert, monitoring results and diligently making changes when required will allow you to extract value from your metrics, regardless of external influences and limitations.

4. Plan your metrics strategy as you plan your communications activities.

As you create your integrated Medical Communication strategy and tactics, you should be developing your metrics strategy in tandem.

Deciding on metrics at the beginning of your strategic planning process allows you to gather data throughout your whole endeavor. It’s never too early to start gathering data and measuring specific metrics. Historical data can play a role in blended attribution models, where you can view similar efforts and time frames comparatively and review a big-picture impact.

The Quest for Perfect Medical Communications Metrics

A perfect metric set for medical communications leaders just doesn’t exist. But you can get close through a deliberate process of trial and revision. Much like the rest of the industry, rigorous testing and reviewing can lead to excellent results.

Measuring the impact communication strategies and activities have on your audience is an imperfect science. But by thinking critically and analytically, you can learn what works and what doesn’t.

The more data you collect, review and analyze, the more likely you’ll be to strengthen your measurement capabilities and ultimately, your organization’s impact.