Survey Says: How HCPs Want to Hear from You Digitally


Healthlink Dimensions surveys hundreds of HCPs on their preferred communications

The confounding thing about our new digital world is that there are so many ways to keep in touch. When it comes to reaching HCPs, you have to understand that they aren’t a monolithic group. It’s crucial for marketing and sales professionals to understand the breakdown of preferences so that communication becomes efficient.

In order to help life science organizations better gauge the most effective channels specific to their industry and audience, HealthLink Dimensions conducts an annual Healthcare Professional Communication Survey. This year’s survey polled 787 physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to glean insight into healthcare professionals’ needs and preferences.

Survey respondents practice in the following areas: family practice, pediatrics, internal medicine, general surgery, obstetrics & gynecology, dermatology, cardiology, oncology, neurology, podiatry, rheumatology and otolaryngology. The responses from the survey yield important clues as to how organizations can best communicate with healthcare providers.

Communication is not linear among all audiences. Preferences vary among nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physicians, so it can be a challenge to determine which channels are most effective to reach each group.


When searching for information on drugs, devices and disease state knowledge, NPs, PAs and MDs all leverage online sources, mainly UpToDate, WebMD, ePocrates and medical journal websites. While it’s important to be aware of this, email still comes out on top as the favored channel for communication for a variety of purposes among all parties.

For example, 75 percent of NPs and PAs and 66 percent of MDs prefer email for communication regarding:

  • Industry news
  • Product updates
  • Research opportunities

And while all three groups believe more interaction is necessary from insurance carriers and other payers, 50 percent of doctors believe email is the best tool for these organizations to provide timely updates.


To keep up with these busy healthcare providers’ schedules and preferences, life science organizations and insurance networks must stay aware of access preferences. Specifically, almost 52 percent of NPs/ PAs and 46 percent of MDs utilize mobile devices, while almost 53 percent of NPs/PAs and 51 percent of MDs use desktop computers to comb through their emails. Since both forms are similarly popular, industry professionals need to emphasize these choices when developing a communication strategy.

Fast Facts:

  • Ensure that email campaigns are optimized for mobile in design, content and call to action (CTA)
  • To keep these working professionals engaged, all text should be kept concise while CTAs should require only a short amount of providers’ time


Although medical professionals may use today’s popular social platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) in their spare time, there’s not much of a purpose in their professional careers.

Per the survey, 66 percent of NPs/ PAs and 63 percent of MDs don’t use social media to communicate with patients. Instead, only one-third of these medical professionals are active on social media— mainly Twitter, LinkedIn, SERMO and Doximity—primarily for networking with their colleagues and peers.

That’s not to say this trend won’t change over time, especially when 57 percent of NPs/PAs and 56 percent of MDs see value in these platforms and stated they will likely participate in the future.


Although social media is slow on the uptake for medical professionals, digital marketing strategies, such as display advertising, are popular.

Just over one-third of respondents to HealthLink Dimension’s survey stated they would be likely or very likely to click on programmatic ads if the content was relevant to their practice. This marketing method may be an efficient channel for brand awareness as time goes on, especially since even those healthcare providers who rarely click for more information tend to retain the overall messaging and source.



No matter the method of communication, NPs, PAs and MDs all agree that the type of information they most desire from healthcare companies and patient advocacy organizations is educational in nature.

Fast Facts:

  • At the top of the list for all these groups are disease state materials, followed closely by pharmaceutical and medical device educational resources
  • 50 percent of NPs/PAs and 46 percent of MDs frequently use printed materials provided to their practices, as well as both sponsored and unsponsored websites for patient referrals
  • Information and care revolving around the patient are becoming increasingly popular


As the shift from fee-for-service to value-based care becomes more widespread, pharmaceutical companies and other life science organizations are dedicating more resources towards assisting in the effort to improve patient outcomes. For some organizations, it may be difficult to discern if patient-centric initiatives such as patient education resources and apps, patient assistance programs, etc. make a significant impact. According to survey respondents, they do.

Fast Facts:

  • Around 63 percent of NPs and PAs and 55 percent of MDs feel patient-centric initiatives are having a positive impact
  • As the provider’s patient load and administrative requirements continue to increase, life science organizations can help lessen the burden by helping to inform and support the patient from diagnosis through treatment


While NPs and PAs are split as to whether they believe future changes will have minimal or detrimental impact, MDs are surer of the outcome. Around 46 percent of doctors expect possible healthcare reform to be harmful to their practices, while only 20 percent feel optimistic about the changes they may see in their business. It’s critical for industry leaders and healthcare providers alike to be cognizant of any present or forthcoming legislation that could influence the field. Communication between the two parties will become increasingly important as the new administration implements changes.


Developing a communication strategy is no easy feat for life science organizations, but utilizing the aforementioned information is a good place to start. To maximize the effect of these outreach efforts, these groups need to ensure their data is clean and accessible. Lack of usable information will only result in dissatisfied health care providers and the desire for more helpful insight and materials. Furthermore, approaching communication from a multi-channel perspective will likely be the most effective, as medical professionals rely on various forms of technology during their daily activities.

It’s critical for life science organizations, PPO networks, insurance carriers and more to truly understand their audience and its communication preferences to not only identify the most powerful channels but create successful marketing and educational materials.

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