17.09.2021 | Health Strategy

Enabling Insights-led Behaviour Change

By Laura McIntyre

Behaviour change

Create change instead of reacting to new behaviours 

The use of social media amongst the healthcare professionals was already on the rise, when just at the start of the pandemic we saw a nearly 50% increase in HCPs talking online. With the usual face-to-face collaboration and educational channels gone, HCPs turned to public and closed platforms for their information and peerworking needs. Many increased their professional activity online, while others created social media accounts for the first time.

In addition to that, COVID-19 brought change to how HCPs supported and treated their patients. Telemedicine has seen a sudden surge in its use within the health sector during the pandemic, and many HCPs are positively convinced it is here to stay.

In the past 18 months medical congress meetings became 100% virtual with only a small number starting to embrace hybrid hosting. Both pharma and HCPs found ways to successfully adapt to these changes through the use of virtual booths, presentations and discussions, e-posters, TweetUps, hashtags and other tools. 

The rep visits were declining the past years and while virtual will never fully replace the face-to-face connection, some HCPs expressed their preference of remote interactions and have leaned into collaborating with their peers online. In the light of this, many pharma companies found value in digital HCP insights to give them a better understanding of the online landscape, where their HCPs were now engaging more than ever before. They learned about their customers’ digital behaviours and their unmet needs and were able to anticipate and seize countless opportunities to support them in a virtual setting. They had entirely digital insight-led product launches and developed meaningful relationships with Digital Opinion Leaders.

While online HCP customer intelligence has played an important role in adapting and responding to change, can it be also used to create and support a desired behaviour change?

Using insights to support behaviour change

For over 20 years, CREATION.co has worked with pharmaceutical companies helping them not only understand and respond to the changing HCP behaviours but leverage digital HCP insights to influence and form new behaviours.

Throughout this time we have seen that the insight-led behaviour change process has 5 stages:


It is important to approach the behaviour change from a strategic perspective. We have seen too many companies start initiatives without a clear vision or objectives, simply because their competitors have the same initiatives or it has become a trend. A good example would be with Digital Opinion Leaders (DOL) – an area that has become of key interest to many organisations. However not all DOL mapping exercises end up producing meaningful results and the reason often lies in skipping this initial step of “preparation”.

In order to set your initiative on the track to success you must harness the knowledge, experience and intelligence of your cross functional team and answer the following questions:

  1. What HCP behaviour do you want to change and why? What would the ideal outcome look like? Be specific.
  2. What are the hypotheses that you have?
  3. Ask the team what insights do you (or other teams?) already have available? Make note of any gaps in your knowledge.
  4. What will be the success indicators? Change doesn’t happen overnight and success needs to be measured gradually – challenge your team to think about what will be the leading indicators of success.


After you have identified the goals and objectives and developed success measures, the next step is to pair that with the deeper understanding of current HCP behaviours in your therapy area.

  1. Analyse the online HCP landscape to understand what are the specifics and influences of current HCP behaviours. For example, how are HCPs talking about late diagnosis and prescribing challenges, how are HCPs currently choosing between two treatments? Does the data suggest that they are open to and welcoming change? Are there indications of the need for change?

Look for unmet needs or issues that stand in the way of the desired behaviour change among the HCPs. Is there lack of awareness or knowledge when it comes to diagnosis? Lack of information on best practices in testing? Do HCPs have enough guidance to make informed diagnostic and treatment decisions? Or perhaps the obstacle is a mindset that needs a shift?

A great example of mindset change and overcoming issues is the recent advances in the SGLT2 inhibitors in heart failure. A treatment that has sat in the endocrinology space for years is now at the doorstep of heart disease specialists and we see cardiologists in need of support when it comes to answering questions around initiating treatment and following up with the patients.

With many treatment landscapes getting more and more complex, we often see areas where there is too much information (and misinformation!) scattered across different platforms. HCPs face a challenge of bringing the key information together and consolidating it for easier use, which often results in creating their own resources to help their peers.


As you analyse the therapy area online landscape, you will notice that HCP behaviours are influenced and shaped by many different factors, organisations, publications, individuals and events. Now that you have a thorough understanding of what might be standing in the way of your desired behaviour change it is time to identify change champions, allies who can “set the scene”:

  1. Identify and understand your influential organisations and HCPs (Digital Opinion Leaders) who either share the same vision for change or are open to it in order to form mutually beneficial collaborations that will change behaviours. We cannot stress enough that such partnerships are not born overnight and establishing trust takes time.
  2. Identify the most credible sources of information your HCPs look to when making daily decisions.
  3. Identify the preferred content format that HCPs learn through online. Education plays a significant role in changing behaviours but it needs to resonate with the HCPs and be easily accessible. Do your HCPs prefer infographics? Or are they drawn to webinars and online educational discussions? Do they participate or host Tweetchats? Do they find most value in flowcharts and algorithms? Or do they prefer opportunities for peer collaboration?
  4. Identify how online platforms are used by your HCPs to learn. For example HCPs might use Sermo for peer to peer education through long form posts including success and failure stories of diagnosis/treatment and they will use Twitter for instant and more visual learning, especially during key scientific events such as congress.


Now is the time to consolidate the learnings and utilise the insights you have gathered. Make sure you revisit the goals, objectives and KPIs you identified in the first stage and develop actions that tie directly into that. The right set of next steps will have a good balance between the “low hanging fruit” and more ambitious high impact actions. Each action should have its designated owner within the team and clear accountability.

Some of the next steps coming out of this might include:

  1. Making sure you include influential stakeholders in your overall customer engagement strategy and plans. Help your team and MSLs to initiate conversations with them.
  2. Establishing relationships and educating the influential stakeholders.
  3. Collaborating with influential organisations, PAGs and DOLs to develop preferred materials, activities and resources that will start addressing the unmet needs, gaps of knowledge and misinformation among the wider HCP community.


Last but not least, monitor HCP online conversations to look for success indicators and then measure the outcomes complementing this with other more traditional insights. It is paramount to continue to keep the finger on the pulse in order to be able to assess and re-evaluate your tactics regularly and of course, correct as necessary. Changing behaviours might present new challenges along the way for the HCP community, and pharma companies have the opportunity to be seen as invested, reliable and supportive partners.

Moving forward to better patient care and HCP support

While we all need to be able to respond and adapt to change, as we move forward to better patient care and HCP support, behaviour changes in diagnosis and treatment need to take place. Through the online HCP insight-led behaviour change process you can identify effective approaches and strategies that not only encourage positive behaviour change but support and sustain it in the long run.

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Meet the Author

Laura McIntyre

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