A Digital First, Human-Centric, HCP Communication Approach for the Post-COVID Era

Written by
Mads Krogh Petersen
A Digital First, Human-Centric, HCP Communication Approach for the Post-COVID Era

It is no news that many HCPs feel their workload is unsustainable and their role is becoming increasingly unattractive (1). At the same time, most doctors feel that sales reps are failing to understand the real impact of COVID-19 on them (2) and less than one in three physicians want to continue to receive the same number of rep visits as in pre-COVID age (3).

So why is this happening?

First, movement in the societal tectonic plates are exerting immense pressure on the Healthcare system including the professional lives of HCPs.

Second, HCP live digital lives. The digital ecosystem is the go-to-place for HCPs to easily collect content to form opinions and attitudes regarding new opportunities and threats as regards treatment, patient care, practice optimization and, of course, for private tasks.

Third, HCP are first and foremost human beings, not doctors. Efficacy, safety, patient profile data, indication, access & reimbursement info, evidence-sharing (trial), real world data, patient support material, etc, are all absolutely necessary and should be prioritized accordingly. But they are hygiene and are rarely sufficient to foster anything but a transactional connection rather than meaningful relationship between the healthcare company and HCP. In this context, “meaningful” means that the HCP feels you have her long-term interest in mind when interacting; that you (the healthcare company) would be missed you if were not here tomorrow and not easily substituted with an alternative partner (read: supplier) and that your interaction is based on a deep founded understanding of the individual, not only in a narrow notion of her in a professional capacity as a doctor, but as a human being.

What to do?

There are 2 things healthcare companies need to do to rekindle the relationship with HCP:

1)The healthcare company needs to understand the digital life of the HCPs to largest possible extent. This should entail conducting an observational digital landscaping exercise following the principles of a basic demand and supply model. The "demand" is crudely represented by the expression of unmet needs, values, attitudes in social media and Search and the “supply” is expressed by the content that is offered digitally by the different actors (commercial and non-commercial) to meet that demand. These insights are the pre-requisite for creating insights driven initiatives and ultimately gaining what we at Vertic call Zero Degrees of Separation.

The insights should be tied directly into the definition of a multichannel strategy featuring a number of initiatives linked together in roadmap carrying the HCP across the journey with an insights driven application of digital and analogue channels.  

2) To treat HCPs as “human beings” first and foremost, healthcare companies need to adopt a full-fledged taxonomy for human needs, rather than a marketing model focusing merely on what HCP behaviors the healthcare company needs to change to fulfill given business objectives. Academia offers a full range of models which can underpin a human-centric model for HCP communication. Below is an example, featuring an adoption of Desmet & Fokking’s model for 13 foundational needs that all human beings move toward for fulfillment.

Scientific oriented content is the focus of healthcare companies’ communication towards HCPs and help to fulfill the human need for Competence which encompasses the drive to further professional knowledge & understanding. But helping the HCP to meet the 12 remaining human needs will help reinforcing the connection to the healthcare company. For example, could any of your initiatives in addition addressing Competence, help the doctor feel more energetic (Fitness), a greater sense of personal growth(Purpose), or a part of long standing tradition (Rooting)?

Marketing and Medical communication initiatives that on the back of digital observational insights address a combination of human needs allow healthcare companies to cement relationships to doctors and earn Share of Life™. Have a look at a few examples of Share of Life™ concepts here.



1. GP views on strategies to cope with increasing workload: a qualitative interview study (

2. COVID-19:Impact on HCPs Behavior | Accenture

3. Why pharma isn’t yet achieving digital excellence, and how it can get there -(

4. Beyond Maslow’s Pyramid: Introducing a Typology of Thirteen Fundamental Needs for Human-Centered Design

Written by

Mads Krogh Petersen

President and Co-Founder

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