Physicians in China

Furthering Digital Landscape

Diana Tan,  General Manager, Kantar Health, China

Adele Li,  Commercial Director, Kantar Health, China

2016 study finds innovative channels account for more than 60 per cent of medical information acquired.

As traditional methods of targeting doctors become less effective and online usage within the healthcare community grows, it is becoming increasingly important for pharmaceutical stakeholders to understand exactly how doctors consume information and communicate digitally.

Digital Life Physician 2016, conducted by Kantar Health and DXY, reveals that innovative information channels—such as social media, online meetings, video conferences and mobile applications.—now account for more than 60 per cent of the medical information acquired by physicians in China. More than 10,000 respondents participated in the survey, now in its fourth year, from both web and mobile survey apps, covering more than 20 specialty areas (Figure 1 & 2).

Furthermore, 85 per cent of the physicians commented that they had responded positively to digital marketing activities or tools. Over half of the physicians also commented that they are receptive to receiving pharma-originated online meterials, but are more interested in impartial information such as case studies, medical updates and literature reviews (Figure 3).

"With each generation of our study it is becoming abundantly clear that physicians in China are rapidly adopting digital information channels as a primary means to consume information and communicate," said Diana Tan, General Manager of China at Kantar Health. "This deep and unique insight about how physicians are accessing and using digital resources presents opportunities for astute healthcare stakeholders, as marketers will benefit from deeper, more productive engagements that will ultimately improve patient care."

About the Study

Digital Life Physician 2016 is the largest online physician survey in China that is purely focused on picturing the real life, online behaviour of physicians in China and the competitive digital landscape.

The study measures three elements:

1. Physician Behaviour–featuring an evaluation of customer behaviours on digital channels and platforms. Data collected and insights formulated include physician online time and segmented professional time, device ownership rates and usage, innovative activities engagement, and professional and academic needs and preferences.

2. Company Performance–featuring a ranking, overall and by innovative platforms, of leading players and competitive benchmarking based on customer voices. Here we include a ranking of digitally savvy pharmaceutical companies and digitally active marketers by company and brand segments.

3.  Best Practices–featuring case studies that showcase key execution details and findings. This includes best practices and examples, as well as key learning and strategic implications.

The 2016 edition of Digital Life Physician offers physician segmentation based on their online behaviours and receptiveness toward digital marketing tools, giving pharma stakeholders an improved perspective in target-marketing and a more customised application (Figure 4).

Digital Life Physician offers a comprehensive view of the physician digital landscape in China that is based on a large, robust and recent sample encompassing more than 20 medical specialties. The structure of the online sample is designed to resemble the structure of the true physician population as closely as possible, including both geographic and specialty distributions. For example, the geographic distribution of our physician sample was 54 per cent from East China, 28 per cent from Middle China, and 18 per cent from West China, compared with the actual China physician population of 47 per cent from East China, 29 per cent from Middle China, and 24 per cent from West China.

Key Findings

According to data from Digital Life Physician, doctors spent more than half of their connected time on professional activities in 2016, up slightly from 2015. Physicians spent an average of 27.4 hours online per week in 2016 compared with an average of 24.2 hours in 2015. The 2016 study revealed that an average of 14.6 hours was spent on professional-related activities versus12.3 hours in 2015.

In addition, senior-level physicians (Chief Doctor), Tier I cities and Level 1/community hospitals recorded an increase in time spent on work-related activities via the internet (Figure 5).

Most Popular Online Activities

The focus of physicians' online, medical-related activities can be categorised into the following six categories, of which ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Search’ attracted the largest amount of time.

• Continuous Medical Education (CME)– CME and online training, including online courses and lectures, surgical videos, patient case analysis, webinars and online examinations.
• Knowledge – Physician sourcing of professional information online using medical portals, medical information websites, product websites, encyclopaedia websites and association websites to acquire disease and treatment, product, and conference and exhibition information.
• Tools – Physicians’ use of online devices that assist their clinical practice, research and education, including online professional dictionaries, pharmacopoeia, reference retrieval, scaling and atlases.
• Peer – Physicians connecting and sharing articles with peers online; writing professional blogs, articles, reviews and comments; and following, communicating or cooperative authoring with peers on social networking sites (SNS) and bulletin board systems (BBS).
• Caring – Physician interaction with patients, participation in patient education and counselling, support programs, answering of patient questions online, and provision of online consulting services.
• Search–Physician use of professional search engines and/or databases to find articles, books, guidelines, literature and related information.

WeChat and Medical-Related Accounts

WeChat is a popular communication application and messenger among Chinese mobile consumers. Data from Digital Life Physician found that WeChat is also an important means for physicians to acquire medical-related information. Over 94 per cent of Chinese physicians own a smartphone and nearly all physicians have installed WeChat. Among medical physicians, more than 97 per cent subscribed to receive news updates from medical-related public accounts on WeChat (Figure 6). More than 50 per cent of physicians commented that they read all or most ‘push messages’ sent from medical-related sources on WeChat. Interestingly, of respondents 44 per cent canceled their medical-related subscriptions within the first four weeks.

Furthermore, Digital Life Physician 2016 uncovers some alarming trends regarding medical-related mobile applications. Most notably, while more than 90 per cent of physicians have installed medical-related apps on their smartphones, over 60 per cent have deleted these apps, most often within four weeks of installing. The main reasons given for deleting the apps are that they are not useful or fail to meet physicians' professional needs.

Deeper, More Productive Engagement

Digital Life Physician demonstrates that digital is gaining strength among physicians in China. This illustrates that more opportunities are abound for astute pharmaceutical companies as they engage and increase their presence in China's digital landscape. In our latest study, Chinese physicians highlighted  that they welcome digital activities developed by pharmaceutical companies, with 58 per cent saying they are willing to participate in online activities developed by pharma companies. As physicians are spending an increasing amount of time on the internet and are more willing to participate in more diverse professional activities, pharmaceutical marketers are likely to benefit from deeper and productive engagements from physicians. Physicians' online needs are growing and their overall receptive attitudes toward digital marketing and online activities developed by biopharma companies are optimistic and positive.

Chinese physicians perceive that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by ‘going digital.’ The pharmaceutical industry's significant investment and efforts in the digital environment is already paying off for many companies.

-- Issue 34 --

Author Bio

Diana Tan
Diana Tan leads the China team in providing evidence based insights and consultancy services for healthcare clients to grow their businesses. She helps healthcare clients to understand how doctors are responding to the new digital, multichannel environment in which they operate and how this environment will help them better treat their patients.
Adele Li
As the primary business engagement Director for Kantar Health, Adele Li leads its business growth and development in China. She focuses primarily on utilizing innovative research methodology, developing unique syndicated offerings and managing a high quality research team to deliver industry leading services for pharmaceutical and medical device companies.