One a week. That’s how many approvals for new oncology agents or new uses of existing agents happened in the US from October 15th to December 1st of 2021. In cancers ranging from cervical to pediatric lymphomas/leukemia to non-small cell lung cancer, approvals for drugs that are meant to provide an advantage to patients over existing agents are on the rise with no clear signs of slowing down any time soon. In fact, oncology is predicted to be the largest therapy area by 2026, accounting for 22% of prescription drug sales.
And while a drastic uptick in new approvals can help to signal more innovative products are in the pipeline, it’s also likely to mean that oncologists are soon to be in desperate need of more meaningful connections with brands than ever before. With lives dependent upon their decisions, oncologists are left to make treatment decisions for the betterment of their patients all while navigating a growingly crowded and complex landscape. But they shouldn’t have to do it alone. As marketers, researchers and communicators, we have a responsibility to help them better understand the treatment landscape by meeting them where they are and in the ways that resonate best.
Most often their journey to understand available treatments starts with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines - a comprehensive set of guidelines detailing the sequential management decisions and interventions. They are created when leading experts in specific cancers gather to review the latest evidence on new cancer management approaches, categorize the strength of the evidence, and summarize into a set of statements and decision trees to aid decision making.
But that doesn’t necessarily make their treatment decision-making any easier. With rising page counts and even more complex decision trees as guidelines keep up with treatment advances, oncologists still need better. But what can that look like for them?
WHAT HEALTHCARE BRANDS CAN DO TO HELP
When we design advertising, promotion and support services for oncologists it has to be distinct and differentiating. We have to ensure that our work is simple enough to understand and memorable enough to remain top of mind when it’s time to make a treatment decision. Good advertising means we can shout louder than a data point found within 198 pages of guidelines. It can bring data to life in a way that 111 decision trees never can.
And to do that, we must understand what matters most to them in their treatment decisions. Luckily, we have some insights along the way to help get us there. Syneos Health has created a novel diagnostic system designed to gauge oncologists’ influences, beliefs, and behaviors – Oncology AnswerSuite. A large-scale, representative sample of US oncologists responded to a unique set of stimuli questioning to accurately gauge their prescribing influences, beliefs, behaviors and habits.
Consider these couple of different ways we can help create good advertising and make our work resonate even more:
Make treatment information and support on demand – for most oncologists, questions about treatments don’t only arise during initial meetings with sales reps – they can occur over its use. Brands that can offer on-demand services like 24/7 chatbots and dedicated forums for Q&A will make a huge difference in standing out from other treatment options.
Don’t downplay “beyond the pill” services – oncologists need to know that by engaging with a brand, they’ll be getting additional support for their patients that goes beyond just the treatment, such as tools and resources that can help their patients better track and manage their symptoms.
WHY THIS MATTERS
A review of the growing complexity of guidelines came to the conclusion that "if increases continue exponentially, the amount of data assimilation required to deliver optimal care may be unsustainable for individual practitioners.” Advertising can help oncologists assimilate data, so they can continue to deliver optimal care.