New PDR Network business unit consolidates pharma spending in EHR communications

4th Channel brings pharma messaging to hundreds of electronic health-record systems

The portion of prescribers now doing work through installed electronic health-record (EHR) systems is now approaching 70%, driven by federal funding (and future penalty) incentives; and they spend the bulk of their working day in the systems. That creates an attractive channel for pharma companies to communicate with them. While some EHR vendors (or their health-system clients) restrict such communications, others depend on it as a way to make the systems more affordable. For several years now, PDR Network has been circling around the periphery of this activity, offering manufacturers a way to integrate both promotional messaging and compliance messages (such as Dear Dr. letters or REMS communications) along with the drug-database information that has been offered for years through the Physician’s Desk Reference.

Now, designating EHR communications as the fourth channel (the other three are print, online and mobile), PDR Network (Montvale, NJ) is going after pharma funding directly with the 4th Channel business unit. “The potential of EHR systems as a valuable communications channel has been assumed all along, but in the past year it has really taken off,” says Jeff Davis, SVP of sales for the new unit. “Done right, it enables information that prescribers value to be delivered in the digital workflow of the prescriber, including at the point of prescribing.”

“Done right” means not simply pushing out banners or other online promotions, says Davis. Useful information includes up-to-date warnings or FDA label changes (an activity that pharma companies’ compliance officers expend considerable resources in communicating); new clinical results, patient education resources and the like. In the works are potential tools for drug pricing and patient support.

PDR Network claims 28 EHR system “channel vendors” who in turn are linked to a total 225 EHR vendors, reaching about 170,000 ambulatory care physicians. (That’s a third or so of the multiple EHR vendors operating today, and a comparable proportion of physicians.) 4th Channel, which is up and running, has already handled campaigns for 50 pharma brands. “For individual pharma companies to stitch together their own networks, one by one, it’s a daunting task,” says Davis. “We offer a way for manufacturers to reach across many systems and networks with a single form of communication.” He adds, though, that with the fast-growing EHR environment today, no one vendor can reach all or even most of the audience. “It’s still in a building stage.”