Published 11 August 2021

Delivering valuable independent medical education programmes

In the next instalment in EPG Health’s HCP engagement series, Abhi Chakravorty looks at medical education’s new trajectory and how to build programmes that are credible, engaging and impactful.

In these times of turmoil there are some reassuring constants when it comes to independent medical education (IME), which continues to be appreciated by healthcare professionals (HCPs) for offering fair and balanced information.

But all is not entirely static with IME. The pandemic has wrought some significant changes to live events, driving acceleration in online education (read more about how COVID-19 has changed medical meetings in the first part of the HCP engagement series).

As new learning configurations are needed for the emerging ‘new normal’ environment, pharma companies need to focus on both the constant considerations for delivering effective medical education and the need to respond to new patterns of HCP content consumption.

Ensuring credible, independence and trusted medical education

One of those constants is the importance of IME programmes. HCPs themselves say they are a great way for pharma companies to earn trust, by supporting information and advice that is fair and balanced and will ultimately improve patient care and outcomes.

Working with a third-party that is viewed as a valued partner by HCPs is one of the most important ways to bolster the credibility of, and trust in, the IME that pharma supports. Fairly or not, learning resources directly created by a pharma company often carry an inherent perception of not being without bias, and so might not be viewed as an entirely trusted source.

Internally produced pharma content can also present another challenge, with its tendency to getting bogged down in regulatory and compliance processes. The rules are absolutely necessary to help protect patient safety, but from a process point of view they are not necessarily something that pharma companies are well set up to deal with.

Consequently, despite the high esteem in which IME is held, only 12% of pharma surveyed by EPG Health in 2019 viewed it as a focus for them. Yet IME is something that third-party partners are perfectly set up to assist with, offering a wealth of expertise and speed of execution for work that can allow pharma companies to focus their energies on brand led exercises.

Read examples of three IME programmes delivered through COVID-19

Evolving the format of IME to meet HCPs’ digital demands

HCPs actively look for IME and, in order to keep their continuing professional development (CPD) up to date, they’re swayed towards accredited learning. For obvious reasons, face-to-face accredited events have had to take a bit of a backseat during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, as we move to the ‘new normal’, there will be an increase in demand for accredited IME in the form of virtual and hybrid meetings as well as other forms of online learning.

If they are to respond to this emerging trend, pharma companies should be looking for partners that are credible and can draw on experience and results from established audiences with specific specialties, roles and geographies. Then they need to have an iron-clad approach to delivering value so that HCPs are clear how a programme will improve their clinical practice and help their patients.

To do this it’s crucial to pick the right types and formats for programmes based on the evolving ways HCPs are choosing to learn. Although different HCPs learn in different ways, we’ve long noticed that visual content, such as infographics and videos, trumps written content. Now, podcasts’ audio-only approach is seeing it draw level with videos in terms of engagement, with both video and podcasts providing valuable opportunities for HCPs to consolidate their learning.

Read how an independent podcast series added value and credibility to a pharma sponsored platform

Read how a medical congress roundtable was chunked into a series of video e-learning modules


We know that IME is HCPs’ preferred type of learning and for years has been trending towards online sources.

In our pre-pandemic study, HCPs cited independent medical websites as their preferred source of clinical practice information, with 72% visiting them on a weekly basis, compared to just 21% for pharma’s own educational websites.

We’ve since conducted follow-up research on pharma-HCP engagement and education, including independent medical education, and this confirms that the higher demand for independent, online sources will continue. (It will be published in November 2021.)

As the healthcare world’s digital transformation continues, pharma’s challenge is to support medical education programmes that are as relevant and engaging as possible by meeting HCPs’ needs according to source, channel, content and format.

  • Read three case studies on providing credible, unique, relevant, engaging and impactful medical education, while maintaining high compliance standards

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About the author

Abhi Chakravorty

Senior Account Director, EPG Health

Abhi joined EPG Health in 2019 with over 20 years’ experience in pharmaceutical sales and marketing.  As a senior account director, he manages key global pharma accounts, overseeing the design, execution, evolution and insight for their medical education programmes, to drive value, effectiveness and impact for HCPs and clients.

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