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How To Reach Nurse Practitioners And PAs And Why It's Important

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March 06, 2024

These Influential Providers Have Unique Communication Preferences

It's no secret the U.S. health system faces an acute shortage of physicians. From increasing administrative burdens, to declining reimbursements, to job burnout, doctors are leaving the profession, and not enough new recruits are filling their spots.

Fortunately, patients have not been left in a complete void amid the seemingly unending shortage. A new breed of providers has risen to the challenge of delivering care in nearly every clinical setting: Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (NPs) and Physician Associates/Physician Assistants.

In fact, the majority of healthcare consumers who access care with any degree of frequency have likely encountered an NP or PA as part of their healthcare journey. These highly-trained professionals handle a wide range of clinical responsibilities, including prescribing medicine, performing physical exams, and managing chronic diseases from heart failure to cancer.

As their prevalence and importance has increased, healthcare marketers, who have historically aimed referral campaigns at doctors, need to include NPs and PAs in their outreach to produce the best results from their campaigns. Whether you're seeking to affect prescribing behavior for pharmaceutical brands or generating referrals for specialty care, NPs and PAs need to be squarely in your sights. Likewise, healthcare marketers, including those who work at a healthcare advertising agency and those who work in healthcare public relations, need to fully understand how to reach these audiences.

A Collaboration To Unlock NPs' & PAs' Communication Preferences

For more than a decade, our client, HealthLink Dimensions, has been a go-to source for provider data. The company has the largest database of providers in the nation, and its data is audited for accuracy by BPA Worldwide. For these reasons (and many more), HealthLink Dimensions works with 11 of the 15 largest pharma companies to supply prescriber data.

In addition to its never-ending quest to amass more data for those enterprises that need to reach providers, HealthLink Dimensions has also invested in original research to better understand how to reach and influence physicians. Its annual HCP Report has become a "best seller" among healthcare marketers.

As HealthLink's marketing partner, our agency had the good fortune of being able to collaborate on the first study of NPs' and PAs' communication preferences. We worked closely with our HealthLink Dimensions colleagues to develop a survey that would uncover practical and actionable information for healthcare marketers seeking to reach this growing audience of physician extenders.

To complete the research, we leveraged HealthLink Dimensions' robust data trove, which includes contact information for more than 600,000 NPs and PAs, for whom they have email addresses for 90%. After collecting survey results over a months-long process, we jointly developed a first-of-its-kind report, available here.

The resulting NP and PA Communications Report serves as a valuable tool for any healthcare marketing firm, hospital and health system business development teams, and pharmaceutical companies seeking to enhance their provider outreach strategies.

Key Findings

The report highlights multiple findings, including NPs' and PAs' communication preferences, the frequency that they check email, and their opinions about in-person visits from sales reps and provider relations liaisons.

Specific key findings include:

  • Two-thirds of NPs and PAs report they write as many or more scripts than their physician counterparts, and they refer patients to specialists and other providers as much or more than the doctors with whom they work.

  • The vast majority of NPs and PAs want to receive useful information about new medicines and devices, and they're curious about how hospitals and health systems rank.

  • 49% of NPs and PAs rank email outreach as their preferred format for receiving unsolicited information from healthcare organizations and pharmaceutical companies.

  • Social media use is pervasive among PAs and NPs. 90% of respondents use social media in some capacity, and most about three-quarters use Meta platforms.

  • Continuing medical education ranks highest among topics for which they most want to receive information.

  • About two-thirds of NPs and PAs allow in-person visits at their workplaces from sales reps and provider relations liaisons.

  • 72% of NPs and PAs surveyed also value continuing education opportunities, preferring educational content over promotional messages.

  • Among nurse practitioners and physician assistants, two-thirds reported reading most emails on their smartphones.

Moving Ahead

The nuanced details revealed in the NP and PA Communications Report add valuable depth to our understanding of these increasingly important-to-reach healthcare decision-makers. For pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, health plans, and healthcare marketing firms, this information will enhance outreach strategies and build stronger connections with an essential audience.

For more insights about how to reach provider audiences, including NPs, PAs, and physicians of all specialties, contact us today.