By Harriet Smith, RD, Founder of HRS Communications 
 
Healthcare professionals (HCPs) play an important role in improving the health of the population. 
 
In the UK, a healthcare professional is defined as “a person associated with either a specialty or a discipline and who is qualified and allowed by regulatory bodies to provide a healthcare service to a patient.” 
 
Here are two important reasons why your food, nutrition or medical nutrition brand should engage with an HCP audience... 

HCPs serve as indirect brand ambassadors 

HCPs are viewed by the general public as trusted and credible experts. The public turn to them for advice and support on topics relating to health and nutrition. Although HCPs must be honest and trustworthy, and impartial and objective in their actions towards service users, they are not prevented from working with brands. 
 
Food, nutrition and medical nutrition brands should engage with relevant HCPs to educate them on topics relevant to their products and services. For example, a probiotic company that we work with runs lunch and learn sessions for HCPs on gut health and the microbiome. Oral nutrition supplement companies that we work with offer free webinars, articles and roundtables for HCPs. The overall aim is providing HCPs with useful, evidence-based information, which is relevant to their clinical practice. 
 
You may be surprised to learn that dietitians (and other HCPs) are allowed to make brand recommendations if they are client-centred and unbiased. The British Dietetic Association adds that: “this may mean providing details of several products services so the client can make an informed decision.” 
 
What does this mean for your brand? Word of mouth and personal recommendation are powerful marketing tools. Consider engaging with HCPs through your social media channels, e-marketing and digital content. 
 
At HRS, we work with market-leading food, nutrition and medical nutrition brands to connect them with an HCP audience, who serve as indirect brand ambassadors. 

HCPs must engage in Continuing Professional Development (CPD) learning activities 

As part of their professional registration requirements, HCPs must engage in Continuing Professional Development (CPD). CPD refers to the process of maintaining and developing skills, knowledge and expertise needed to perform in a professional context. 
 
The Health and Care Professions Council (who regulate 15 health and care professions in the UK) states that CPD allows “registrants continue to learn and develop throughout their careers so they keep their skills and knowledge up to date and are able to practise safely and effectively.” As a requirement of the regulatory bodies, HCPs in the UK are required to undertake CPD on a continuing basis, made up of activities that enhance their practice and learning. 
 
Suitable CPD activities may include: 
Self-directed learning i.e. reading articles/magazines/blogs/journals or completing an e-learning module 
Formal education i.e. completing a course, conducting research 
Professional activity i.e. attending an event or conference, watching a webinar 
Work-based learning i.e. peer-reviewing performance, attending a committee 
 
HCPs must keep a portfolio documenting their CPD activities explaining how they have met the requirements for CPD. When HCPs renew their membership with their professional regulatory body, a small percentage will be asked to submit their CPD portfolio for audit to ensure that they are meeting the CPD standards required of registrants. 
 
What does this mean for your brand? This represents an ideal opportunity for you to engage with an HCP audience through the provision of free and relevant CPD learning activities. At HRS, we help our food, nutrition and medical nutrition brands to develop useful and evidence-based CPD learning activities, which are written and developed by HCPs for HCPs. We have created e-learning modules, videos, articles, webinars and trade industry magazine articles to support HCPs in meeting their CPD requirements, which are accredited for CPD by professional associations such as the British Dietetic Association. 

But HCPs aren’t our target audience? 

Whilst you may not market directly to HCPs, consumers are paying more attention to their health, wellness and nutrition than ever before. They are becoming increasingly interested in ways to manage and prevent disease through adopting a healthy lifestyle. 
 
The general public are turning to HCPs (both online and face-to-face) for evidence-based advice and support. Therefore, in a world of pseudoscience, it is imperative that food, nutrition and medical nutrition brands are the ones providing HCPs with this latest research, whilst indirectly raising awareness of the products and services that they offer to support and optimise health. 
If you found this article interesting, or would like any more information about HRS Communications and the services we provide, please contact us at info@hrscommunications.com
 
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