BIO’s Head of Strategy Stu Whyte and Head of CX Veronica Naguib report on information flow within healthcare and discuss how pharmaceutical brands can evolve their value proposition to increase trust and advocacy, in a new article for PharmaTimes.
They argue that the growing pressure on capacity, the complex regulatory landscape and evolving standards of patient-doctor interactions have created a challenging ecosystem for pharmaceutical brands. The once vibrant and direct conversation flow between manufacturers, HCPs and patients is now squeezed beyond recognition and communication with patients is outdated. The current digital engagement tools just don’t go far enough when it comes to encouraging patient and HCP adoption.
Stu and Veronica talk about how in today’s healthcare ecosystem, HCPs act as information gatekeepers holding the power to control the flow of information across the information chain. Theoretically, this should ensure patients receive the correct information. But in the age of ‘Dr Google’ – and the extreme pressures HCPs are exposed to – it’s imperative for pharma to provide HCPs with better support and ensure that patients obtain reliable insight that empowers, rather than misinforms.
The article identifies three stakeholders within the healthcare information flow: the end-user (i.e. the patient), the advisor (i.e. the HCP) and the supplier (i.e. the pharmaceutical company). They explore the impact this changing landscape has had on communication flow and discuss potential scenarios to carve out a more transparent and visible connection, not just between pharma brands and doctors, but their patients as well.
Patients are more informed, but also more confused
Patients now hold more information than ever before: engaging in their own research to learn more about their symptoms, likely medication and potential illnesses. But while online and third-party advice provides a level of detail and intelligence that makes patients feel more informed, the number of information sources and varying levels of reliability mean they’re also significantly more confused. There is no single source of truth; knowledge is based on advice received from a combination of sources, including online communities, online research, friends, family, and HCPs. But relying on such peer-to-peer advice can lead to treatment complications. Patients often come to HCPs with biased presumptions on what they need. This can result in misdiagnosis, non-adherence to medication and the wrong treatment path.
Pharma is a business and perhaps it’s not surprising that BIO’s recent survey revealed that 59% of people believe pharmaceutical manufacturers care more about their profits than their patients. They think pharma brands are biased in their advice and are more likely to guide patients to request their specific medication rather than support them in choosing the correct treatment path. While advice should always remain on the HCP side, Stu and Veronica believe pharma brands must provide more than a product with a simple sales message if they want patients to view them more positively.
Rebuilding trust with HCPs
A recent Physicians Foundation study showed 81% of physicians claim they’re being stretched beyond full capacity and can only learn about new research and emerging treatments out-of-hours. But the way they are digesting new knowledge has not changed, highlighting an interesting gap and opportunity for pharmaceutical brands to provide HCPs with more innovative ways that can help them to quickly consume new insight and expand their knowledge.
In addition pharmaceutical manufacturers are not seen as providing services to assist HCPs with patient engagement. The Physicians Foundation shows only 30% of oncologists agree it’s easy to access information beyond that for medication; while 50% state they are more likely to prescribe a product if pharma company has superior patient support. The article argues that pharma brands have a clear opportunity to offer a wealth of accurate content that rebuilds trust and supports both HCPs and the patients. The benefit of moving the value proposition from product to service provider should be clear to pharma brands, and yet progress is surprisingly slow.
Four trust building pillars
Stu and Veronica identified four trust building pillars that can help pharma brands rethink the relationship with HCPs and patients. To rebuild trust, pharmas must evolve their value proposition, with direct-to-patient engagement being one of the major keystones. The four pillars are:
1. Reliability through contextual content
Meaningful content for pharma brands is about listening to and understanding conversations in the healthcare sector and providing active commentary, reliable advice, timely guidance and contextual education. This should go beyond a portfolio of own-brand products and must complement the changing requirements of HCPs, using the most appropriate channels and delivering mechanisms that satisfy their needs.2. Efficiency through responsive data
Data-driven solutions are slowly becoming the priority for a growing number of sectors. But data capture is still the most fundamental challenge physicians face in their everyday work. Patients are rarely able to provide detailed, accurate and rational insight when describing the symptoms they’re experiencing. Responsive data has the potential to boost understanding across efficacy and side effects.3. Accountability through complementary support
A lack of reassurance creates a significant blocker to a trusted relationship. HCPs are often sceptical about engaging with pharma’s technologies, so pharma brands must be able to easily demonstrate how they plan to leverage healthcare technology and how it will support them in providing care, while not affecting HCP’s position as the primary care provider.4. Responsiveness through cyclical communication
The existing regulatory landscape doesn’t yet cover digital and emerging technologies, creating barriers to entry for new solutions in the pharmaceutical space. If done correctly, an effective and cyclical communication with HCPs and patients builds trust. Ignoring a conversation is never a good solution.
The article concludes by commenting that smart data collection and the creation of meaningful patient engagement experiences have the capacity to transform the linear conversation flow into a more fluid and valuable ecosystem. Stu and Veronica strongly believe that evolving the pharmaceutical value proposition is key to rebuild meaningful HCP relationships. First movers have an opportunity to obtain massive commercial and brand positioning gains: