Work together, so everybody wins!
For a long time, I have been observing how healthcare professionals (HCPs) are talking about the pharmaceutical industry. In their social media conversations, I can see different topics and sentiments expressed. But the ‘gold nuggets’ I have looked to draw out here are the HCP conversations talking about how the pharmaceutical industry is supporting physicians and ideas on how they could support them better.
When I sit down with our clients, who are mostly from the top ten pharmaceutical companies, I can see their desire to build meaningful and trustworthy relationships with HCPs. They are aware that HCPs nowadays have less time to get information and news and this is why they are conducting research projects to understand what HCPs really need and want.
What else can the pharmaceutical industry do to collaborate and support HCPs? Let’s find out what HCPs think about pharma, based on analysing their unprompted conversations on social media with CREATION Pinpoint®:
HCPs feel pharma reps can be too focused on selling
Pharma reps are a traditional way for the industry to connect with HCPs. With the issue of time and workload, it becomes increasingly difficult for physicians to actually take some time to speak to a pharma rep face to face.
A1: currently don’t interact regularly w/pharma. Day 2 day practice in internal medicine these days involves seeing many patients (in my current practice setup working for organization), so I don’t have much extra time 2 dedicate to med representatives. Both good & bad. #SoMeDocs
— Dana Corriel, MD (@DrCorriel) August 15, 2019
Also, there are hospitals and clinics where pharma reps are not allowed anymore to speak directly to HCPs or even enter the facilities.
Also hospitals riddle me this: many hospitals have rules on not allowing Pharma reps in. Tell me how this is different then allowing a Pfizer to set up space in the gift shop
— Ashley Holub, PhD (@ashtroid22) January 7, 2020
HCPs recognise that education is key and necessary for the benefit of their patients. Many expressed that pharma reps are too focused on marketing and selling to their audience.
The hospital I work for it is illegal for us to meet any pharma reps and they are not allowed in for ads.
But on a broader note, we need to get rid of all marketing of the medications. If a medication is good it will survive the test of time
— BernTrooper-Professional Managerial Class Division (@TheBern420) November 23, 2019
A US Cardiologist tweeted that he is prescribing a lot of SGLT2 inhibitors and that pharma reps are talking to him a lot. But he takes this opportunity to actually educate his peers and speaks offline for the pharma reps so more cardiologists will prescribe SGLT2 inhibitors.
And the pharma lunch connection with prescribing isn’t causal by a long shot. I prescribe a lot of sglt2i’s and so those pharma reps talk to me a lot. I’ll even speak for them to get more cardiologists to prescribe them. But they didn’t mAke me do that.
— Anish Koka (@anish_koka) November 26, 2019
HCPs value pharma providing education
What if the focus would shift to education? What if the pharma rep became the trusted source of information, without the need to ‘over advertise’ the product? Some HCPs are recognising, for example in the medical devices market, that the healthcare professional relies on reps for information on how to manage devices. Those are the first steps in the right direction but there is more to do.
I agree- pharma sales reps buying everyone lunches should be a thing of the past. But medical devices are a different ball game. Surgeons (and allied health staff) need to learn how to implant the device and manage it post-op, and often no one knows more than the device maker.
— Vamsi Aribindi (@aribindi) December 20, 2019
On the 15th of August 2019, Doctors on Social Media (@somedocs) had a Twitter chat with five questions on pharma. Two questions (Q4 and Q5) were around improving the relationship between pharma and physicians:
Question 4: How can we improve the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and practicing physicians?#SoMeDocs
— Doctors On Social Media (@somedocs) August 15, 2019
Question 5: How can we improve the relationship between pharma and physicians to help our patients? #SoMeDocs
— Doctors On Social Media (@somedocs) August 15, 2019
A number of HCPs responded and engaged:
“Educating physicians about medications is important but direct-to-consumer marketing has really put a wrench in the Physician-pharma relationship. As a pediatric provider, I can’t provide most of them bc they haven’t been studied in kids.”
“Making patient support programs easier to access and enroll in to cover the cost of outpatient meds. Collaborate with insurance companies to reduce wait times on phones and eliminate the never-ending phone tree of death.”
“Have Pharma become more patient than $ advocates. It’s their unrealized mission statements. They need to become sources of disease state education to docs. They need to support patients with digital tools.“
Those are great ideas, and all of them include education at some point.
HCPs and pharma have the same goal: the patients
Healthcare professionals are cautious when it comes to entering into a relationship with a pharmaceutical company. There are many accusations of pharma influencing the prescribing behaviour of physicians, but there is one thing that both parties have in common, and that is the patient!
I take one meeting a week on Fridays over the lunch hour and won't talk any other time. I do find some value in industry relationships in the form of helping my pts get the meds they need. #SoMeDocs
— Jilaine Bolek Berquist (@BolekBerqui) August 15, 2019
Focusing on that and supporting HCPs with what they actually need will help them to serve their patient in the best way possible.
A1 As a surgeon, I work with industry about new products all the time. Think it’s important for advancement in patient care. Use pharma for Bariatric meds. Academic surgeon so I do eat any food or take anything from them. #SoMeDocs
— 👩🏻⚕️surgeon lady mama 💉 (@Chenbariatrics1) August 15, 2019
How can we improve the relationship between pharma and physicians?
Now the question for the pharmaceutical industry is how to become a trustworthy source of education for the healthcare professional community?
In research conducted by CREATION.co, in collaboration with DRG, it was seen that HCPs are becoming less reliant on pharma reps for information, instead turning to the internet and social media for answers. This highlights a need for fresh thinking and new approaches from pharmaceutical manufacturers to engage and build relationships with healthcare professionals.
To do this you need to know what exactly are the unmet needs of HCP customers. Then knowing what terms and language they are using can be very useful for the material you develop to support them. Also, you will need to understand where the HCPs look for information, beyond a pharma rep, and their preferred channels and sources. This might vary from country to country and also depend on the different HCP roles. By getting all this information you will be able to understand their felt needs and develop information that the HCPs will value, trust and use to educate themselves, their peers and their patients.
In conclusion, be where your customers are, focus less on advertising and more on education to establish meaningful relationships with the HCPs!