What HCPs think about pharma

For a long time, I have been observing how healthcare professionals (HCPs) are talking about the pharmaceutical industry – including their conversations 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:

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.

Also, there are hospitals and clinics where pharma reps are not allowed anymore to speak directly to HCPs or even enter the facilities.

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.

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.

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.

On the 15th of August 2019, Doctors on Social Media (@somedocs) had a Twitter chat with five questions on pharma. Two questions were around improving the relationship between pharma and physicians:

A number of HCPs responded and engaged. Here are some of the comments HCPs expressed:

  • Some pharma companies are doing non-branded, disease state initiatives to help educate patients and physicians. Focusing on education can help physicians and patients.
  • Pharmaceutical companies to advocate for patients non-profit would be great.
  • Stopping pharma advertising and giving straightforward honest reports to docs that they can trust.
  • Honest dialogue & answer the questions posed without any industry jargon.
  • Educating physicians about medications is important but direct-to-consumer marketing has really put a wrench in the Physician-pharma relationship. As a paediatric provider, I can’t provide most of them bc they haven’t been studied in kids.

“Making patient support programs easier to access and enrol 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!

Focusing on that and supporting HCPs with what they actually need will help them to serve their patient in the best way possible.

How to 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 HCPs. 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 and establish meaningful relationships with the HCPs.

About the author
Anni Neumann’s career in the pharmaceutical industry spans markets across Europe and South America. Today in her role as Healthcare Engagement Strategist within CREATION.co’s Insight Team, Anni works with CREATION’s clients to better serve their needs and help them extract even more from the insights found in the conversations of healthcare professionals on social media.