Nearly 87% of Physicians Observe Patient Confusion from Pharma Advertisements

Pharma IQ

As the term patient centricity continues to buzz in the pharma industry, data has emerged stating that US physicians have experienced an overwhelming amount of confusion from patients around direct to consumer (DTC) adverts.  The adverts were credited for creating a more inquisitive patient on the whole. Concern exists, however, about the way in which ads are shaping patient understanding. These results are sourced from a new microsurvey performed by InCrowd.

Data shows that the estimated $5.4 billion DTC-ad spend in the US helps to enable a more aware and engaged patient, sparking important dialogues with healthcare providers. Physicians in InCrowd's microsurvey reported receiving three times the number of questions as a result of DTC ads than five years ago—from an average of one question a week to three a week. 

Yet patient questions are often due to a lack of understanding caused by the advert. When asked if their patients generally understand the information provided by the pharmaceutical companies in advertisements, 65% said no. In a separate question, when asked how many of their patients could understand or interpret this information in the DTC ads, nearly 87% of physicians observed some level of patient confusion with the ads. 43% said that "some of my patients" can understand or interpret them, 41% said that "few" patients understand the ads, and 3% said that "none of my patients" can understand the ads. Only 13% of physicians said "most of my patients can interpret/understand" these ads.

"It's important to build patient awareness of new treatments, and our physician response suggests US physicians think the pharma industry is doing well on that aim with DTC ads - and that these doctors are considering how best to integrate them into their practice," said Diane Hayes, president and co-founder of InCrowd. "Yet as Congress targets the need to lower prescription drug prices, the pharma industry needs to listen carefully to physician insights on better structuring their DTC-ad programs for information clarity, and increased benefit to both patient and physician."

When asked about changes they would like to see, only 35% of physician respondents overtly suggested banning the ads. The other 65% focused on improvements to the ads' content and messaging.

The data suggested several opportunities for improvement:

·         31% of respondents recommended additional patient education

·         17% suggested simplifying the message

·         Including more explanation of side effects was noted by 7%

·         Those who asked for no changes represented 7%

·         3% wanted cost information included

Other findings show that:

·         49% percent said the ads generally impair or confuse their patients' understanding of their condition, the treatment, and risks that may occur

·         Those who thought the ads had no effect on their patients represented 35%

·         16% said the ads led to an improved understanding by patients of their condition, treatment options, and risks.

InCrowd conducted this microsurvey over several months, beginning on June 15, 2016, which included 319 US physician respondents from a variety of specialties. Respondents possess an average of 18 years in practice, are an average age of 48 years old, and included 31% women and 67% men.

Staying relevant and continuing to provide a positive pharma customer experience needs constant monitoring for usage and customer satisfaction. In short, pharma needs to take an all-round view of their marketing strategies or campaigns to ensure their digital medical tools are optimised for HCPs