Digital media and healthcare providers

There is a lot of data available on how physicians perceive and use digital technologies like the web or social media for finding health-related information. But how do their perceptions and use patterns compare to other providers like nurses and pharmacists? The infographic below analyses the question on hand.

According to a recent survey the same ratio of doctors, nurses and pharmacists (85%) turn to digital sources for healthcare information. There are definite differences tho when it comes to using mobile devices for gathering information.

An interesting finding of the survey is that physicians trust digital sources – websites, mobile sources and social media platforms – the most out of the three groups. Nurses and pharmacists see these as less reliable information sources.

According to the study 40-50% of the time physicians used digital tools for professional purposes while nurses turned to these more often for other reasons. Pharmacists turned to digital solutions for healthcare-related reasons the most.


(Source: Path of the Blue Eye)


The Value Of Social Media Within A Pharma Company

When it comes to pharmaceutical marketing companies are accustomed to have very specific data and analysis ready about the ROI of their campaigns. Long lines of numbers show how many people have seen a television ad, what type of audience did a message reach and what is the value for the company in these marketing activities. Stats and numbers, clear and simple. Social media tools throw off a lot of people because they are essentially different in this aspect.

You can count the “Likes” and present the number of  Twitter followers to marketing executives but it won’t show you a definite picture of what value social media brings to your company. The statistics don’t represent how fans and followers make their purchasing decisions based on the creative contest you just did on Facebook, they also won’t show the long-term benefits of building business relationships on Twitter.

Another way of looking at the value of social media is to see how members of your company are using it professionally and how it benefits them, and eventually through them how it brings revenue to the company itself. This was the idea behind the recent study AstraZeneca carried out asking almost 400 of its scientists about the professional use of social media and science. More than 75% of the respondents said that social media was “valuable” or “somewhat valuable”. The most popular online platforms among the participating scientists were professional networks, wikis and blogs.

They study, featured on emphasized the importance of social communication among scientists and the long-term benefits of co-creation of knowledge. One of the responders summarised this in the following statement:

Social media are like any medium of communications. Saying that social media are not important is isolating you as a scientist … (which) rarely leads to new science.


New Trends In The Hungarian Pharmaceutical Industry

As we pointed out in our previous blog post, 2012 has several changes in store for pharmaceutical companies. The healthcare reform defined by the Semmelweis and Széll Kálmán plans mean comprehensive structural transformation for the entire field.

Changes in the pharmaceutical representative system – the increasing importance of HR

The new decisions effect pharmaceutical representatives most negatively, because the return of investment on the personal meetings with physicians is considerably lower, mainly because of the „additional taxes” that the industry has to face in Hungary. According to the new rulings that came to effect in the middle of 2011 the turnover tax rose from 12% to 20% and pharmaceutical companies have to pay a yearly 10 Million HUF amount after every representative providing product information to physicians and pharmacists. According to the data of GYEMSZI (Institute of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Quality and Organisation Development) in the beginning of 2011 there were 2 600 pharmaceutical representatives working in Hungary. This number dropped to 2 100 by the end of the year.

In 2012 the HR support of the remaining representatives will be even more important. According to the in-depth interviews carried out by Szinapszis Ltd. among pharmaceutical representatives it has to be a priority in the future to further involve representatives in sales strategies, so they get more comprehensive insights about the entire process. When using personal representative meetings and alternative sales tools simultaneously, the initiation and training of reps are critical, so they don’t look at the new tools as rivals, but as „sales partners” – while supporting the goals of the pharmaceutical management.

The new ePatient appears

The internet plays a key role when people, patients are seeking health-related information. The patient who is constantly searching the web for information appears in the healthcare system as a (more or less) conscious customer, and these new patients or e-patients need their doctors to participate in the communication process as well – creating new challenges for healthcare professionals, since old-fashioned one-way „communication” needs to be replaced by two-sided consultations.

More informed patients have higher expectations of the quality of healthcare, which results of these patients appearing more frequently in the private sector of the healthcare system.

This group of patients create a new target for pharmaceuticals since there is a new opportunity for directed non-expert communication – and not only in the field of OTC treatments.

Improving patient non-adherence – with legislative tools

A so-called patient-compliance program is part of the restricting initiatives proposed for pharmaceuticals in 2012, this program will be introduced first among patients with vascular problems and chronic lung conditions. According to the new initiative patients who want to pay the same amount for their medications they used to need to improve their health parameters with exercise, a healthy diet and lifestyle, and with regularly taking their medications – with losing weight and quitting smoking. Therefore in 2012 the role of patient-compliance programs assumed to become more emphasized.

But when it comes to the improvement of concordance about treatment options physicians are pessimistic: almost 75% of them don’t believe that the before mentioned policies and other initiatives aimed to strengthen the co-operation will result in a better doctor-patient collaboration in the following 2 years.

The more substantial role of pharmacists

Among other things the expansion of generics and the introduction of active ingredient-based prescriptions will further strengthen the role of pharmacists in the future, even more so in sales. Observing the efficiency of pharmacy sales is going to be a crucial, which means measurement of these areas (like mystery shopping) is going to be more significant in 2012.

(Katalin Kiss)

Building A Successful Social Media Presence In Pharma – Andrew Spong Shares His Thoughts With H2onlinehu (Part 2)

In the second part of our interview with healthcare social media expert, Andrew Spong we asked him about the crucial steps toward a successful social media presence and focused on issues that pharmaceutical companies might come across when implementing digital solutions in their marketing plan.

Earlier in the interview you talked about some of the obstacles for pharma companies when it comes to social media conversation, for example the platform being so new. How can a pharma company take the first step, how to dive into healthcare-related social media?

I think they need to do a lot of things all at once which is never easy. The first thing is to get the buy-in of senior colleagues from across functions. So you need legal, you need regulatory, you need medical affairs, you need communications, marketing and more. Senior figures from all of those functions must feature in your initial task force. This is the team that will have to do the really hard work of defining and answering the „How? What? Where? Who? When? Why?” questions. Why do we want to use social media? Is it something that is going to take form in an integrated strategic plan for us or we’re just doing it because we think we should be doing it? All of those sorts of problematic but enlightening questions. The team must be able to provide compelling answers, which demonstrate to their business the critical reasons why it must participate within social media. There are many, and we already identified some of them, but they will need to be optimised in order to meet the needs of each business individually.

The next step (and ideally one which can be conducted concurrently) is to ensure that the existing corporate governance which is in place is fit for purpose, and it probably won’t be. It will need to be expanded in order to provide employees with a passport to the social web, to make them feel confident that they can express themselves on the social web. It must be made clear that they are not speaking on behalf of the company, as the communication function does that, but rather to help them understand the ways in which they can reach out to the communities of interest that they wish to communicate with in an effective and approvable way.

All of these are difficult, time-consuming, problematic issues for the industry. For the final step that we intimated before is to take all of those aspirations and those strategic objectives and incorporate them effectively into the existing strategic plan in order to make sure that social media isn’t treated as which sits outside of an integrated communications plan or marketing plan, but sits within it. This really should begin to show all the results that drive and fulfill the aspirations, that the architects of the company’s social media strategy believe they can deliver for them.

You mentioned that pharma companies need to find regulatory guidance within their companies. Is this a way to deal with or resolve the fact that there is little guidance from outside authorities?

It’s not that they’are going to reach out and find a lot of existing guidance. Firstly you need all of the people in the room at the beginning who may say ‘no’ at the end. There is no point doing all this work if you haven’t convinced people who ultimately have to sign off any plans or strategies that you want to implement. There’s no point in presenting a wonderfully crafted bundle of ideas and implementable actions that you come up with if senior colleagues are ultimately going to reject them. These colleagues’ concerns must be addressed at the beginning, and you need to get them and keep them on your side. You must keep talking about their concerns until they are resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, and all issues have been put to rest.

In order to achieve this aim, you will need to demonstrate to colleagues that there may not be a ‘Big Book of How to Use Social Media’ from you local EFPIA regulatory body or in the US from the FDA, but that doesn’t mean that existing regulation is not fit for purpose. Existing regulation – it has widely been claimed by pharma companies that are using the social web effectively – is fit for purpose. It is sufficient in as much as that it was designed to speak to all media, so in essence you make sure that you do not do anything on the social web that you would not do in any other environment and broadly speaking that means that you do not promote – it is as simple and as difficult, as that.

In your experience, what are the main concerns that pharma companies usually have when it comes to the social web?

They revolve around issues like regulatory, we just touched on one of them. But I feel like we just gave some insights on how that conversation can be managed. I’m not saying it is going to go away, because the industry always has to be aware of, and answerable to, the requirements of regulatory bodies. But it is certainly one of the issues that always comes up. Another example is adverse event reporting. „As soon as we get onto the social web we’re going to find a slew of extra adverse events that we’re going to have to report.” Well there’s a series of responses to that. Firstly, these conversations are taking place, if you believe that they are happening, those conversations are taking place anyway and it is beholden upon you if you wish to identify and respond to them. So it is a question of time management, rather than a question of maintaining your ethical responsibilities as a company. Well that’s not acceptable. Also, following Pfizer’s example of putting an AER link on their Facebook page, in terms of effective use of resources it makes a great deal of sense to provide a means of allowing reporters to convey their observations through the most successful and popular environment on the Internet which are delivered to a team of in-house experts waiting for their submissions.

A great deal of research has now been undertaken on the vast number of pieces of patient-reported information and data that are shared daily. There is a compelling body of evidence coming together that suggests that adverse events reports which meet the four standard criteria – a reporter, a reportee, a drug name, an identifiable adverse event – very seldom happen. This doesn’t mean that a company does not need an effective and functional response strategy to call upon when adverse events are identified. However, what is does mean is that the „fear” that companies are going to find tens of thousands of additional adverse events to report that they have not encountered previously is just not true. The data is suggesting this anyway. And even if they were, the industry has a duty of care to attend to them. It is in no-one’s interest to suggest that the industry would shy away from participating in the Social Web on the basis of a perceived concern that they may encounter issues that they are obligated to address. The fact is, however, that they simply won’t find them in the quantities that were feared some years ago.

The third issue is a big one, namely that „We’ve got no time to do this”, and „We haven’t got the money.” Another query that is often heard is „ what’s the return of the investment on the money we spend on the social web? Show me the cost benefit of using the social web.” Firstly, that’s the wrong question anyway because it’s not something you’re doing to drive revenues directly. It’s something that you’re doing to take care of any number of issues which are critical to your business that revolve around trust. But also going forward if we believe as many of the companies and startups have invested significant amount of time and capital in proving that patient reported information is going to change the clinical trial and drug development process and all of those issues feed back into the pressing question of why is it important for pharma to get into social media right here right now. But to loop back to the ROI question, there are two ways of looking at this. Firstly, you have to ask: „What metrics do you want me to measure? Because I can measure anything. The question is why do you want me to measure them and what are you going to do with the data that I provide you with? Are you going to implement it, and is it going to change your strategic plans in some way?” And usually the answer to that is no, which means the question isn’t worth asking in the first place. But the second response to that is „Why are we asking or probing so deeply into how much it costs to set up and maintain a Twitter account?” which frankly is not a lot. It costs nothing to set it up, and yes there are implications in terms of employee time in maintaining presences effectively but for a contemporary, progressive pharma company this is now quite simply an important part of the day-to-day work it must undertake as part of its broader strategic objectives, and should never therefore just be viewed in isolation. But more to the point that cost – as minimal as it is – is never measured against the 50 thousand, 100 thousand plus dollars, pounds, whatever currency, spent in setting up a website, for example, the benefits of which are seldom scrutinised in so exacting manner. Existing strategies that may deliver very poor ROI – like direct mail that no-one reads which just acts as a coaster for a coffee mug before being thrown in the bin  – are not similarly interrogated. Thus, a useful response strategy for pharma marketers would be „Well you show me the ROI of those iPads you bought, the BlackBerries your team uses, the memory sticks you sent out with some detailing to some GPs and tell me how many people actually got them, read them and got back to you. I’ll tell you how much it costs to make my campaign using social media.” And you can guarantee that on a cost basis, the results will be better for the virtual campaign.

(Connect with Andrew Spong on Twitter or on

Pharmaceutical Industry In Hungary And The Challenges Of 2012

The Hungarian pharmaceutical industry had a rather hectic year, and 2012 seems to promise some new challenges as well. The different steps of healthcare reform have been summarized by the Semmelweis- and Széll Kálmán Plans. These proposals introduced and initiated numerous arrangements, that change the basis of healthcare, as well as the internal operation and marketing strategy of pharmaceutical companies. Not only have the target groups of communication changed, but even the nature of communication channels directed and applied to them are new.

The previous one-way communication directed only towards physicians is being replaced by a new strategy with more performers, including pharmacists, patients and customers, who all have an important role in the communication process.

Observing the different channels of communication, the significant growth of the role that the internet plays is obvious. In our experience the members of the market are interested, more or less open to online solutions, but at the same time uncertainty is prominent mainly because of the lack of experience in Hungary.

The new legislative regulations in Hungary are essentially strengthening the digital trends. Because of the forced axes on the number of representatives finding other, alternative sales activities to substitute the work of reps is crucial.

There are numerous tools for companies when it comes to sales and communication, but it is also very important to find the right toolkit – with the appropriate form and content – to meet the needs of the target audience. The opinions and attitudes of physicians about alternative channels are typically known, majority of them are open, or can be convinced about the advantages and possibilities provided by these new tools. In the meantime in-depth research to segment, and to observe the special needs of the target groups is going to be even more valuable.

Are you open to getting information through the following, new channels?

Multimedia presentation showed on tablet/iPad during personal visits

Source: Szinapszis MediJournalTrack 2011 (n=909)

Pharmaceutical decision makers also realize the necessity of online communication with physicians and patients, but their high level of mistrust toward this area is obvious which is typically caused by the lack of experience in Hungary. In the future agencies providing online solutions will have to try to ease the anxiety and to answer the emerging questions of decision makers.

(Katalin Kiss)

Pharma Websites Can’t Be Just A Formality

Reading the long list of articles about predictions for 2012 it is clear that the pharmaceutical industry has no chance to skip out on integrating valuable digital solutions and to spend time and energy re-thinking their marketing strategies. You just can’t escape online posts about social media integration, mobile health, social games in healthcare, the role of tablets in pharma. But it is worth to take a step back and go back to the basics before getting overwhelmed by all the different ways to go digital.

No pharma company can claim to be a pioneer in digital marketing while not taking care of its own website. It has been stated many times before: content is king. This is not only true to patient education sites or specific product-related portals. It is also true when it comes to the own websites of pharma companies. A company website plays a key role in creating and maintaining a reliable, trusted profile.

So here are a few steps toward an authentic, user-friendly company website:

  1. Plan ahead – Having a strategy for maintaining a website means having a clear idea how frequently to publish content, what kind of content to publish, what kind of target audience to aim your content to, and what type of sources to use for getting valuable information. These steps of planning are even more crucial when it comes to health-related content.
  2. Simple and accurate content – Using too complicated terms, long and way too detailed descriptions won’t help readers to find the important information they are looking for. Pharma companies should keep in mind that their audience may not be familiar with medical terms or certain pharma-related abbreviations.
  3. Reliable sources – Keeping a website active and frequently publishing new content doesn’t necessarily mean constantly writing original articles. There are many useful sources on the internet that could help patients find more information about numerous health-related issues. Obviously this can’t result in violating copyrights or neglecting original content altogether.
  4. Being up-to-date – It gives a website a good “flow” to write about current health-related news. It also helps pharma companies to maintain a well-rounded, expert image as well as to help patients follow important health-related events.
  5. Patient-education – Although patient education requires independent, comprehensive strategies and programs within a pharma company’s digital marketing efforts, it is also useful to include some content directly targeted to patients with certain conditions on pharma websites.
  6. Contact info and other basic elements – No website can be trustworthy without a few main elements like correct contact information, copyright data, a short introduction of the company and its mission. It is also crucial to include all the links to social media platforms where patients and other visitors can connect and communicate with the pharma company. These are obviously static parts of the portal, so they don’t require constant updating, but they have to be available and accurate.

(Source: World of DTC Marketing)

Physicians Shouldn’t Shy Away From Online Reviews

There have been reports about physicians trying to avoid a negative online reputation by getting their patients sign a contract where they give up their right to provide any information about their doctor on any internet platform. This is only a way to turn our backs to the issue and not concentrating on the main goal of a practice: to provide quality patient care where the doctor doesn’t have to be afraid of bad reviews.

Since in healthcare people are treating people, the patient experiences are not going to be black and white. But if the majority of patients are satisfied, even a few bad reviews can’t destroy one’s reputation. This is one case where prevention is not better than cure.

There is information about your practice whether you like it or not, mostly reviews provided by your patients online. Portals focusing mainly on patient experience are getting more and more recognition and attention. They are rapidly becoming the top search results on Google. Physicians have a choice to make: try to stop this trend or monitor and contribute content themselves.

Let’s be honest: stopping patients to look for and spread healthcare-related information on the internet is a task more fit for an imaginary character with unlimited time and energy than for a doctor with a busy schedule. There is no sign that suggests the decline of interest in patients-created anecdotes online. People like to search for information about a physician and usually they get what they’re looking for in patient-created content.

So instead of trying to put a stop on people turning to the internet with healthcare-related questions (obviously this is out of a physician’s power), doctors should be proactive and provide useful information about their practices. Having a user-friendly website about their practice and monitor online content about their work is not optional anymore. Whether physicians take part in it or not, whether they try to discourage patients to review them online, they can’t erase their online presence. But they can choose to have a say in what is there to be found about them on the internet.

(Source of image: Manage Your Online Reputation)

Basic Attributes For Collaborative Healthcare

We can agree that more and more patients look for information themselves, or look into what their doctor says during a visit – but that doesn’t mean that trust between physician and patient is not important, that the empowered patient doesn’t need to be convinced that his/her doctor is competent and caring. Just the opposite. A great deal of trust needed in a time when achieving health becomes a shared goal and experience for doctors and patients.

But what is this trust based on? How do patients develop this trust for their physician, what do they take into consideration? According to a recent blog post on Mind The Gap the trust in doctors is based on three attributes:

  • The physician’s clinical skills
  • The physician’s communication skills
  • The patient is the number one concern of the doctor (without any other motives involved)

Because patients are usually not clinically trained (although more and more informed), they rely mostly on the second and third attributes when trusting their doctors. And that’s why it is crucial to spend enough time focusing on the dialogue with the patients, asking and answering questions and discussing any kind of concern they may have.

It is not surprising that communication is key for patients at this point. We are far gone from the idea that patients are not allowed to have an opinion, or any kind of knowledge about their condition or treatment options. Healthcare became more like a collaboration and as such people participating (doctors and patients) have to find a way to talk, communicate and discuss.

This is why it is alarming to see that the amount of time spent on a visit is rapidly decreasing. This is why it is frightening to know that even an important subject like taking a new drug is discussed in 49 short seconds. It is not enough to possess clinical skills and a great amount of information. Physicians also need to know how to pass on that information and earn their patients’ trust to achieve better outcomes and a well-operating collaborative healthcare.

(Source: Mind The Gap)

Why Would You Say No To Social Media?

Recently I read an article that questioned the relevance and the justification of social media in healthcare. I would like to go through some of the interestingly put, misinterpreted and weirdly positioned arguments the post included to prove my point, that social media in fact has (or should have) an important role in healthcare.

Talking about today’s pharmaceutical era the article states that:

  • most consumers do not want to connect with drug companies on social media
  • most drug companies don’t have the resources to talk to people via social media

What do we base the first statement on? The fact that consumers don’t connect with pharma on social sites could apply that the conditions need to be changed. Maybe the drug companies need to be willing to communicate as well? Just a thought. And to say that drug companies don’t have the resources to talk to consumers via social media is almost comical. An multi-trillion industry that spends billions of dollars on TV and print ads can’t hire a few dozen people to set up Facebook pages for free and monitor them?

Reading the article I had the feeling that a relatively big section of the text contradicted the title of the article. How can you make a statement, that social media is not the answer and has no future in healthcare, then write the following:

Social media is a way of looking at marketing and realizing that today consumers want more control about what they purchase, why they purchase it and especially what goes in their bodies. Hell now there is even conflicting news stories about common OTC products that may not be completely safe !

The drug industry has long ignored consumers who want to be heard and give feedback. To them it’s all about push marketing with message testing and while that may meet some brand objectives it’s not enough at a time when less people are going to their doctor and less are filling Rx’s.

If you realize that there is a demand for more information and control over purchases, you realize that consumers want to ask questions and give feedback and that these demands are being ignored for the most part by pharma companies, how can you deny the importance and convenience of social media as a tool.

It is true that social media in itself can’t change healthcare, you need informed and creative people to operate social channels as tools. But the answer is not to take out social media from the equation, but add the right professional forces. It is definitely not the comfortable solution since it’s time-consuming and involves a great deal of work, but on the long run it is still more productive than to say no to social media based on fabricated and contradictory reasons.

(Source: DTC Marketing)

Poor Communication Equals Non-Compliance

In a recent post on Mind The Gap, a blog dedicated to investigate the quality, or in this case poor quality of communication between physicians and patients, I stumbled upon some alerting data about how much these shortcomings effect compliance. We long knew that being informed and engaged in health increases adherence. But the magnitude of consequences of not providing comprehensive information about new medication was shocking.

Here are some of the sobering facts (also shown on the infographic below):

  • While 50% of the US population takes at least one medication and 85% of seniors have one or more chronic conditions, only 50% of patients are taking their pills as directed.
  • Even more astonishing, that 70% of non-compliance is intentional. The reasons are the following: disbelief in diagnosis and severity of health problem, concerns about side affects – all of which could be discussed during a visit.
  • Doctors spend an average 49 seconds (yes, that’s not even a minute) giving information about a new drug they prescribe.
  • They only tell patients how long to take their pills 34% of the time. In as low as 35% of the cases they spend time mentioning the adverse effects and only 9% of the time they talk about the price of the drug.


(Source: Mind The Gap)