During my years spent in the market research industry, I often found it interesting how much exploration was done on the topic of “trust in healthcare.” Lately, this has also become a popular topic at conferences within the healthcare industry, as data from those studies are constantly used to highlight how low pharma ranks among other industries in trust, as well as people’s general lack of trust in the industry overall.
To me, it’s a sad and puzzling reality that an industry that does so much good has earned such a negative reputation. People don’t get angry at car manufacturers when they are stuck in traffic, but for some reason people seem to blame Big Pharma for all the various issues that they have with the healthcare industry across the board. That said, while pharma may not be responsible for all bad PR, you certainly don’t have to look far to see why it has become the whipping boy. The endless “trust busting” headlines indicting the pharma industry for issues such as price gouging, suppressing drug-safety data, forced withdrawal of high-profile drugs, “off-label” marketing, etc. are all detrimental to its reputation.
While improving trust may seem nebulous from a business standpoint, it is actually incredibly practical and important, and pharma companies need to take a closer look at how their bottom line is being affected. Is distrust leading to lower prescription adherence? Negative social buzz? Less interest among HCPs?
Fortunately, given the powerful influence of today’s digital technologies – both at an enterprise level, as well as the individual level, pharma now has more powerful tools to build trust than ever before. Here are three key areas in which pharma can begin building and nurturing trust:
At a broad level, the most valuable way for the pharma industry to build trust is to educate. Since transparency goes hand in hand with honesty, there needs to be a bigger push of information coming from pharma companies enlightening the public. Denying the public access to research findings and reports gives the impression that there is something to hide which in turn leads to distrust.
In this video created by Pfizer, they did a great job of shedding light on the R&D process. This is a process that most people are not acquainted with, yet has a major impact on prescription costs. Using their own scientists, they added a human, relatable component. Since most of the public may not understand medical jargon, a simple, easy-to-digest video such as this one is a great way to engage and enlighten the public.
Beyond education on the process, more information needs to be shared with the public surrounding other important topics such as healthcare economics.
2). Truly Engage with Disease-state Communities
For specific disease-state communities, fully understanding a day in the life of a patient with an ailment and working to create a sense of community for that population is a very effective way to build trust. Creating digital communities for engaging with physicians, caregivers and patients is a powerful way for brand teams to build trust through the sharing of information, establishing credibility and offering long-term support.
Incyte did a great job with this in developing the unbranded website, Voices of MPN. The site, which is also integrated across social channels, such as Facebook and Pinterest, is used to connect patients affected by myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), or blood cancers. Incyte recognized the importance of connecting patients in this very lonely disease state, and making them feel like they are a part of a community. The Facebook page alone has just under 25K followers. The MPN Heroes event goes one step further, honoring clinicians, caregivers and advocates who have made significant contributions in the field of MPNs. These levels of engagement all help to build trust.
Sponsoring educational programs, and involving medical practitioners as well as caregivers in that process, is also crucial for building trust. Online users today are very sophisticated and while they are quick to dismiss, they are also quick to appreciate the efforts of brands that are consistently supportive and transparent.
3). Add Value Beyond the Pill
At the individual patient level is where trust truly needs to be made real and tangible, and the most trusted pharmaceutical companies are those that put the needs of those patients first in tangible and practical ways. Digital platforms and programs are incredibly powerful in building trust when they are personal, timely and relevant. These three components really demonstrate a commitment from a company to the consumer that builds trust.
There are now many examples of digital programs, which provide information, support, connectivity and other powerful features, all helping to build trust and value beyond the pill. One example of this is Shire’s suite of mobile apps, online microsites and integrated patient communities on Facebook to help raise awareness of Hereditary Angioedema, a rare and potentially devastating condition. On a larger scale, Pfizer teamed up with the American Lung Association to develop Quitter’s Circle, an online community and mobile app designed to help those trying to quit. It helps smokers overcome obstacles associated with the quitting process. Smokers can easily start a quit team with friends and family, personalize a plan to quit, and get connected to a healthcare provider, all within Quitter’s Circle. It provides educational, social and financial support.
For diabetic patients, AstraZeneca’s Fit2Me is a free diet and lifestyle support program. It provides consumers with a customized plan tailored to their unique combination of health challenge areas across five of the most prevalent conditions or diseases in the United States, including type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart attack, high blood pressure and high triglycerides. The program provides access to more than 10,000 diabetes-friendly and heart-healthy recipes, based on criteria from the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association, as well as access to more than 500 physical activities and focused exercises through the Fit2Me database, all free with no obligation.
By providing value beyond the pill, these brands have helped patients in many countless ways, and created the foundation for building genuine brand trust.
Trust in pharma can be a challenging topic. As the saying goes, “trust takes years to build seconds to break and forever to repair,” I believe pharma has the opportunity to not only address distrust, but to actually become one of the country’s most trusted industries. Given the powerful and personalized treatments that are moving through clinical trials and into the marketplace over the next few years, the opportunity is there, but it is up to the pharma companies to capitalize on the opportunity by harnessing the newly emerging digital tools at their disposal.
If you are interested in building trust and using digital platforms to provide “value beyond the pill,” please feel free to get in touch. I’d love to speak with you.
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- Trust in Pharma? 3 Ways Digital Technologies Can Build Trust - August 9, 2016