Patients want more services, online outreach from pharma

By Jonah Comstock
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accenturePatients want pharmaceutical companies to reach out to them through more digital channels, and to offer more value-add services, according to a new survey from Accenture of 2,000 American adults who are taking one or more medications and have a household income of $25,000 or more.

"Providing personalized and value-add services in support of the products they sell is common across almost every other consumer-facing industry from retail to telecomm, hi-tech and travel," Accenture writes in the report. "Why should pharma be any different? Especially when addressing something as important as someone’s health?"

Accenture found that those surveyed still most want to receive medication information by mail and email -- 66 percent wanted information from their pharma company in printed form and 69 wanted it via email. For pharmacists, 72 percent wanted printed information and 73 percent wanted email. But demand was still reasonably high for mobile and web outreach -- for pharma company information, 48 percent wanted to be reached via websites, 44 percent via mobile devices, and 38 percent via social media. For information from pharmacists, 64 percent wanted website outreach and 38 percent wanted an app, but only 15 percent were interested in hearing from their pharmacist on social media.

More generally, 68 percent of patients said they spend several hours a day online, including 69 percent of patients over 65. Eighty percent of patients said they were proactively seeking information about their medications. 

The survey also asked patients about specific "beyond the pill" services from pharmaceutical companies -- what they wanted to receive and what they were receiving. The biggest disconnect was rewards programs -- 63 percent wanted them but only 10 percent were receiving. The second most wanted service was product information at 53 percent, although 48 percent of respondents received it. The second biggest disconnect was financial assistance, which 51 percent wanted and only 10 percent received.

With one exception, the demand for every service exceeded the supply. Only physician referrals were provided more often than desired -- with only 28 percent wanting them and 42 percent receiving them. Other services Accenture asked about were measurement tracking and alert (35 percent wanted, 20 percent received), access to patient support forums (29 percent wanted, 16 percent received), and access to clinical trials (28 percent wanted, 7 percent received.)

For patients who got the services, Accenture tracked their satisfaction. Patients were most satisfied with product information (80 percent) and measurement tracking and alert (79 percent). They were least satisfied with access to clinical trials and financial assistance, though those scores were still reasonably high at 63 percent for each.

Finally, Accenture found that 64 percent of patients were willing to provide information about their own health in order to get the services they want.

For pharma companies, the decision about how to engage with patients digitally is a little more complicated than surveying customers to see what they want. As IMS pointed out in a recent report, pharma social media interaction is regulated by the FDA, and online communication with patients can open the companies up to risk. Nevertheless, there is a steady pressure on the pharmaceutical industry to get more engaged with patients.

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