S&R Blog

This Article Rated “R” For Scientific Rigor and Relevancy

I’m one of those weirdos who most enjoys a movie when I know the plot or ending beforehand. 2001: A Space Odyssey? More interesting when you know the ambiguous plotline and can really think about what the surreal imagery and multilayered themes mean. The Godfather? More enjoyable if you’ve already seen the climactic, juxtaposed baptism/murder scene near the end of the film.

Often I’ll put a movie on my Netflix queue, then go immediately to Wikipedia to read the plot summary. And I just might take that DVD, watch the final scene, then view the movie from the beginning. Why? Well, I like surprises and plot twists and all, but I just find it more enjoyable to know the “end” so that I can better understand and more enjoy the “means”.

I got thinking about how this peculiar behavior relates to reading journal articles after seeing Teresa Rogstad’s recent AMWA Journal feature (2009;24(4):176-181), “Judging the Quality of Medical Literature.” In a succinct review, she lays out the key things (eg, study design, bias, sample size) to assess in determining the “methodologic strength” and “application usefulness” of published research. Now on my burgeoning “must-read” list for nonscientists in Pharma, her article might be of value to even the most CONSORT-literate folks.

Consumers of scientific literature might well combine my contradictory movie habit and Rogstad’s criteria by approaching their next scientific article as follows:

  • Read the Abstract (plot) to help assess the quality and direction of the study.
  • Read the Discussion section (ending) to understand the research implications.
  • Read the entire article to understand the data’s finer points and full meaning. As with a film, this method can help maximize the reader’s use—and dare I say, enjoyment—of the “story” that the writer and researcher(s) have crafted.

We at SRMC believe this assessment of the quality of the research “story” is crucial to the most effective use of published clinical data. And it’s one of the many capabilities that we offer to help clients who want to optimize the impact of the research articles they use to support their products.

So if you’ve ever asked yourself—Is this/that journal article good? or Should I cite this study?—we can help you find the answer. And if you have questions about how the movie ends, we can answer those, too.

Ted J. Slowik, PhD

Director, Scientific Information, S+R Medical Communications


What do physicians really think about Big Pharma?

According to Dr. Candida Fink’s latest blog post on PsychCentral, not highly. In what clearly wasn’t a good year for pharma in terms of reputation, Dr. Fink highlights why she will “no longer see any drug reps.”

I didn’t want to hear from them, and I haven’t since. I avoid lectures and meetings that drug companies sponsor, and I use no drug company pens or notepads. The longer I avoid direct contact with drug company reps, the better I feel about it. The further removed I am from these things the more I realize I was getting a lot of my information about medications from company reps who had vested interests in my using their product. I realized that I don’t need samples, because the companies give samples only of their newest products, and those don’t have the research or track records that the older products have. Furthermore, the older products are now available as generics, which ultimately save my patients far more money than they save by taking a few free samples and then paying for the priciest, newest product.

Obviously, this is the opinion of one physician, but the points Dr. Fink brings up about her disdain for pharmaceutical marketing tactics have been echoed more than once lately. So if not from pharma companies, where would physicians get their information about products? According to Dr. Fink,”That isn’t to say I don’t keep informed and try new products that are appropriate for certain patients, but I do so based on research and my patients’ needs, not who bought me lunch last week.”

Samples, proper medical education, and other informative materials should be needed to help improve patient outcomes. But physicians seem to be turning their heads the other way.  If pharma doesn’t heal the wounds and restore the trust with physicians, credibility will be the least of its problems. What do you think?

Read Dr. Fink’s post here.

Who will lead pharma back to a constructive, trusting, and value-based industry?

The “conspirators” have been revealed—the  Pharmageddon2012 “conspirators” that is.  This past week, the November issue of MedAd News broke a story on Pharmageddon2012 and the people behind the scene—S+R Medical Communications (SRMC) and Friday Morning.

For those of you who have not taken the time to check out Pharmageddon2012, this multifaceted website uses a variety of social media outlets to carefully and anonymously describe what we believe is the pharma industry’s greatest problem—the breakdown of communication and trust between physicians and the industry.

The site, describes the issues and problems that exist but what it doesn’t address is the passion, belief, and attitude of those people at SRMC and Friday Morning who have to live and deal with the implications of what Pharmageddon2012 represents. You must admit a campaign like Pharmageddon2012 could be risky for a business that that has spent over 18 years enabling and helping our pharma clients devise the very same communication pieces and strategies that we believe contributed to the demise of physician trust.

However, we also believe that someone needs to lead the charge for change and why shouldn’t it be SRMC and Friday Morning? We spent the last 10 years closely watching, listening, and seeing firsthand the strategies and tactics that led to the mistrust problems. We were frustrated and angry about the situation, and we struggled to understand what new strategies and solutions we might incorporate into our business model. The end objective is to help us build our success—and, equally as important, that of our clients.
To that end, we must help clients find ways to restore physician confidence AND improve patient outcomes.

So while we are willing put our collective necks on the line, the real question is which pharma companies will be the first to understand and see the need for communicating with physicians in a different way? Which companies will choose to use educational programming that is needs-based? Are you, as a pharma marketer, willing to use total transparency and clarity as you describe ALL of the important aspects of how your brand is best used? When a physician asks, “Which of my patients are specifically and best suited for what your product does?” what will your sales force say? How will you provide educational and promotional programs that allow your sales force to bring value and relationship building to every sales call?

Is YOUR pharma company willing be a leader and change the pharma/physician communication model back to a constructive, trusting, value-based relationship? Do you believe that you can participate in this change process and at the same time positively impact your brand’s financial achievements? It’s tough to be a leader and to stand out from the crowd. But in fact, that is the opportunity that is before us right now.

If you have the same passion and spirit for this issue as we do, if your brain and heart tell you it is time to do it differently, please contact me. I can show you how we can work together to put our industry, your company, and your products back on a more productive, positive path.

Dave Recht
CEO, North State Resources, Inc.

New study reports most nurses send patients online for health info
August 26, 2009, 3:51 pm
Filed under: physician | Tags: , , , , , , ,

According to a new study by Manhattan Research, approximately three out of four U.S. nurses recommend health websites to patients. The study, Taking the Pulse® Nurses v9.0, focuses on which technologies nurses have adopted, how they are currently using them, and how they plan to use them in the future.

It was noted that nurses are very savvy when it comes to using technology for health, averaging eight hours per week online for professional purposes. Nurses are also proactive in researching medical product information specifically online – over eighty percent have visited a pharma, biotech, or device company website in the past year. Merck, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Sanofi-Aventis have the corporate sites most visited by nurses.

So what does this mean for your brand? That nurses remain a key target for your promotional efforts.

Read the report here.

The patient-physician social media triangle

There is an interesting discussion going on in the blogosphere surrounding a New York Times piece from last month titled, “Medicine in the age of Twitter.” It talks about the time constraints of physicians and how in the world of the internet and instantaneous media, a physician can provide offline consultation to patients when time is at a premium.

The piece was written by Dr. Pauline Chen, who is a proponent of social media interaction with patients. She states,

There continues to be anecdotal evidence regarding social media’s potential to strengthen the patient-doctor relationship. “One way I see that power is through education,” said Dr. Christian Sinclair, a physician for Kansas City Hospice who has created a palliative care network through his blog and Twitter. “I can help to inform the public, I can put the knowledge I have out there. And if there are patients or families who need this knowledge, I can help them because of this network.” Dr. Sinclair has, for example, helped individuals he has met through Twitter connect with local hospices, a process he believes was expedited by Twitter’s particular platform.

Obviously there are numerous positives and negatives to taking the patient-doctor relationship offline. But it would be interesting to see which type of physicians and patients were pro or against. You would assume that early-adopting or younger physicians and patients would be more in-tune with the changing outlets to medical information (61% of patients go online for health information). But the conversation developing at the Well Blog begs to differ. Some of the highlights are below.

“I am a physician and find the concept of augmenting patient care through social networking idiotic. Facebook, Twitter and similar venues are not an appropriate place for the sensitive nature of a patient physician encounter.”

“My doctor is not on Twitter (but he is on e-mail with me) but I do see a huge value in social media–as a rare disease patient, I’ve learned a lot from other patients and their lived experiences, and sometimes taking that knowledge into the exam room (or an e-mail) can really help us sort through decisions about treatments.”

“Initially, I was reluctant to communicate via email with patients; being an old-school internist it was seen as too impersonal. I’ve since changed my mind, and now wholeheartedly endorse electronic communications.”

“Outrageous. I can’t get my doctor to return a phone call, and yet he has time on his hands to gossip on the Internet and exchange tweets.”

“This piece and the MD postings are excellent testimonials confirming the 2006 WSJ HarrisInteractive research showing that 75% of patients want more access to their doctor online, while 75% of physicians don’t. What is missing from this commentary is that the options are not limited to Twitter or Email or Facebook.”

What do you think? Weigh in on the NYT or here.

Top 30 free medical iPhone apps
March 3, 2009, 7:15 pm
Filed under: physician, social media | Tags: , , , , , , ,

No longer considered a phone, but an easy-to-use mini computer, the iPhone has quietly become THE platform for physicians and patients to get access to useful information quickly. And since 3rd party developers have been allowed to create applications for the iPhone,  the iTunes App Store has more than 200 applications in the “medical” category.  The top 30 are listed below.

  1. Epocrates
  2. Skyscape Medical Resources
  3. EyeChart
  4. Taber’s Medical Dictionary
  5. MedCalc
  6. Davis’s Drug Guide
  7. Eponyms (for students)
  8. ShyBladder
  9. Cardio Calc
  11. PubMed On Tap Lite
  12. Opium
  13. Nursing Central
  14. Breastfeeding Management
  15. Merge Mobile™
  16. ABG
  17. GI Calc
  18. Heme Calc
  19. Neph Calc
  20. Doctor’s Digest
  21. MD Coder
  23. ICD-9 pcp
  24. QuantiaMD
  25. PubSearch
  26. ReachMD CME
  27. iICD9-v 2009
  28. iBaby BT
  29. Eczane
  30. NextBio

Top 30 paid medical iPhone apps:

  1. Eye Test
  2. Speed Brain
  3. The ECG Guide
  4. Medical Calculator
  6. Medical Spanish
  7. Instant ECG: An Electrocardiogram Guide
  8. Normal Lab Values
  9. Medical Terminology and Abbreviations
  10. ACLS
  11. Medical Drugs
  12. MedRef
  13. Netter’s Anatomy Flash Cards
  14. Registered Nurse
  15. US Military Handbook
  16. AcuPalm
  17. MedFacts
  18. MedAbbreviations
  19. Breathalyzer
  20. Acid Plus
  21. MCAT Exam
  22. Perfect OB Wheel
  23. Medical Abbreviations
  24. PALS
  25. Audiometry
  26. MediMath Medical Calculator
  27. Kaplan Medical Terms
  28. Saunders Q & A
  29. Med Card
  30. Netter’s Musculoskeleton

74% of physicians look to pharmaceutical representatives to stay informed about medications.

Physicians have spoken and reps DO have a pivotal role in keeping physicians informed. According to a recent survey of physicians, 74% of respondents said they rely on pharmaceutical companies and their reps to stay informed about medications to treat certain conditions.  The online survey conducted by S&R Communications Group also found that physicians considered gaining insightful information from representatives to be a higher priority than searching for relevant information on the web or through the FDA.

More results from the survey can be found here.