S&R Blog

Will medical education help to fill the credibility gap in pharma?

David H. Recht of North State Resources Inc. and Kelli Soare and Ed Leon of S+R Medical Communications discuss how credible, needs-based branded medical education can help to make the pharmaceutical industry a trusted resource for physicians once again.

Source: Med Ad News

Recognizing the erosion of trust physicians have in the information they receive from the pharmaceutical industry, the healthcare advertising agency S&R Communications Group has recently re-engineered into two specialized companies, S+R Medical Communications and Friday Morning. Friday Morning will provide insight on a project basis into what physicians will and will not respond to as promotion. Meanwhile, S+R Medical Communications will provide educational vehicles that brands need to rebuild trust and help physicians and patients make better, more informed choices in healthcare.

To learn more about the need for credible branded medical education, Med Ad News spoke with Dave Recht, CEO of North State Resources – the holding company for S+R Medical Communications and Friday Morning– along with Kelli Soare, senior program supervisor, and Ed Leon, senior program director, both of S+R Medical Communications.

Dave Recht: The trust issue has crossed the boarders of promotional strategies in a pretty pervasive way. It’s not just the advertising. It’s not just the sales rep, but there’s also the trust issue in the whole area of medical education. Part of that stems from the fact that there are cases in which physicians look at any of the information that’s coming from the pharmaceutical industry and they’re very skeptical about it.

I’ll also say, immediately 180 degrees to the opposite, that one of the areas that continue to be described, at least to us, and other reports we’ve seen is that they do want education.

If you start out with the mission that pharmaceutical companies, aside from their discovery and development and marketing component, have an obligation to educate their physician and patient audiences. If you accept that as a basic plank of responsibility for the pharmaceutical industry, what that demands is the physicians are saying, we give you that you guys have the most knowledge and the most insight and the most information about the products that you’re marketing, there’s not a dispute that we don’t think those products can be valuable, but we need to know the information that you have and that we need to know to make informed decisions about which of those products are right for which patients.

If you take that perspective, physicians really do want to be educated. But I think they want to be educated now in a way that they can take that information along with information that they’re getting from a number of other sources – Internet, their colleagues, symposia, publications – and use their brains to filter through what are the best opportunities to treat their patients.

There clearly is a demand and a need for branded medical education.

Med Ad News: Is there a problem with the way branded medical education is being presented? Are they getting what they need?

Dave Recht: There’s some things that need to change. We’ve always taken the perspective on the branded side, or the medical information side, within labeling, that education has a set point, and that is to deliver information that helps somebody better understand and better make treatment decisions. Whether it’s certified education or whether it’s educational information within labeling, we really don’t distinguish that in the sense of one type of education being better than the other type. It is education across the board.

So, if you take that premise and you say to yourself, okay, the first thing about education is it has to be need-based. To go into a speaker bureau or some other educational program in which you’re talking about cough cold products, unless there’s a new revelation and high-powered product, nobody is going to pay attention. So, it has to be based on the educational needs of the doctor in terms of helping he or she make their treatment decisions.

Then, if you base it on need, the second thing that has to happen is it has to be credible. What are the hallmarks of credibility? It’s people whom you choose to associate with in developing the educational material, so your thought leaders and KOLs. They’re respected. They’re well grounded. They have good clinical application and perspective on how a product should be used. Not just the theory of it.

Then the information needs to be transparent. There needs to be a way in which physicians can look at the data that is provided as support for the particular product, and physicians need to be able to see the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That’s another plank of what good education is about. And unfortunately, it isn’t getting delivered as frequently as we might like it to be in today’s world.

Then to me the final point of it is how do you present that information? What is it you choose to do in terms of the different types of mediums? The graphic design. The language you use.

And by the way, when we develop our educational programs, we always look at key principles of adult learning. What are some of those key principles and how do we apply those to the educational process and the programs we’re putting together for an audience?

So, the end of this whole thing becomes a process by which physicians who get an educational event from us … that education should be meaningful, worthy, credible, applicable from a clinical perspective, and it needs to be presented in a way that the physician receiver can easily understand the information and gain knowledge very quickly.

Ed Leon: A lot of clients probably don’t accept the reality that the way doctors get information has changed quite a bit, and it’s changing rapidly. Just like consumers and patients, doctors are active seekers of information much more than they were 10 or 20 years ago. They’re not just passive recipients. You have to meet the doctors where they are, where they’re seeking information. It’s very rare that a doctor is going to sit in his office and just wait for a sales rep to come in and get his first piece of information about a therapeutic area or a product.

Read the rest of the interview here.


The top 10 health stories of 2009 (according to Harvard)

Via: Healthcare IT News

Swine flu, health reform and restrictions on industry gifts to doctors are among the top 10 health stories identified by the Harvard Health Letter in its annual list.

The Harvard University publication develops a top 10 list each year with help from doctors on its editorial board.

Among the top stories of 2009 is the national effort to curb healthcare costs via reform legislation, mandated coverage and tighter regulation of health insurers. “Chances are that legislation, if it does become law, won’t do nearly enough to control costs,” the list’s authors said.

Healthcare organizations faced additional challenges this year as a result of the H1N1 flu pandemic. “Measured public health response” and “plenty of information” helped keep the pandemic in perspective, the editors said, and despite the oncoming flu season, they expect that H1N1 will likely remain manageable.

The Harvard Health Letter‘s full list of top 2009 health stories is as follows:

  • H1N1 flu
  • Healthcare reform
  • Screening tests
  • An alternative to warfarin?
  • New findings about “good” and “bad” body fat
  • Restrictions on industry gifts to doctors (TRANSPARENCY)
  • MicroRNA-based treatment
  • Changes in blood sugar goals for patients in intensive care
  • Testing for C-reactive protein
  • Social networks as conduits for health and disease

What about Pfizer? They must be on the ‘pharma’ list.

Check out the Wall Street Journal’s top 10 here.

FDA social media (#FDASM) week kicks into high gear today
November 12, 2009, 3:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Starting today, the FDA will be holding a 2-day hearing on how pharmaceutical companies use the web and social-media tools to market their products. Sixty-two speakers from pharmaceutical companies, media companies, agencies, and others have been asked to give their viewpoints.

Is it a little too late? Maybe. Is it a step in the right direction? Probably. Will the FDA, pharma and marketers have a better understanding on what needs to be done to regulate the internet and social media? Likely. Whatever the outcome, it’s about time.

Follow all of the action (via real-time tweets) at www.fdasm.com.

Or listen to the streaming webcast courtesy of the FDA at http://www.capitolconnection.net/capcon/fda/111209/FDAlive.htm.


25 things every pharma product manager should know before creating a marketing plan for 2010 and beyond
October 9, 2009, 2:52 pm
Filed under: advertising, behavior | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Plus a few more. If you are a non-believer in the effect of social media on the media landscape check out socialnomics. If you are a believer, then what you may not know is how other mediums are changing for the better or worse. Introducing, Did you know 4.0.

Medical data and the infectious power of social networks
September 23, 2009, 6:05 pm
Filed under: behavior | Tags: , , ,

Recent studies have shown that friends behave similarly. In fact, if our friends buy something, there’s a better-than-average chance we’ll buy it, too.  Obviously, this is a great insight for marketers, but may even be more important for the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare in general.

In a recent Wired Magazine Article, Johnathan Leher explains  how a group of patients from a Farmingham, MA study might demonstrate how relationships directly influence behavior and thus health and happiness.

The Framingham Heart Study, started in 1948, comprised of 5,124 male and female subjects and has revealed many of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, including smoking and hypertension. Data from the study combined with recorded family and friend information of the patients led Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist and internist at Harvard, and James Fowler, a political scientist at UC San Diego, to develop a social network that spanned 60 years. Some of the findings are below:


1985 - Obesity2000 - Obesity


1971 - Smokers

2001 - Smokers

New study reveals 77.5% of physicians use social media professionally

This blog is full of information about social media, including SmartPhone apps, Twitter, and others, and S&R decided to take this topic to the physicians to find out their thoughts on social media.

The S&R Communications Group Social Media Survey was conducted on July 20, 2009, via SermoTM, an online community for physicians. The purpose of this survey was to gather information about the personal and professional use of social media by physicians. The survey was administered to 102 physicians and was directed at physicians in the specialty areas of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and psychiatry. The survey contained 18 questions on various topics that ranged from basic demographics to use of specific social media sites.

One of the most important pieces of information gathered with this survey was not a surprise: Some physicians do use social media professionally.

Who uses it?

Of the 79 respondents (77.5%) who reported using social media professionally, 72.2% were 25 to 35 years in age. (The other 27.8% were 36 to 55. No one over the age of 55 participated in this survey.)

How do they use it?

Like any other tactical tool, social media will not be effective for every physician or every situation. The majority of respondents reported using social media to connect with physicians within their specialty (87.3%), to connect with physicians outside of their specialty (64.6%), to connect with colleagues they trained with (54.4%), to connect with medical school alumni (53.2%), and to connect with key opinion leaders (21.5%).

Interestingly, only 2.5% reported using social media to connect with patients, which suggests that physicians do not see social media as a viable means of communicating with patients. Why is this?

Perhaps the answer lies in the benefits respondents see in or their reasons for using social media professionally. Because the majority of physicians see social media as a means of gaining professional information, it is reasonable to expect that very few respondents would use social media as a means of communicating with patients. Plus, respondents, even those who reported not using social media professionally, reported that the 2 largest downsides to using social media professionally were issues of privacy (69.6%) and legal concerns (52%). Other downsides included concerns over credibility, time requirements, the impersonal nature of social media, and incongruence with their ideals of being professional.

At the moment, physicians must be careful about interacting with patients via social media. However, social media presents the opportunity to satisfy the demand for more immediate information and to correct mistakes quickly. Doctors already use non–face-to-face methods like letters, phone calls, etc. It may only be a matter of time before social media falls into this same category.

What can we learn from this survey?

As the world of pharmaceutical advertising is changing, we have to change with it. This survey confirms what we already knew: Social media will play an important part in pharmaceutical advertising. This survey indicates that social media is a source for information for physicians, so we know that we have the opportunity to create a place where we can build relationships with physicians while rapidly providing education, information, and the ability to interact with KOLs and other physicians.

In fact, more than 50% of respondents reported that they would be in favor of additional social media designed for better professional interaction with patients and other healthcare professionals.

As they always have, physicians are turning to their colleagues for information, and you have a responsibility to your product to participate in this conversation and ensure that accurate, factual, and complete information is being presented to the physicians who are seeking out that information.

Contact Wayne Dunlap (wayned@srcomgroup.com) for a full report.

Is pharma ready for the biggest shift since the industrial revolution?

I think so. Welcome to the world of socialnomics.