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Why pharma should prescribe Information Therapy


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How and why pharmaceutical companies need to prescribe Information Therapy

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Why pharma should prescribe Information Therapy

  1. 1. Decoding the Relation: Pharma & Info Therapy Information Therapy If pharma companies create actionable patient education tools for doctors to use in their practices, doctors will be happy to use these By: Dr. Aniruddha Malpani The PwC 2013 report, “India Pharma Inc – Changing Landscape of the Indian pharma industry” has eloquently documented the challenges Indian pharma today faces. What can pharma companies do to cope with the current slowdown in growth rate and sales? Selling to doctors has always been the heart and soul of the pharma industry business model. While MRs form the backbone of the pharma sales force, they are no longer as effective as they used to be. Most doctors disrespect MRs today. They are only seen to be a source of freebies – and are made to wait for hours on end. Today’s pharma industry sales force is disgruntled and unhappy, as shown by their high attrition rates. The good news is that it’s easy to win back the doctor’s respect – pharma companies just need to start thinking about what they can do to improve the doctor’s productivity and efficiency. What doctors want What do doctors want? The answer is simple – they want more patients. A pharma company which can help doctors to do this is going to find that doctors are receptive. Doctors are realising that they need to invest in educating their patients in order to be able to increase their practice and improve their profitability. If pharma companies create actionable patient education tools for doctors to use in their practices, doctors will be happy to use these – creating a winHealth Biz India December 2013 55
  2. 2. Information Therapy There’s plenty of technology which the pharma sector can use to connect directly with their patients win situation where everyone benefits – patients, doctors and the pharma company. The pharma industry should invest in improving the doctor-patient relationship by harnessing the power of technology and social media. Doctors want their patients to be as satisfied as possible with their care, which is why they want to have informed and quality interactions with their patients. But in real life, this often does not happen, primarily because doctors find it difficult to spend enough time with their patients, no matter how good their intentions may be. To compound the problem, patients are also often not health literate. One solution to make the doctor more efficient and the patient more aware about his condition is by investing in information therapy, which the doctor can then prescribe to his patients. Acting as a catalyst Advances in digital technology and the opening of new online 56 Health Biz India December 2013 communication channels means there are now lots of opportunities to improve the doctor-patient relationship significantly. Sadly, most individual doctors don’t have either the expertise or the resources to tap these. This is a huge opportunity for the pharma companies, which can act as a catalyst to improve the doctor-patient relationship. Enlightened pharma companies which do this stand to gain lot of goodwill and loyalty of both doctors and patients. There are many ways of doing this. They can create customised, personalised patient education DVDs. Doctors can gift these to their patients at the end of the consultation, so they can review them at home. This can help doctors to enhance their brand and create patient loyalty. These DVDs can be played in the waiting room TV. This will ensure that the patient becomes better informed about his illness and its treatment – and he will not be so unhappy when the doctor is running late. In high end clinics, this content can also be played on tablets, which the receptionist can offer to patients while they are waiting. Create personalised websites for doctors. Doctors today have realised that a majority of their patients are online. They understand the value a personal website can offer them, but don’t know how to go about creating one for themselves. Most website companies don’t understand medicine and most doctors don’t understand digital technology. A pharma company could create individual websites for doctors, with the domain name which the doctor himself chooses. Not only is this very valuable digital real estate, it also then opens up a direct marketing channel to the doctor for the pharma company. After all, every doctor takes pride in his own website, and not only will he print his url on his visiting cards and letter heads, he will check it to analyse the
  3. 3. traffic he is getting (doctors can be very competitive). The trick is to provide content rich websites, which are prepopulated according to the specialty of the doctor, which he can then further customise and personalise if he wants to. Tapping the ultimate customer The ultimate customers for the pharma sector are patients, but how does one engage with them? This has always been a challenge for many reasons. Pharma industry does not want to upset doctors by bypassing them; and they have to function under stringent guidelines which regulate direct to consumer (DTC) marketing. Pharma industry needs to learn to put patients first – and the best way of doing this is to focus on creating trust rather than building brands. We all know that patients have lots of questions about the drugs the doctors prescribes them. Most of these doubts about side-effects are never answered by either the doctor or the chemist. This lacuna is a huge opportunity for pharma cpmpanies to step in, and educate patients about the medicines their doctor has prescribed for them – after all, pharma sector is the scientific expert on the molecules and has a responsibility to ensure they are used properly. Pharma companies need to educate the user about these medicines, when he wants this information (usually, before he actually swallows the pill). Pharma companies need to be honest, open and transparent, and provide information which the patient wants to know (warts and all); in terms he can Information Therapy understand; and also check that he has understood. Pharma industry understands the value of contacting patients – after all, non-compliance is a big problem and non-adherence creates a financial loss for the pharma company, along with impairing the patient’s health. Especially for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, pharma industry needs to create lifelong customers. What can they do to ensure that patients do not switch brands? Digital tools The good news is that there’s plenty of technology available today which pharma industry can use to connect directly with their patients – after all, over 200 million Indians are now online. Here’s a simple example. Companies can include QR codes which link to their website in their PIL (patient information leaflets). Patients always have many questions about the side effects of the medicines they have been prescribed, and doctors rarely have the time, energy or inclination to answer these, which is why patients are forced to use Dr Google to find out more about what drugs they are taking. If the pharma company provided this information to the patient directly, this would be a winwin for everyone. Pharma industry can also develop lots of clever tools to engage with patients directly. They can create mobile apps, to help patients manage their diseases (for example, diabetes); or develop Facebook games to incentivise patients to stop smoking or lose weight). These are many successful pilot projects, which can be scaled up if they are adopted by pharma companies. One way to test the waters is to partner with active health NGOs, by running pilot projects to see how these evolve. In the past, pharmaceutical companies were held in high regard because the drugs they helped to discover saved lives and helped fight diseases. Today, on the other hand, they get lots of bad press. They are seen to be greedy because they overcharge for their drugs; they waste a lot of money on advertising; they develop drugs which ‘treat’ unimportant lifestyle issues; and are thought to be unethical because they indulge in underhand practices to encourage doctors to prescribe their medications. The good news is that Information Therapy provides a great opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to restore their tarnished reputations – and companies which adopt this will become market leaders. Pharma industry is in the business of doing good by helping people to remain healthy. Doing good can do pharma industry good. Pharma companies that adopt information therapy will become market leaders Health Biz India December 2013 57