As most of you know, I also blog on the Publicis D Healthcare site. Check out some of the topics discussed on the blog this week:
- Changes to the Pharma Code of Marketing Practice in Ireland: The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) has announced strict updates to its industry Code of Marketing Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry.
- Video Consultations with Specialists Aid Treatment: The Archives of Dermatology this month published an interesting study on ‘teledermatology’ – the use of video conferencing to allow a primary care physician to ‘remote consult’ with a dermatologist – which had some interesting results.
- Pharmaceutical Sales Reps Gone Wild – A Docu-Spoof: Pharmaceutical sales is becoming a battle – survival of the fittest, the most engaging, those sales teams whose approach evolves to meet the needs of physicians. How are pharmaceutical reps coping in a rapidly changing environment? Check out this funny docu-spoof.
- Pharmacists warn of dangers of using internet for health advice -
As the recession rumbles on Irish consumers are turning to the internet to self diagnose and seek advice on health conditions. A nationwide survey of 1,000 adults carried out by Quinn Healthcare revealed “almost half of Irish people (46%) find that the cost of attending their GP encourages them to consult the Internet for medical diagnosis“.
The National Consumer Agency puts the average cost per GP visit at an average of €51…prohibitive for the 60% of women and 50% of men under 44 who are turning to “Dr Google” for information on health issues.
Other stats from the survey include:
- 45% would use a phone service or web chat if GPs offered this service, with Dublin respondents being most positive on these methods of consultation (52%)
- On average 35% of the population believe the Internet is a trustworthy source of medical information, with young men being the biggest believers (48%)
- 53% of females aged between 35-44 use the Internet for a second opinion and as a tool to challenge GP diagnosis
- More than 55% of younger males, and also 54% of women aged between 35-44 would consult the Internet rather than their GP if suffering from an embarrassing medical problem
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) posted a statement in response to this research, saying: “We are concerned at the growing trend for people using the internet to self diagnose. The information online may not always be correct and your symptoms could worsen if you are not properly diagnosed. We encourage people to drop in and ask their pharmacist first for advice.”
The IPU ‘Ask your Pharmacist First’ campaign has been running for some months now with a series of radio adverts and the launch of their website ‘watercooleradvice.ie‘. On the interactive site you can type in any health topic and the three ‘watercooler experts’ will give you their advice. The idea being to underscore that “On the internet, everyone’s an “expert” and you should ask a qualified healthcare professional (such as your pharmacist) for advice.
The most interesting stat that jumps out of this research for me is the fact that women are using the internet as a virtual ‘second opinion’, gathering information to challenge their GP’s initial diagnosis. This trend suggests training healthcare professionals in communications techniques to allow them to effectively manage the expectations of ‘e-patients’ armed with print outs from the internet will become a vital element of their professional development.
I doubt that anything will dissuade consumers from seeking information online…convenience, curiosity and cost savings will mean that the numbers of people visiting “Dr Google” is only going to increase. The focus of those operating in the healthcare sector, (the Department of Health, healthcare professionals, advocacy groups and pharmaceutical companies), should be on ensuring that accurate and engaging health education content is available for all conditions and that this is readily accessible online.
The e-patient is not going away and so healthcare must adapt to provide e-treatment.
‘A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down‘…that may work in the rose-tinted world of Mary Poppins but in reality encouraging people to take their medicine is a task that can’t be overcome with a song. A WHO report estimated that between 30 and 50% of medicines prescribed for long-term illness are not taken as directed.
Healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical marketing and PR people spend a significant amount of time developing strategies to deal with medication non-adherence (i.e. taking your medicine as frequently as you’re supposed to and for as long as you’re supposed to). With that in mind, this US infographic created by Steven Wilkins, Author and Owner of Mind the Gap, is quite interesting. It aims to “describe the ‘disconnect’ that often occurs between physicians and patients and the impact of adherence”. With stats like doctors spending just 49 seconds telling a patient what they need to know about a new medication, it provides an interesting insight into the medicine compliance issue.
Despite moves by pharmaceutical industry regulators both here and abroad to clarify rules around use of social media, pharma companies remain wary of delving into the social networking site to promote their brand/campaigns. This reticence will not be helped by the announcement today that Bayer UK have become the first pharma company to breach the UK ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry through their use of Twitter.
@BayerUKIreland have tweeted just 93 times since Jan 25th 2010, posting news bites and links to PR materials. In March the company posted the controversial tweet: “First & only melt-in-the-mouth erectile dysfunction treatment launched by Bayer today http://tinyurl.com/6hfxymf” and linked to a UK press release announcing the launch of a new formulation of their ED drug, Levitra. This wasn’t the first time the company posted product-specific comments. Last year they tweeted about a product launch saying: “Sativex® launched in UK for the treatment of spasticity due to Multiple Sclerosis.”
When questioned by inpharm.com in March, Bayer UK’s PR and Media Relations Manager, Andrea Postles said that “All news releases are ABPI Code-approved before they are issued. Social media users only see our tweets if they have already elected to be ‘followers’.” However this wasn’t the case as their Twitter account was open to the public and regardless of their 521 followers (at the time); their tweets were publicly displayed and indexed by search engines.
Following online debate one anonymous ‘reporter from a healthcare publication’ took a complaint to the PMCPA about the promotional activity. Following a panel review of the case, the PMCPA reported that although the Levitra tweet did not cite the product’s name it “referred to its qualities, indication and launch“. Furthermore they said: “The Sativex tweet mentioned the brand name, indication and launch”.
The PMCPA ruled that the tweets breached the Code of Practice stating that “each tweet was in fact a public announcement about the launch of a prescription only medicine which promoted that medicine to the public and would encourage members of the public to ask their health professionals to prescribe it”.
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