It can be taken as read that improving communications with patients improves quality of care. Patients who are well informed are calmer, more engaged, and more likely to be compliant and adherent. They receive better, less-invasive care, and—as a result of all of these factors—incur lower costs to themselves and to the healthcare system overall.
But communicating clearly with patients is often easier said than done. According to one study, 40% to 80% of the information a doctor tells a patient is forgotten immediately—and half of what is remembered is wrong.
This means that as little as 10% of vital information actually gets from the healthcare professional (HCP) into the patient’s mind. When understanding and retention is poor, any help we can provide is incredibly important. The very best medications and advice HCPs can offer won’t make any difference at all, if patients don’t understand how to use them.
There are a variety of fronts on which the pharmaceutical industry can help improve this problem, including:
- Communications between HCPs and their patients and caregivers.
- Communications between HCPs and sales reps.
- Communications between pharma itself and patients, caregivers, and HCPs.
Communication from pharma to HCPs works at the most technical level of science, and therefore benefits most from clarity and ease. If we can facilitate their ability to explain simply and accurately why a particular drug may work for them, how to get the hang of a dosing regimen, and what to expect as a drug builds to a therapeutic dose, we give them new power.
Pharma sales reps, in particular, have a great opportunity to help set up their HCPs for success in patient communications. The tools they use—increasingly digital sales aids—are intended to help them. At Intouch, we recently undertook a survey of physicians and representatives to enquire about their experiences with digital sales aids (primarily iPads). We found:
- Reps use iPads for “paperwork”—logging calls, capturing signatures—but only inconsistently for actual detailing. They want to be able to offer their physicians usable, flexible, rich, uncluttered content.
- The vast majority of physicians use iPads in their own lives, but they complain that digital detailing is repetitive and not customized to their practice. They would like to see more drug comparisons, MOA videos, and patient-education materials.
Well-crafted patient education materials, delivered by reps and customized to the physician’s needs, are just what the doctor ordered. As more and more HCPs adopt no-see policies, it becomes harder and harder to communicate with them. And on both sides, HCPs and reps are accustomed to tools that don’t maximize their potential. Surpassing expectations is not a high bar, but now we hold a better understanding of both physicians and reps’ wants and needs. It’s time to act on this.