What Physicians Want from Pharma—And Where—During Diagnosis and Treatment

For life sciences commercial teams, effectively engaging physicians and supporting them with education on the evolving science around products and conditions requires a deep understanding of physician content needs and channel preferences. These are dynamic factors, playing out differently across specialty groups and stages of the patient journey, as well as the condition being treated.

Clarivate’s Taking the Pulse series of global physician studies is designed to help companies better support their physician customers in caring for patients. As part of Phase I of this year’s just-published Taking the Pulse study, Clarivate interviewed more than 1,100 U.S. physicians across 15 specialties, treating more than 95 conditions. The resulting data offer a view into physician information needs at two critical junctures—during diagnosis and treatment selection.

“We continue to observe circumstance-driven behaviors by physicians across specialties,” says Clarivate Analyst Archana Pandya. “Physicians make targeted decisions around disease-specific patient care interactions. In this year’s study, we’re finding that U.S physicians are running into challenges around the diagnosis and treatment phase of specific diseases, and so express a need for information that will help them in each phase of the disease progression.”

Anticipating Physician Pain Points

The number one need for physicians in most specialty groups at the diagnostic stage is medical information—scientific information meant to educate physicians on treatments and diseases—often to overcome challenges with differential diagnosis or symptom recognition. Across specialties, sharable patient educational materials emerged as the second-most common need at the diagnostic stage.

Challenges during the treatment stage show greater variation across specialties, yielding differences in content needs. For instance, 61% of ophthalmologists cite poor adherence with existing treatments as a challenge; services to help patients and caregivers manage their condition emerged as their top need during the treatment stage. In contrast, half of U.S. dermatologists reported poor efficacy of existing treatments as a struggle, and cited a need for product information to address unmet needs in treatment. Nearly half of oncologists, including hematology-oncologists and medical oncologists, allude to treatment challenges including side effects and patient comorbidities, and seek out medical information to address these challenges.

“The information-seeking behaviors of specialists depend on the conditions they’re trying to diagnose, refer, treat, or manage,” said Carlos Casanova, Senior Director, Customer Engagement and Omnichannel Strategy at Clarivate. “You need to first understand the type of content they need to address the challenges they face in treating a particular patient group, and then you need to know how they access different types of information in order to reach them with the relevant content, through the right channel and above all, at the time they need it.”

Channel Use in Flux

Life sciences companies’ owned channels remain relevant. Pharma reps are especially critical when it comes to product information, with 55% of all U.S. physicians having accessed these resources through them. Reps are an especially important source of product info for dermatologists (73%), GPs (63%), gastroenterologists, and orthopedic surgeons (61%). Among all U.S. physicians, 48% accessed product info through pharma HCP websites, a notable source of this type of content for endocrinologists (60%).

While physicians’ top go-to for medical information is scientific journals, used by 71% of all U.S. physicians, third-party websites for HCPs, used by 61%, are close behind. Half of endocrinologists and 43% of neurologists rely on pharma Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) for this type of content. While only one third of U.S. physicians report using pharma HCP websites, some specialties such as endocrinologists seek out medical information at a much higher rate.

Understanding the barriers physicians are facing can help commercial teams fine-tune multichannel allocation, content development, and messaging. Beyond engagement, these sorts of insights can also help to shape product development at earlier stages, informing everything from endpoint selection to value positioning.

Methodology: All data cited are from Phase I of Clarivate’s Physician Multichannel Study, Taking the Pulse U.S. 2022, which was conducted in the spring and summer of 2022. For more information on physician engagement dynamics, stay tuned for insights from Phase II of our 2022 physician study, Re-Taking the Pulse, which will be published in November 2022.

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