That pharma-patient gap companies are working to bridge? It's still pretty wide, survey finds

Pharma companies need to focus on making connections with their patients and customers, a new Inspire survey found.

While patient centricity is on every pharma company agenda these days, there's still a lot of work to be done, if results from a new survey are any indication.

Patient engagement platform Inspire’s annual survey of more than 10,000 patient community members found, once again, that patients report a broad disconnect with pharma companies. Almost 40% of patients surveyed couldn’t name any of the pharma companies who made their treatments, while another 35% could only name some of the companies. Just 14% of those surveyed said they felt they had a relationship with the pharma company behind their meds, and only 40% reported that that relationship is a good one.

The results are similar to the inaugural survey findings last year, Dave Taylor, director of research for Inspire, told FiercePharma.

Part of the issue has to do with branding regulations when it comes to disease awareness, as little mention is usually made of the companies behind those campaigns. On the branded side, the lack of recognition has to do with the marketing focus usually being on the drug, not the maker.

“To use a sports analogy, it’s more about the name on the back of the jersey than on the front. So it’s not so much about BMS’s Opdivo, for example—the focus is on Opdivo, which is what they want people to go in and ask about,” Taylor said.

However, he does think that pharma companies need to build relationships with patients. Not establishing name recognition or building trust with patients could hurt the companies down the line, for instance, when patients stop taking a medication because of financial reasons or a lack of education about side effects. If pharma companies have positive and direct connections to patients, people will know how to tap them for financial assistance or call a pharma-supported nurse hotline for advice.

One way pharma companies could build relationships with patients is through mobile and social connections, which are way up in usage by patients to manage healthcare. Inspire found that 82% of patients used social media websites for medical research or support this year, which is up from 67% last year. Mobile use to manage healthcare also jumped, with 50% of patients saying they use mobile versus just 28% last year.

The good news is the desire for connection is there. Pharma wants to connect reach patients, and on the other side, patients are open to connecting with pharma for things like education, information, clinical research and financial help, Taylor said.

“Everyone is trying to figure patient centricity out. How do you balance being there when needed and not pushing too much with patients and possibly taking away from a relationship?” he said.