Can I get a reference? Patients want branded drug sites to offer doctor database: survey

Doctor.com digital report graphic 2019
Patients want pharma companies to help them locate doctors and even do appointment scheduling, according to new study. (Doctor.com)

Should pharma brands connect patients to medications? If consumers had their way, they would, according to a new survey from Doctor.com.

Call it a sign of the times, but people are conditioned to all-in-one online shopping and services, and they expect similar experiences from drugmakers. Dining out? Browse, read menu reviews and make a reservation on Resy or OpenTable. Taking a trip? Read reviews, scan hotels, comparison shop for flights and book on Expedia or Booking.com.

“So it’s not surprising that people doing research about a drug would want to find a suitable provider to treat them for the relevant condition and potentially connect them with the right therapy. What was surprising to us was how front of mind this was for patients and caregivers,” Doctor.com CEO Andrei Zimiles said.

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In fact, 47% said finding the right doctor was the top challenge in finding a treatment or drug for a medical condition, followed by 45% who chose finding the right treatment.

Additionally, 88% of the 1,300 people in the U.S. online study want pharma's brand websites to feature a find-a-doctor directory to help them find someone who could treat their condition. Another 56% also said they would be more loyal to a brand or product if it had a website that helped them find a doctor, see other patients' ratings and book an appointment.

So why doesn’t pharma already offer physician suggestions? Some do, particularly specialty drugs that require special training or specific facilities, for instance. Endo Pharmaceuticals' Xiaflex has “find a provider” and “find a urologist” zip code search functions to help patients find doctors who are trained to administer the treatment for Dupuytren’s contracture and Peyronie’s disease, respectively.

One reason doctor directories aren’t more mainstream is that the databases are expensive to maintain and keep current. However, Zimiles and Josh Kramon, vice president of life science solutions at Doctor.com, said the study’s findings suggest the extra effort may be worth it.

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“The data supports that’s what consumers want and that’s good enough justification by itself, but also the fact that there is some very interesting data that’s made possible by this,” Zimiles said, noting useful information such as geographical reach and real-time ad campaign effectiveness.

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