Doctors see pharma reputation as top priority when picking prescription meds

A pharma company’s reputation ranked as a leading factor in physician prescription decisions, according to a recent WE Communications Brands survey published in the "Brands in Motion" global report.

In “Healthy Reputation: More Than Medicine,” healthcare professionals displayed their desire for pharmas to go beyond just functional characteristics of a medication to address the entire health experience.

In addition, professionals want pharma companies to engage in patient and physician education, concerns for environmental issues and whole-body wellness solutions.

Specifically, nine out of 10 healthcare professionals said pharma and biotech companies should support improving patient health outcomes beyond drug therapies. And 73% reported that companies should add value to society such as offering patient support and driving pharma sustainability.

But according to Stephanie Marchesi, president of WE Communications Global Health, corporate reputation has always been important to prescribers.

“For a long time, healthcare communicators have asked themselves and each other a similar question, ‘To what degree does corporate reputation influence prescribing decisions?,’” she said in an interview with Fierce Pharma Marketing.

“As communicators, our instincts and anecdotal feedback have told us that corporate reputation is important. But now we have hard evidence of its impact, both as influencing prescribing decisions among HCPs as well as contributing to the bottom line for biotech and pharma companies.”

She does, however, acknowledge that the pandemic has affected healthcare professionals’ decision-making. The COVID pandemic created an opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves in positive ways, such as collaborative partnerships and prioritizing what is right for the greater good over short-term financial gain.

“It was hard not to notice those companies that really stood out, and HCPs are paying attention,” Marchesi said.

Another standout point from the report was that patient centricity is the No. 1 characteristic professionals want in a pharma brand. The No. 2 priority characteristic was innovative solutions, while No. 3 was progressive pharma solutions.

So, what patient-centric actions do professionals want to see from pharma companies? The top three include increasing patient support programs, improving understanding of complex health information and understanding the patient’s physical and emotional experience.

According to Marchesi, the results of the survey came as a surprise to some pharma marketers and communicators. Specifically, three results stood out.

One, corporate reputation is the No. 1 influencing factor in prescribing decisions, when all other factors between medications are similar—such as safety, efficacy and price.  And, on the flip side, poor reputation would also influence physicians not to prescribe a brand of medication.

Two, corporate reputation is even more influential than a healthcare professional’s relationship with their sales representative.

Finally, patient centricity is the No. 1 trait or behavior that those surveyed are looking for in a pharma company, indicating that healthcare workers are not fully aware of what pharma companies are already doing in the ways of patient centricity.

“For me, this indicates that there is an opportunity and a need to dig deeper into patient centricity and explore what it means in the eyes of companies, patients and HCPs,” Marchesi said.

Marchesi does see a lot of novel ways in which pharma companies are answering the call to make their brands more patient-centric. For example, some companies are educating all employees, regardless of their position, about the patient experience by providing simulations, sharing patient stories or bringing in patients to speak.

Another path to patient-centric responsibility includes engaging the patient community by designing and informing the campaigns that are created to reach them.

“Disease education is vital to reaching patients and their caregivers. However, often these educational campaigns are designed devoid of actual patient or caregiver input,” Marchesi said.

“Companies that take the time to build trusting relationships with patent communities and collaborate with them on programs, build the most effective and successful campaigns.”

Finally, some pharma companies are putting patient support programs at the forefront of campaigns and websites, making it easy for patients to connect.

Moving forward, Marchesi hopes these survey findings help corporate healthcare communicators to make the case internally for the funding and resources they need to build and protect their company’s corporate reputation. She doubled down on the importance of a strong corporate reputation to drive growth.

“Companies need to prioritize investment in building and protecting their reputation,” she said. “To not is to miss out on leveraging an impactful business lever, or worse, risk negatively impacting your business if you have issues around your corporate reputation.”