How the pandemic could impact healthcare marketing

McCann Health explores the changes pharma brands will contend with by polling those who have seen them first-hand: doctors.

The pandemic has forced many sectors to change the way they operate, do business and deal with people, including healthcare. And by speaking to the people who have seen those changes first-hand – Canadian doctors  – it becomes clear that pharma brands will need to adapt to those changes as well.

That’s according to a recent study by McCann Health Canada in partnership with CRC Research, which looked into the impacts of COVID-19 for healthcare marketing by asking doctors how they might prefer to interact with patients, peers and the pharma industry when the pandemic is over.

It was compiled through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, surveying 100 health care practitioners (HCPs) across Canada in May 2021.

Among the study’s main findings is that most HCPs found their patients more engaged and empowered in their own health management than before the pandemic. More than three-quarters of HCPs surveyed believes patients are more engaged and concerned about prescription drug benefits than before. With vaccine manufacturers now household names, 78% of doctors believe patients will be paying more attention to which company manufactures their prescriptions.

In the past, this education may have been celebrated, but doctors are concerned that social media has become a major source of healthcare information, and 87% of them are concerned that patients are not properly equipped to understand and evaluate everything they read online.

“Everybody seems to have become self-proclaimed experts in public health because they read stuff online,” said Richard, a GP from Quebec.

The responsibility to educate consumers properly about deciphering medication, through the benefits and risks analysis, efficacy rates’ and dosing intervals should fall on pharmaceutical companies, according to roughly 90% of HCPs.

The other major change in healthcare has been the acceleration of virtual care, and 98% of HCPs expressed concern that tele or virtual appointments limited their ability to provide the best clinical care. Nine out of 10 also expressed concern that their patients were not taking their medications properly and regularly due to a lack of communication, concerns that were the highest in Ontario and lowest in Quebec.

“Not being in front of a patient takes away the impact of how convincing you can be asking a patient to take action,” said a GP from Quebec.

The majority of HCPs reported that they expect, even after the pandemic is over, for 20% to 40% of patient appointments to be held virtually or over the telephone. They hope that in the future a mixed-care patient model will allow pre-screening over the phone to determine whether in-person visits for diagnostics and first time visits are necessary.

That’s something that pharma companies also need to contend with: roughly three quarters want some kind of virtual detailing from pharma reps after the pandemic. That’s due to a diminished perception of value of in-person visits and a greater need to accommodate HCPs – though some did say they missed in-person interactions.