Pharmaceutical companies in the US are having communication problems when it comes to Hispanic/Latino audiences, according to a national survey of physicians.

The survey, conducted by KCI Partners and the Jeffrey Group, asked physicians to rate pharmaceutical companies based on how well they understand the healthcare needs of Hispanic/Latino patients, and how well they communicate with them about solutions to those needs. According to the data, 33% of the physicians surveyed gave pharma companies the lowest possible score on communicating, and just 7% said pharma communicates “very well” with Latino/Hispanic patients. On a scale of one to seven – with seven being the highest positive rating – 24% of docs gave pharma a three for communication ability, and another 24% gave pharma a four.

Surveyed physicians also said that Latino/Hispanic populations have less access to pharmaceutical drugs, compared with the general US population. Forty-eight percent of physicians said the general US population has excellent access, while just 14% said Latino/Hispanic patients have excellent access to treatments. Lack of insurance was the number one barrier for Latino/Hispanic patients, followed by language barriers, legal status and lack of education, according to the survey data.

Physicians were divided on the question of whether healthcare reform would benefit Latino/Hispanic patients; 23% said reform wouldn’t help Latino/Hispanics at all, and 22% said reform will be extremely helpful. The remaining 55% of physicians were somewhere in the middle about the helpfulness of healthcare reform.

For health educational messages not classified as paid advertising, physicians rated television spots and conversations with a doctor or healthcare professional as the best channels for reaching Hispanics/Latinos, with internet communications in dead last, according to the study.

“From a communications perspective, we were surprised that television stories, not television advertising, were rated as very/extremely effective at educating Hispanic patients,” said Mike Valdes-Fauli, president of the Jeffrey Group, in an email.  “In the past ten years, pharmaceutical companies have been investing in communicating with Hispanic audiences through a variety of unbranded disease or DTC product campaigns – many of these innovative and creative. The impetus for TV advertising probably stemmed from the fact that Hispanics watch 55% more TV per week than their non-Hispanic counterparts. Despite this, it appears as if traditional media relations is more effective than advertising for Hispanic audiences, as it pertains to healthcare.”

Some 422 physicians participated in the study, which was conducted between November 15, 2010, and January 7, 2011. The physician sample was comprised of 38% primary care physicians, 31% surgeons, and 31% “other specialists,” according to the survey. A participation honorarium offered physicians a chance to win an Apple iPod.