The pharma industry could improve its reputation among consumers by offering holistic approaches, rather than singular drug treatments, according to a panel of digital marketers at the ePharma Summit on Tuesday.

“As marketers, we need to think about the whole patient…rather than just a solution [to an illness],” said Bob Harrell, director of eMarketing at Shire Pharmaceuticals. “Why can’t we promote a more holistic solution?” he asked, offering by way of example the promotion of Omega-3s alongside Vyvanse, Shire’s ADHD treatment.

Harrell expressed the need for an emotional resonance with respect to patient communications. Drug companies are viewed by many consumers as being inauthentic sources of information, said Harrell. One way to strike a more authentic tone is to utilize audio messages in the patient’s voice, added Harrell, citing ethnographic research conducted by Shire.

Mary Pietrowski, director of consumer and eMarketing at Hologic, a medical device manufacturer, said that Hologic’s consumers typically will have a one-time procedure. However, the company has tried to reach out to patients through its “Voices of MammoSite” community, where women can “connect on a personal level with breast cancer experiences,” and not necessarily to promote or receive the MammoSite radiation therapy. “That empowers patients,” said Pietrowski.

Mike Wojeck, vice president, strategic solutions at RealAge Inc., added that marketers should be “moving from owning a relationship to being introduced into a conversation.”

The panel, titled “Motivating Healthy Behavior to Engage Consumers and Physicians,” was moderated by MM&M‘s editor-in-chief, James Chase. The ePharma Summit was held in Philadelphia, February 9-11.