Patients are increasingly turning to pharma brand websites for information, but many want them to be a one-stop-shop for treatment information, finding a doctor and booking appointments, according to a survey from Doctor.com.
Eighty-eight percent want pharma brand websites to feature a find-a-doctor directory, according to the survey, and 81% said they were more likely to use a brand website that has a doctor directory.
The reward for offering these tools would be increased brand loyalty, the survey found. More than half (56%) of patients said they would be more loyal to a brand or product if its website offered tools like a doctor directory and online appointment scheduling. More than 60% also said the doctor directory would increase their loyalty to a doctor.
Few brand websites actually offer these tools, said Josh Kramon, VP of life sciences at Doctor.com. Typically, products that require certain doctor certifications will have a directory, but most product websites don’t have that capability.
Kramon added that directories and online appointments can give companies appointment level data and it could help patients who want privacy to feel more comfortable.
“Pharma spends a lot of money in media to get patients to brand.com,” Kramon said. “But if the patient wants to get that medicine, they will lose that patient to the web to find a doctor where they may have a bad experience. Keeping them in that walled garden presence of brand.com keeps them from seeing competition and controls their experience.”
The desire for these tools stems from challenges in the “last mile of the patient journey.” Nearly half of patients (47%) said finding the right doctor was a challenge, 45% said finding the right treatment was a big challenge and 42% cited cost. More than a quarter (27%) said scheduling an appointment is a challenge to getting treatment.
Doctor.com CEO Andrei Zimiles said pharma advertising messages may also be driving the desire to find doctors on product websites.
“If you look at the call to action at the end of pharma ads it’s ask your doctor or speak to your doctor,” Zimiles said. “If people are learning first about the brand through ads, but the message that’s reinforced is that to gain access to this drug, you need a physician to give it to you. In this world where people can get quick solutions to everything, where they’re trained to do everything online, it’s natural. Why would you want to go back to Google or go to the insurance company’s website to complete that last mile?”
Zimiles also noted that nearly every other industry has migrated to simple, touch-of-a-button online experiences that consumers expect from healthcare, too.
Patients are going to pharma brand websites in droves for medical information. More than half (52%) said they used pharma and medical device websites to research treatment, about the same as those who refer to their doctors for treatment information (54%).
Zimiles said the amount of people turning to brand websites for this information was the most surprising finding of the survey. The survey reached more than 1,300 respondents from age 18 to older than 60. The research was conducted in August and September.
“There are so many opportunities as a pharma brand; the person is already on your website,” Zimiles said. “You’re making that match [to the right doctor], providing a good experience and saving a person’s time, which today is the most valuable currency. There are other opportunities like connecting them with discussion guide as part of the pre-appointment reminder or putting a copay discount option in front of them. When you have the online appointment capability, it creates a cascading series of messaging opportunities to reach that patient with timely communications.”