What Information Doctors Really Want from Pharma

I hope we are all finally agreed that doctors don’t want and don’t need more information and data.

Indeed, information is no longer the currency that it used to be. By that I mean, in years gone by drug data, for example, was valuable – it was hard for doctors to access, it was closely held by pharma, it was expensive to develop, HCPs wanted and needed it and pharma owned the supply chain. Information was a currency that had value!

Now though, the Internet, among other things, has changed that forever. Information is a dime a dozen, available everywhere, usually for free. Want to know something, Google it, go to your favourite, reputable, reference site or professional group and you will have more information than you could use in a lifetime. Information is no longer valuable the way it once was.

Still pharma continues to pump out drug information, marketing messages, clinical trial extracts, data etc. to HCPs like never before.

But the reality is that physician requirements and expectations of pharma have changed.

Of course, some information is important – that would be defined by doctors themselves but if pharma insists on pushing information to physicians, then there are 3 simple criteria to use to make sure that the information is valued by HCPs.

Relevant. Unique. Credible.

Any information you provide to HCPs - it applies to all customers of course but we will focus here on HCPs - should be measured against these 3 standards. If the message fails to meet any of these measures it should be refined or rejected.

Simple pass or fail, no grey areas here. Lets look at these three in more detail.


Easy one to start with. Is this information relevant?

But the trick here is: is it relevant to this individual doctor based on what you know about them as a person.

Pharma likes to work with segments and cohorts of customers. For example, these folks here, in this segment are cardiologists, so they are all interested in the same things! Clearly not true, but if all you know about these doctors is their specialty then that may well be the case.

I really like that famous quote and I will paraphrase “if all you have is a hammer, then the world is full of nails”. It seems somehow appropriate here.

Of course, they are all different, but unless you know more about them as individual HCPs, then they are all going to look the same.

So relevance is about being relevant to them as an individual. And providing information that meets their individual needs, one that addresses an important need or one that solves a problem that keeps them awake at night. Everyone is different.

One message does not suit all! And it is not only about the drug!


More difficult to understand perhaps but ‘unique’ in this instance is more like ‘tell me something I don’t know already’.

Much of pharma’s sales and marketing processes have been formulated around message delivery, message push. Repeating the brand name, making sure HCPs are aware of the product efficiency, safety profile, side effects and increasingly, cost.  Repeating it, often a lot.

But there are other things a customer would like to know about.

Many HCPs are aware of the product data: they get easy access to it these days, they don’t need the message to be repeated 12 times a year for the 2 years following a new product launch. They get it! If the product has been around for a few years, they probably know all they need to know and now have very different informational needs.

Maybe they don’t prescribe it for one reason or another, but simply repeating the same message is not going to radically change their opinion. So talk to them about things they don’t know already, look beyond product information to address their particular information needs. Then make every communication new, exciting and engaging by sharing something that the HCP didn’t know already.


Pharma has a problem with credibility. No doubt about that. So it is about time that the information they provide is seen as being credible by its customers. Marketing materials and internally generated messages have suffered from an incredible lack of credibility by HCPs, but it has been more than that.

Pharma is rightly criticized for only providing a biased and select version of the truth from, typically, sources that it controls or manages. Now is the time to provide materials that are genuinely credible in the eyes of HCPs.

There is nothing new here, and the issue for pharma, as it has always been, is to think outside of itself and really understand customers and deliver what they truly value.

Perhaps it is no longer merely peer-reviewed articles; perhaps there are newer more credible sources that they should tap into. Again, credibility is judged from the customer’s perspective.

Pharma will need to work hard in this area to develop materials and support that is seen as credible. And that will require an openness and transparency that pharma will find difficult to come to terms with.

Three simple rules to guide the dissemination of information.

There is nothing new here, and the issue for pharma, as it has always been, is to think outside of itself and really understand customers and deliver what they truly value.

I have seen these guidelines used but usually they reflect pharma’s own perspective. ‘Hey, we have a new indication – doctors want to know about this - relevant, they may have seen a news report but they really don’t know much about it - unique, and we have a great clinical trial that supports our product - credible.’

Relevant, credible, unique, perhaps. But only from pharma’s perspective and probably not seen by HCPs as highly valuable information.

Of course, the real underlying challenge here is the need to better understand customers. It is always going to be a difficult to deliver relevant, unique and credible information to customers when one does not really understand their individual hopes, needs, wants and expectations.