How pharma can gain public trust
Pharmaceutical companies can combat misinformation and mistrust by placing the patient at the center of their overall strategies – from clinical trials to public outreach.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a significant increase in mistrust towards the pharma industry, most notably among marginalized communities. Pharma companies should plan and execute patient-centric strategies that emphasize transparency to combat misinformation and rebuild trust.
Establishing robust communication channels among patients, healthcare professionals and pharma companies is key to receiving and implementing patient feedback: Digital tools can improve communications and overall transparency
Marginalized communities have the lowest levels of trust in healthcare: Targeted efforts, like lowering drug prices or providing financial aid, can increase trust from these communities. Engagement can diversify clinical trial participation and improve community health
Education is central to counteract misinformation: Educational materials should be accessible, clear and personalized. Companies should publish clinical results in non-specialist terms. Pharma companies can collaborate with policymakers to develop regulations that prevent the spread of misinformation.
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Misinformation is impacting public trust in the healthcare sector. In the US, confidence in medical leaders dropped from 75% in the 1960s to 34% in 2021, according to Health Collaboratory’s Sarah Krug. Mistrust can cause medical innovation to stagnate, negatively affect health outcomes and often broaden social inequities.
To rebuild public trust, pharma companies should shift to a patient-centric strategy. Conducting assessments to measure shifts in trust and receive public feedback is critical when planning trust-boosting strategies. Adopting digital tools like virtual health visits can increase the frequency and ease of contact between patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs). Increased communications allow pharma companies to gauge patient priorities and shape strategies accordingly.
Patient distrust is most common among marginalized communities. For example, seven in ten Black adults in the US believe there is racial discrimination in healthcare, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study (2021). Distrust is also widespread in the LGBTQ+ community. Targeted efforts like lowering drug prices or providing financial support may improve trust among marginalized communities. Clinical trial participants and HCPs should also be as diverse as the communities an investigational drug is designed for.
To encourage clinical trial participation especially among marginalized communities, pharma companies should clearly explain the trial’s research design to the patient, listen to their specific concerns and adjust the design where possible to alleviate issues. Supporting and training caregivers can also drive patient involvement in studies.
To tackle the spread of misinformation, pharma companies can take up a major role in educating patients. Educational content should use accessible language in a range of formats to accommodate different health literacy levels and learning preferences. The language used in marketing campaigns should also inspire trust. As an example of ineffective marketing, the science fiction connotations of Operation Warp Speed, the US’ COVID-19 vaccine program, incited misinformation.
Information should be distributed through patient-centric portals. Assumptions on patients’ health literacy should be avoided. Incentives that promote health and wellbeing, like a partnership with a gym chain, can be used to encourage uptake of specific medical treatments.
Pharma companies can collaborate with policymakers to promote media-centric regulations that explicitly tackle the spread of misinformation on health-related topics. Encouraging government policy that protects patient rights and privacy is another way to regain trust.
Industry Experts Who Contributed:
All contributors are senior leaders within the pharmaceutical industry
- Sarah Krug, Founder and Executive Director, Health Collaboratory and CANCER101
- Whitney Baldwin, (formerly) Patient Experience Center of Excellence Lead, Accenture
- Melissa Dupont, Patient Engagement Lead, Sanofi
- Moderator: Matt Atkinson, Global Project Director, Pharma, Reuters Events