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April 13, 2016 0

You know that men and women are so different that we have to look to the planets to sort out the contrast.  But when it comes to trusting the biopharmaceutical industry, we’ve found that the genders are at the same time similar and different.

ThinkstockPhotos-78459443For the last two years, we have conducted a revealing survey among women making healthcare decisions asking how much they trust the pharmaceutical industry – the WEST Survey on Pharma: Women’s Engagement, Satisfaction & Trust. This year, we also conducted the same survey among 300 men, the MENT Survey on Pharma: Men’s Engagement, Needs & Trust, again through our subsidiary Health Stories Project, an online community of people inspired to tell their health stories to help others to connect and learn.

We undertook both surveys with the goal of understanding how true patient engagement can help build a foundation of trust with these important audiences. Though we will publish detailed results later, we’ve pulled out the top three responses to several questions to share some key findings.  The results were very revealing.

Differences: Men and Women

We know men and women are different, and now we know it is because their brains are actually built differently.  A study of 1,000 brain scans[i] showed that “on average, female brains are highly connected across the left and right hemispheres, and connections in male brains are typically stronger between the front and back regions.”

  • As a result, men tend to perform tasks predominantly using the left side, which is the logical/rational side of the brain.
  • Women, on the other hand, use both sides of their brain, because a woman’s brain has a larger Corpus Callosum, which allows women to transfer data between the right and left hemispheres faster.

As expected, our surveys showed several differences in how men and women perceive the biopharmaceutical industry.  We asked men whose opinions they would find very or extremely credible when forming an opinion of a pharmaceutical company.

  • Men’s top choice: a technical expert.
  • This is compared to women’s top choice of a friend or family member, which actually took the #2 spot for men.
  • Men’s top three influencers were rounded out by an academic professional, showing the value men place on validated, vetted authority figures when they are looking for information they can trust. (And women place a premium on their trusted personal relationships.)

The survey also emphasized differences in the way men want to communicate with the biopharmaceutical industry, again with subtle differences from women’s responses.

We asked about specific initiatives biopharma companies could use to communicate directly with patients and caregivers to understand their needs that would have a lot of or significant impact on a company’s trustworthiness.  Both men and women agreed that direct channels that enable the industry to communicate with patients would have the most impact, but their emphasis was tellingly different.

  • Men’s top choice was creating an online community where the company and patients or caregivers could engage with one another.
  • Men’s second and third choices were methods companies can use to regularly gather feedback from patients, including focus groups and in-person or online patient/caregiver advisory meetings.
  • In contrast, women’s top three choices were reversed: their top two choices were methods companies can use to regularly gather feedback from patients, and their third option was creating an online community.

Another departure between the responses of men and women was evident when we asked if recent attention to drug pricing has changed survey respondents’ perception of the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Men were significantly less sensitive to pricing issues, with 62% of men but only 42% of women saying recent events have not changed their perception of the industry.

Similarities: Men and Women

However, there were also several key areas in which men and women’s perspectives were very similar.  When describing themselves in the survey, a majority of both men and women said they were the primary decision maker for someone else, such as a child or spouse, who has taken a prescription medication.

  • Surprisingly, 92% of men said they were primary decision makers.
  • According to a recent Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) survey: 94% women who work and have children under the age of 18 make healthcare decisions for others[ii].

And though men were less influenced by recent attention to the pricing of pharmaceuticals than women as referenced in the Differences section, we were surprised that the perceptions and trust of both men and women were not as impacted overall by recent events in pharma as we thought they might have been, even after a year with high-profile negative attention on the pharmaceutical industry.

And finally, while we are still analyzing all the data from both the men’s and women’s surveys and we don’t want to give away all of the results, I can tell you that across the board, men have more trust in the biopharmaceutical industry than women.

More Details at DTC National 2016

Pam Garfield, SVP of Strategy & Innovation with Patient Health Perspectives, will be presenting the full results from the 2016 WEST women’s survey, overlaid on the 2015 results, at the DTC National Conference  next week.  If you are attending, be sure to look for her presentation, “Do Women Trust Pharma?” for all of the details.  We will also present the men’s survey results later this year.





Cheryl Lubbert

November 23, 2015 0

By Cheryl Lubbert of Health Perspectives Group

Lubbert-Nov2015-artworkAs we look back over the past year for lessons learned that we will take into the New Year, there are many we could choose: from celebrities on social media to controversial pricing. But based on our work with thousands of patients, helping to connect them with biopharma companies large and small, one of the top areas of concern right now is protecting their personal information.

This is not a concern that has impacted Direct-to-Consumer marketing historically, but the world is changing, and DTC is evolving. We are in the middle of an unprecedented shift in the way companies communicate with consumers, from a mass-media, one-way approach, delivering product information from the top down to drive demand, to a “me-media,” two-way model focused on the exchange of information for mutual benefit, powered by new technologies and evolving consumer expectations.

Research shows that consumers expect and want more two-way communications, especially as it relates to support. For example, a Manhattan Research study showed that 59% of online consumers expect the healthcare system to offer the same level of customer service they receive at a service-oriented company like Yet only 8% of online consumers say that pharma companies are providing a better customer experience than two years ago.

This new way of communicating poses many challenges for biopharma companies, including explaining complex medical data, navigating technology, and regulatory and legal oversight. But it also brings to the forefront a new challenge unique to this approach: consumer concerns about privacy, security, and transparency where their personal health information is concerned.

As a result, privacy and security are the top concerns we see moving into 2016. Though they both relate to how private information is handled, these two concepts are different, as defined by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS):

  • Privacy is the right of an individual to make choices with respect to the collection, use and disclosure of their data.
  • Security refers to the safeguards – physical, administrative and technological – used to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the data.

You’ve all heard the scary news about security breaches that send us frantically to our credit card statements and credit reports. First, it was data stolen from Target and Home Depot, and other incidents followed. Just a few weeks ago, we learned that hackers targeted JPMorgan Chase and 14 other companies, including The Wall Street Journal, pulling off the “largest theft of customer data from a U.S. financial institution in history,” stealing personal information of more than 100 million people, in a data breach described as “breathtaking in its scope and its size.”

Unfortunately, news like this has almost become routine. But consumers are taking the ease with which data can be stolen or misused to heart where their health information is concerned. This year we have heard time and again from patients that they want to share their health experiences and even their data and information, but they are worried about their privacy.

And who can blame them for being concerned? In a study in Harvard Business Review, the authors reported: “Though some companies are open about their data practices, most prefer to keep consumers in the dark, choose control over sharing, and ask for forgiveness rather than permission. It’s also not unusual for companies to quietly collect personal data they have no immediate use for, reasoning that it might be valuable someday.”

Even with the financial breaches mentioned above, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, health care has been the most common area for data breaches in the past three years, and medical identity theft was up about 20% between 2013 and 2014.

Data concerns are impacting every corner of the healthcare, from electronic health records to health trackers. This year we conducted a survey through our online platform Health Stories Project, and we found that less than half of respondents are confident that the information in their Electronic Health Record is secure, and less than a third even know who has access to information in their EHR.

And in the Altimeter Study on Consumer Concerns About Data Privacy, consumers were asked about the data implications of fitness trackers, connected cars or connected home appliances, and how they could be used for a company to collect health data and sell it to someone else – and most did not give a positive review, expressing concerns about:

  • 78% if/where companies sell their data
  • 73% where companies keep their data
  • 68% how companies identify them as an individual
  • 67% who sees and analyses their data

So consumers have concerns about their data privacy, ranging from data selling, storage, and access to the ability to be identified individually. What can we as an industry do to address privacy and security concerns?

In addition to addressing the technical factors that keep data secure, biopharma companies can help their customers feel comfortable and confident sharing their health information by being transparent about how they will (and won’t) use it and how they will keep it private and safe.

The authors of the Harvard Business Review study I mentioned earlier summarized the role transparency will play: “In a future in which customer data will be a growing source of competitive advantage, gaining consumers’ confidence will be key. Companies that are transparent about the information they gather, give customers control of their personal data, and offer fair value in return for it will be trusted and will earn ongoing and even expanded access. Those that conceal how they use personal data and fail to provide value for it stand to lose customers’ goodwill – and their business.”

With growing concerns about privacy and security, the key is to plan all of your initiatives with the understanding that patients are sharing the most personal data they have when they share details about their health. As an industry, as we shift to a two-way model of communication with our consumers, it’s our responsibility to honor and protect that, and to communicate clearly how we are making that a priority and a reality.

Cheryl Lubbert

May 20, 2015

Pharma marketers spend much time and effort developing and improving ways to support patients in their specific disease areas. This is important work. An estimated 150 million people are living with at least one chronic condition in 2015, and by 2030 the number is estimated to grow to 171 million.[1]

However, this effort does not take into account an important reality: many patients are dealing with more than one condition at the same time. This means that current efforts may be too narrow to offer the full breadth of support that your consumers need every day. Almost one in three Americans has multiple chronic conditions (MCCs).[2] Specifically, about 27.9% of adults aged 45 to 64 and more than half (51.6%) of adults 65 and over suffer from two or more chronic conditions, with the major burden of MCCs on older Americans aged 65 and over.[3] As the baby boomer generation continues to age, the problem is expected to increase.

The CDC reports that the most prevalent combination of two chronic conditions in the United States is hypertension and arthritis, and for people who have the most common combination of three diseases, they add diabetes to that duo. Other common chronic conditions include high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, depression, substance use disorders, asthma, HIV/AIDS, and dementia. But what makes this challenge so pervasive is that even though these diseases are most common, there are many others. Each person is unique, and so are the health challenges they face every day.

The price of living with MCCs is steep: 71 cents of every dollar of US healthcare spending goes to treating people with MCCs, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality[4] (see the details in a great infographic here). And these are definitely your customers. People with three chronic conditions fill an average of 23 prescriptions per year, and that number jumps to 50 prescriptions per year for people with five chronic conditions.

What can we do to provide information and support for people with multiple conditions? It is a conceptual, logistical, and IT challenge to be sure, and one that pharma does not face alone: government, nonprofit groups, and other health organizations are also structured to provide support that is segmented:

  • The CDC provides a wealth of information and resources for patients on its website, but all are segmented by disease:
  • The nonprofit National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) recently launched a 10-step adherence program called Accelerating Progress in Prescription Medicine Adherence: The Adherence Action Agenda as part of its campaign platform at  Though the resource gallery includes links and resources for the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the US, there is not one place where patients can turn to address all of their conditions and symptoms.
  • Data aggregators, sites you probably know that are set up for patients to log their health data to be combined with others and inform clinical research, are set up for patients to track their diagnosis and treatment for one disease/condition at a time.

How can pharma marketers face this challenge to help their patient consumers? It’s a multi-faceted problem, but here are some starting points to open the discussion:

  1. Stop focusing on just disease and focus instead on the tools of coping, juggling and living. Not only do most people have more than one medical condition, but everyone is trying to get through each day successfully managing their health along with their relationships, their jobs, and more.
  2. Engage with patients the way patients want to engage (not the way pharma prefers). It’s not about controlling the message – instead, put yourselves in your customer’s shoes, work to deeply understand their journey, and see how you can help.
  3. Provide peer-to-peer support. When it comes to their health, patients want to hear from people that they feel are like them. Because it is likely that others are dealing with multiple conditions, peer support that connects patients with real people who have volunteered to share their experiences and provide support can make a significant impact on disease management. Helping to connect people so they can share what has worked for them in their journey means they can learn from and help each other.

The takeaway here is that the convergence of social media, empowered patients, and The Internet of Things has brought us to a point where consumers expect the tools they rely on to blend seamlessly into their lives, providing the information and support they need, the way they need it. Pharma needs to help patients navigate the complexities of their own health in all aspects, not just around one drug.


[1]Wu, S. Green, A. “A Projection of Chronic Illness and cost inflation 2000”

[2] U.S Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “The Importance of Investing in Care for People with Multiple Chronic Conditions,”

[3] National Council on Patient Information and Education, “Chronic Conditions 101,”

[4] U.S Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “The Importance of Investing in Care for People with Multiple Chronic Conditions,”

Cheryl Lubbert