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September 29, 2022 Jackie Drees0
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Constipation affects millions of Americans each year, but many patients have not yet found an adequate medication to control their constipation symptoms, new Phreesia data shows. However, there’s a key opportunity to boost education and help patients get on the proper treatments—and that’s by reaching them at the point of care.

Half (50%) of surveyed patients said they experience constipation all or almost all of the time, and 45% reported having dealt with their condition for more than 5 years, according to survey results Phreesia Life Sciences collected in October and November 2021 from 6,780 adults diagnosed with or treated for constipation as they checked in for their doctors’ appointments. Unsurprisingly, patients’ symptoms also seriously affect their quality of life, with 62% of survey respondents saying that constipation has a moderate or great impact on their everyday life.

Despite the prevalence of their condition, many patients do not have a strong understanding of the health risks associated with constipation—61% of surveyed patients said they understood its risks “somewhat well” to “not at all.” This lack of comprehension points to the need for more education that can activate patients and urge them to address their constipation symptoms with their healthcare providers, which many rarely do. Phreesia survey data shows that nearly one-third (31%) of patients have never discussed constipation with their doctor, and among those who did raise the topic, 41% said they brought up their symptoms in fewer than 1 in 4 appointments.

And when it comes to initiating conversations about constipation with their provider, a significant portion (43%) of surveyed patients said they haven’t done so because they either didn’t realize it was an issue to discuss, or they felt uncomfortable bringing it up to their doctor.

“Patients must first understand that their symptoms are worth talking about and worthy of prescription therapy,” says Thomas McCourt, CEO of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals. “Many of these patients feel as though constipation isn’t a serious condition; they believe that it’s their own fault because they aren’t eating right or getting enough exercise. Once they understand that it’s actually a chronic disorder causing their symptoms, they’re more likely to believe they’re entitled to more effective therapy and feel an urgency and confidence to speak up to their doctor.”

In addition to improving patients’ treatment education, better-informed provider conversations are also key to helping get patients onto prescription therapy. Despite not being meant for long-term use, home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medications are still the most widely used constipation therapies, according to Phreesia survey data. And while 90% of surveyed patients agreed that OTC drugs are not meant to be used long term, half (50%) of those who have used OTC medications said they have taken them for more than a year.

Reaching patients while they’re in a healthcare state of mind with relevant resources about their condition can help support them as they navigate conversations with their doctor about constipation treatments that are more suitable for long-term use. And Phreesia survey data suggests these conversations tend to lead to prescription uptake, as 32% of surveyed patients have discussed prescription constipation medications with their physicians, and 31% have tried them.

The point of care “is one of the most valuable places for patients to discuss their symptoms and educate themselves about their condition,” McCourt says. Equipping them with doctor discussion guides, prescription savings information and other relevant materials at this critical moment of their healthcare journey not only raises patients’ awareness of prescription treatment options but also empowers them to initiate the discussions with their providers that will drive adoption of appropriate long-term therapy options.


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August 30, 2022 Jackie Drees0
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Many Type 2 diabetes patients worry about their disease, leading to a significant impact on their mental health—especially for younger diabetics. However, those concerns present fresh opportunities for pharma companies to ultimately improve outcomes for Type 2 diabetes patients by offering them the support tools and resources they most want.

Diabetes has a pervasive effect on patients’ lives, with more than one-third (37%) of Type 2 diabetes patients reporting that they worry about their condition often or all of the time, according to data Phreesia Life Sciences collected in December 2021 and January 2022 from more than 4,000 adults diagnosed with or treated for Type 2 diabetes as they checked in for their doctors’ appointments.

Those worries can often be debilitating, as 42% of surveyed patients said their Type 2 diabetes has a moderate-to-great impact on their mental health. And Phreesia survey data shows that mental health concerns are even more significant among younger patients, with 31% of Millennials and Gen Z reporting that their diabetes has a great impact on their mental health, compared with 23% of Gen X and 9% of Baby Boomers.

Listening to and understanding Type 2 diabetes patients’ mental health struggles before engaging with them is crucial to alleviating some of the burdens they face, explains Mark Materacky, Vice President of Consumer Marketing at Novo Nordisk.

“It starts with a deep understanding and empathy for the challenges people who live with Type 2 diabetes experience,” Materacky says. “Addressing the person first—not the disease—is critical.”

Despite the condition’s negative effect on many patients’ psychological well-being, more than three-quarters (77%) of surveyed Type 2 diabetes patients said they have not sought any mental health support. Those who do seek support most commonly said they talk to friends or family (16%), followed by seeing a psychologist or counselor (5%). This notable gap between the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes patients’ mental health concerns and their uptake of support spotlights a marketing opportunity to connect with these patients and share resources that can help them.

In addition to their need for mental health support, Type 2 diabetes patients also want personalized resources to help them manage their condition. For example, nearly half (49%) of surveyed patients cited nutritional information specific to their needs as their most desired resource. Other top requests included tips on recommended lifestyle changes when taking diabetes medications (37%) and resources that could help them better understand how their medication works (31%).

Pharma companies can deepen their engagement with Type 2 diabetes patients and raise their awareness of the support materials available to them by taking a more personable approach in their marketing communications, suggests Christine Mormile, Director of Media at CMI Media Group.

“It’s very easy to get caught up in talking about financials or why you should get on a medication,” Mormile says. “Something that all pharma products—not just in the diabetes space—can do better with is creating messaging that asks patients, ‘How can we listen to you?’ or conveys that ‘We’re here to support you, and this is how our product can help your long-term diabetes care-management plan.’”

One of the strongest ways to engage with Type 2 diabetes patients—and to connect them to the types of support they seek—is by reaching them with these thoughtful messages at the point of care. Phreesia survey data suggests that diabetes patients discuss various treatment and disease management options with their providers. For example, 60% of survey respondents have talked about weight loss and nearly half (44%) have discussed new prescription medications with their main doctor who treats their Type 2 diabetes.

Given Type 2 diabetes patients’ demonstrated willingness to discuss treatment options with their providers, there are multiple opportunities for pharma marketers to reach them, not only with medication-awareness campaigns while they are in a healthcare state of mind, but also with nonpharmacological resources that can holistically support their treatment plan. Pharma companies should leverage the point of care to help diabetes patients access the many support tools available to them, empowering them to implement key lifestyle changes that can help them confidently manage their disease.


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July 27, 2022 Jackie Drees0
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The LGBTQ+ community encompasses a wide range of patients across all races, ethnicities and gender identities. However, when seeking healthcare resources and support, many of these patients feel underrepresented and mistrustful of pharma advertising, new data shows.

Less than half (44%) of LGBTQ+ patients feel that pharma ads reflect their experience as members of the LGBTQ+ community, according to survey data collected by Phreesia Life Sciences and Klick Health from more than 1,500 patients in early 2022 as they checked in for doctors’ appointments. Similarly, only 45% of surveyed LGBTQ+ patients feel that pharma understands their unique needs, with those who identify as transgender or female being even less likely to feel understood by the pharma industry.

This lack of representation and understanding has affected LGBTQ+ patients’ overall trust in pharma, with 2 in 5 surveyed patients (41%) reporting that they don’t trust pharma ads at all and another 26% saying that they trust them “only a little.” And while representation is vital for building and maintaining that trust, outreach to the LGBTQ+ community also is crucial for bolstering these patients’ confidence in pharma, says Thea Briggs, Associate Director, Content Strategy, Phreesia Life Sciences.

“Representation matters, but it’s not enough to address disparities on its own,” Briggs says. “Pharma marketers must actively pursue robust outreach efforts, such as learning about LGBTQ+ individuals’ healthcare experiences, hiring LGBTQ+ people and partnering with community organizations to create effective campaigns, as well as dedicating consistent energy and attention to addressing the issues that this community experiences.”

Those issues range from having higher rates of either being uninsured or underinsured to postponing or avoiding medical treatment because of bias and discrimination. Additionally, although more than 50% of surveyed LGBTQ+ patients say they are aware of many preventive care services, the percentages of those who have recently used such services are much lower. For example, while 59% of LGBTQ+ patients are aware of blood-pressure screening, only 32% got screened in the past year.

As for outreach, many LGBTQ+ patients feel that pharma still has more work to do: Slightly more than one-third (34%) of surveyed LGBTQ+ patients “strongly disagree” and another 22% “somewhat disagree” that the pharma industry conducts sufficient LGBTQ+ outreach beyond HIV and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications that high-risk individuals take to prevent getting HIV.

To improve LGBTQ+ patients’ perceptions of the pharma industry, as well as their preventive care knowledge, Amy Gómez, PhD, Senior Vice President, Diversity Strategy, Klick Health, emphasizes that it’s important to include members of the LGBTQ+ community at every stage of the pharma-marketing process, including foundational research and concept and message testing. Doing so can help pharma companies develop a deeper understanding of these patients’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and ensure that those attributes are accurately reflected in pharma communications.

“We can and should use our skills to create empathy and urgency,” Gómez says. “We can partner with our clients and providers to develop model programs that demonstrate the positive effects on community health outcomes when empathy for LGBTQ+ people and awareness of the health issues that impact them help to ameliorate implicit bias.”

And while engaging with LGBTQ+ patients to better understand what they need from their healthcare experiences can help boost preventive care usage, Phreesia survey data shows that greater inclusion also translates into more opportunities to positively impact LGBTQ+ patients’ perceptions of the pharma industry. Overall, 82% of surveyed patients said they have more positive feelings toward pharma companies that conduct outreach to the LGBTQ+ community.

“We’re proud to be using our platform to connect with members of the LGBTQ+ community to learn from them directly about their experiences in navigating and accessing healthcare,” says David Linetsky, Phreesia’s Senior Vice President, Life Sciences. “Our hope is that the insights we generate from this work will help advance and guide efforts among providers and pharma manufacturers to address biases and create more equitable healthcare experiences for these communities.”

Actively engaging with members of the LGBTQ+ community and gathering data that educates providers and better equips them to meet these patients’ needs is crucial for continuing to build their trust in the pharma industry, Briggs explains. However, fostering that trust must be a broadly inclusive, long-term commitment for life sciences organizations if they want to make true progress within this community.

“It’s easy for marketers and public health professionals to fall into the trap of becoming prescriptive— assuming we know how problems are experienced by individuals without asking them and deciding that we’re going to go in with our preferred solutions, regardless of community buy-in and participation,” Briggs says. “That’s not effective or respectful. Building trust and designing effective interventions and campaigns that will be well-received and work in patients’ real lives requires a lot more listening and learning than talking.”

 


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June 28, 2022 Jackie Drees0
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While the notion has long prevailed that rural Americans live in the “digital dark,” new data suggests that rural patients are actually online just as much as their urban counterparts. And, thanks in part to widespread smartphone and data-plan usage, pharma marketers can now reach all patients—no matter their geographic location—more easily than ever before.  

Still, there’s no denying that city dwellers have better wireless and internet services. Rural residents were found to be twice as likely to have “somewhat weak” to “no wireless coverage” (24%) compared with urban residents (12%), according to data gathered from Phreesia Life Sciences, which surveyed more than 4,700 patients—including more than 1,800 rural patients—as they checked in for doctors’ appointments in December 2021 and January 2022. But despite these infrastructure challenges, smartphones are helping close the digital-access gap.

“There are a lot of misperceptions about life in rural settings, often portraying rural folks as less tech-savvy or less connected to online services,” says David Linetsky, Phreesia’s Senior Vice President, Life Sciences. “We’re really proud to be able to do this work of actually talking to patients who live in rural communities to better understand their stories and experiences.”

Phreesia survey data found that only 7% of rural patients say they don’t have access to smartphones and data plans—just a percentage more than the 6% of urban patients who say they lack such access. Therefore, given that rural patients are becoming just as accessible online as urban patients, pharma marketers should tailor their efforts to meet these populations in the digital spaces they frequent, Linetsky advises. 

“Digital platforms such as Phreesia, telehealth services, and other digital communications technologies are making healthcare more accessible to rural patients and also making it easier for manufacturers and marketers to reach those patient audiences with important health information that can help them better engage in their care,” he says.

The top activity for smartphone users across geographies is checking email, with some 82% of rural patients and 84% of urban patients listing it as an activity they use the internet on their smartphones for. Web browsing rates as all users’ second-most-popular activity, with 70% of rural patients and 72% of urban patients reporting that they browse the internet; and social media rounds out the top three, with nearly two-thirds (60%) of rural patients using their smartphones to scroll through social media, even more than the 55% of urban patients who use the internet for the same purpose.

Considering these browsing and scrolling percentages among rural patients, smartphone-optimized content is a great way to engage them. Even more notably, rural patients most want tools to help them manage their health. Top requests include: personalized resources specific to their health condition (44%); remote physician or nurse support (36%); and resources that can teach them where to find health information (27%).  

“In places with lower population densities, a lot of traditional out-of-home marketing tactics are ineffective,” Linetsky says. “Reaching patients that live in rural communities is best done through the use of digital platforms that are capable of identifying high-quality audiences that meet the specific clinical and demographic criteria you’re looking for.”

Still, in determining digital-marketing strategies, it’s important to note that rural patients find it slightly more difficult to gather healthcare information online than their urban counterparts. For instance, a little more than one-quarter (26%) of rural patients are uncertain about how to use the medical information they gather in an internet search to make health decisions, versus 23% of urban patients. In addition, rural patients tend to consider the online health information they track down less helpful than urban patients do. Fewer than one-fifth (19%) of surveyed rural patients categorized the information they found online as “very helpful,” compared with 23% of urban patients. 

That disconnect underscores the importance of making sure that the online health information marketers provide to patients is easily understandable and based on their specific needs. In addition to engaging with patients in the online spaces they already frequent, such as social media and email, optimizing pharma educational and support materials for mobile devices further increases opportunities to connect with rural patients by helping them build their healthcare awareness.