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What Do HCPs Value From Direct to Consumer Advertising

Healthcare providers believe direct-to-consumer advertising is valuable, but there is more that it could do to support patients.

In the life sciences industry, few tools are as important as direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising. However, in a recent study conducted by AnswerSuite, Syneos Health discovered that healthcare providers (HCP) across the country do not think DTC advertising is doing enough.

DTC advertising is designed to inform consumers about pharmaceuticals and treatment options, and encourage them to engage with their HCPs. For example, in the field of mental health, there were over 61 million visits to psychiatrists in the last 12 months, and 91% of those visits resulted in the patient walking away with a prescription. Psychiatrists reported that DTC advertising is effective in providing information to consumers as over half reported that it assists in conversations with patients. They cited the increased awareness as offering hope for treatment and frequent exposure as factors.

However, at the same time, only 42% of HCPs surveyed across all fields of medicine believe DTC advertising is effectively providing information to consumers that encourages engagement. In the United States, manufacturers continuously spend over $6.5 billion annually promoting products to consumers, yet less than half of HCPs believe it helps patients' long term.  According to these professionals, DTC advertising supports their work by providing information and encourages consumers to engage with their HCPs, but it falls short on long-term medication adherence benefits.

When a patient requests a particular drug, HCPs are likely to grant that request 57% of the time, but more patient education is needed. The survey found that when HCPs do not prescribe based on patient requests, they cite low patient education regarding their condition and how the medications could benefit them. The survey found that DTC advertising gets patients in the door and on the phone with their HCPs through disease and product awareness, but there is a disconnect on the long-term value and benefits of product usage, or the challenges patients may face around the costs of these medications.

DTC advertising offers real benefits in supporting HCPs. Increased awareness of both diseases and the treatments available for those diseases increases patients’ willingness to utilize those treatments. “A patient may recognize a prescription I am proposing from an advertisement they saw and be more receptive to taking it,” said one HCP who participated in the survey. Patients need to be engaged in their treatment and the more they know, the better positioned they are to adhere to a treatment plan.

One area where respondents indicated DTC advertising could specifically improve is in attracting diverse patient types specific to the disease being discussed. Finding diverse patient populations that reflect the people affected by a disease has been a challenge for clinical trials for years. Approximately 40% of HCPs believe DTC advertising falls short of being diverse and inclusive.

Through targeted DTC advertising, manufacturers can bring awareness of treatments that can directly and specifically benefit specific community populations. DTC advertising also has an opportunity to emphasize the long-term benefits of medication adherence.

If you are looking to better understand the importance of commercialization or health equity in the healthcare industry, you can read the thought leadership of Syneos Health experts on Insights Hub.

Christa Policella
Vice President, Syneos Health Strategy

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