Focus on Oncologists

In an ongoing series, CMI/Compas reports insights on healthcare providers by specialty. For this edition, we partnered with UBM to learn more about the day-to-day lives of oncologists to better serve them.

What’s Different About This Specialty?

Delivering high-quality cancer care truly does take a village:  A cancer patient is often treated by a multidisciplinary team comprised of oncologists, nurses, surgeons, therapists, social workers, nutritionists, and others. Optimal treatment comes from optimal communication between these very different participants in a patient’s treatment journey.

Perhaps the most important factor in delivering optimal treatment is successful doctor-patient communication. Doctors and other primary caregivers are expected to communicate with and educate their patients about their disease, and yet often find themselves without the tools to do so effectively. Surprisingly enough, we’ve heard that cancer patients sometimes learn more about their disease from other patients in the waiting room than they do from direct discussions with their doctor or nurses.

While oncologists, patients, and national cancer organizations all recognize that communication is important to cancer care, exactly how to improve communication has been somewhat less clear. Historically, physician education and training programs have provided little guidance in this area.

Educational resources for patients are a growing need:  As more patients have access to information about their disease online, increasingly, they wish to be partners in their own care.  They often want more information and better explanations about their treatment options and prognosis. In addition to verbal explanations and discussions, the use of diagrams and data has proven to be successful.

What Are the Opportunities for Pharma?

There is enormous opportunity for Pharma to help fill this gap in doctor/patient communication and education. In fact, some experts say that patients see this as Pharma’s responsibility. In a patient panel held by MM&M on June 3, 2014, patients reported that they want respect and a degree of collaboration with Pharma.  They welcome more interaction and say they will provide personal information in exchange for meaningful services in return, such as education on disease state or care team, financial support, support groups, and/or connecting to like-patients. The panel also expressed that patient-to-patient experiences are the most impactful to them.  Currently, patients feel that Pharma is not connected with them and that they do not “speak the same language.”

In a special session CMI/Compas held with our partner UBM and oncology KOLs, the importance of identifying and communicating the most critical information, from the point of diagnosis on, was underscored. At diagnosis, patients generally don’t hear past the word “cancer,” so it’s important for health care providers to recognize this and plan patient education and communication carefully, in order to work with patients to plan treatment, set expectations, and maintain optimal quality of life.

CMI/Compas Recommendation

Pharma’s best strategy to improve patient care is to arm oncologists with the right tools.

Oncologists do want materials from pharma and our Media Vitals™ research helps us understand what these materials are and the best way to distribute them.  For example, oncologists state that patient education, patient financial assistance, and medication guidelines are most useful.

When they are looking for information helpful to their patients and practice, they start with search engines (96% start with Google).  It’s more important than ever to have a strong search strategy in place so we can connect oncologists with the desired information.

Oncologists are also relying on other channels when gathering information such as printed journals, online journals, and medical websites.  It’s important to call out the available patient resources in these outlets.  Medical journal ads can be used to mention patient assistance programs.  Digital display ads can highlight and drive to specific resources hosted on the websites.  We can also partner with medical websites and the online journals to send eNewsletters, emails, and even directly syndicate important information to help patients.

Pharma should consider patient support messaging in their creative.  This will bring their many current efforts in place, forefront.  The oncologists that can best assist their patients in areas they need it most will ultimately lead to a better experience, which can make a world of difference.

How often do you use the following search engines to look for information helpful to your patients and practice? [Source: CMI/Compas Media Vitals™ 2014]

Please rate the following items in terms of their usefulness to you to receive from pharmaceutical companies. [Source: CMI/Compas Media Vitals™ 2014]