Published 03 Apr 2017

There is a metaphorical link missing from the pharmaceutical chain. This infamous gap in communication hampers some healthcare professionals (HCPs) from applying new medical developments in clinical practice.¹ This disconnect is nothing new, but it has been amplified by a mushrooming of information since the start of the Digital Age. How can we decipher the key points (from the wealth of digitally available information) and filter that data to the doctors and multidisciplinary teams who engage with patients daily? How can we challenge established methods of communication to ensure that the momentum of potentially life-saving education reaches HCPs? If we can hone the information and deliver it to HCPs, then we can affect more positive patient outcomes.

Let us imagine that the process from treatment development to clinical application is a stage play. The doctors, who diagnose and treat patients every day, are a company of actors on a global stage. Now imagine the costumes have been altered by researchers and drug developers; the script has been edited by key opinion leaders (KOLs); the lighting has changed due to technological advances. Some of the actors have not been made aware of the updates to the production, those who have are concerned the new costumes might damage their reputation, some are creatures of habit and prefer the familiarity of the old script and others believe the new lighting to be too expensive to affect a positive return. But the play will continue regardless; with so many unmet needs, misperceptions and “old school” views, how can the theatre company deliver an effective and well-oiled production which benefits our patient audience?

There is no single answer, but the solution spotlight almost certainly falls on innovation and collaboration. The necessary innovation requires not only adding to a pre-established framework, but also entirely new ways of thinking. Innovation means challenging the existing limitations. Working with ‘Big Pharma’ is economically intuitive, but collaboration with HCPs, healthcare non-profit organisations, societies and hospitals is an essential part of the process to discover what is happening - and what is lacking - at ground level. After all, should we not be collaborating with those in daily proximity to the patients we are trying to help? Who better understands the sensitivity of the audience than the players themselves?

By their own admission, clinicians are less likely to put their trust in materials they believe to have been created by pharma. Instead, they are inclined to trust materials supported by pharma, in an unbiased manner, via an independent third party (agencies). EPG Health Media’s 2015 HCP Engagement survey reveals only 8% of HCPs attribute significant value to pharmaceutical brand websites, while 55% find medical society or association websites significantly valuable. The survey shows a clear educational gap with 57% of HCP respondents stating they need better access to independent medical websites as a source of medical content. If independent medical education (IME) has the ability to reach, engage and inform clinicians, then could it be a key contributor to bridging the gap between new thinking and everyday practice for improving patient outcomes? Similarly, since healthcare non-profit organisations are largely considered reliable² (because they are not pharma-funded), then collaboration with such groups should be centre-stage in our focus on engagement with HCPs.

In today’s world of connectivity, the long-standing unmet needs of HCPs have never been so evident. The Digital Age is revolutionising medical education in terms of immediacy but, in its vast disparateness and complexity of choice, it has arguably created a larger burden for HCPs. But the show must go on; the challenge now, for successful medical education delivery, is to refine the digital flood of information, then present the relevant data in a trustworthy format with which HCPs can engage. Collaboration with hospitals, HCPs and organisations that HCPs can trust is essential, alongside innovative delivery which does not just adapt what is already there, but adopts an entirely new angle. Only then can we improve patient outcomes; curtain call.


¹ Robert Pearl, M.D., Forbes, 2014. 5 Things preventing technology adoption in health care. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 March 2017].

² Only 6% HCPs are prevented from accessing independent medical websites for lack of transparency or trust (EPG Health Media’s 2015 HCP Engagement survey).