When Communicating with Healthcare Professionals, Focus on Technology's Impact

Artificial intelligence (AI) and big-data analytics are often cited as key emerging technologies transforming the pharmaceutical industry. So it was quite surprising to see them rank lowest when WE Communications asked healthcare professionals (HCPs) what actions best demonstrate that a biotech or pharma company is innovative.

In our 2023 Brands in Motion global healthcare sector study, "Healthy Reputation: More Than Medicine," HCPs ranked the best ways for pharma or biotech companies to show innovation, in this order:

  1. Develop new treatments using new modes of action or pathways for various therapy areas?
  2. Adopt technology to aid progress or improve efficiency (e.g., clinical trials,
    manufacturing, etc.)?
  3. Develop new treatment-administration methods for therapy areas?
  4. Develop incremental improvements to treatments that improve patient quality of life?
  5. Develop new methods for conducting clinical trials?

According to the study, the least influential actions were:

  • Apply big-data programs and analytics
  • Use artificial intelligence
  • Partner with organizations outside the health sector

Interestingly, the No. 2 top choice among HCPs is technology-based, but it relates to the result of using technology. These findings suggest that HCPs are less impressed by the technology itself, and more intrigued by the positive impact that technology has on patients directly. So when it comes to communicating about technology to HCPs, it’s important for pharma and biotech companies to frame it in the context of patient outcomes. The industry needs to pivot from using buzzwords to offering clear and concise explanations of how tools like AI and big-data analytics can benefit HCPs and their patients.

Why does any of this matter? Well, the majority (65%) of HCPs WE Communications surveyed said they are reluctant to prescribe or recommend a medication from a biotech or pharmaceutical company that doesn’t have a good reputation, in their opinion. When WE asked them which characteristics are most important for a biotech or pharma company to embody, "innovative" ranked second, after “patient centric.” These findings present a great opportunity for companies to maximize their impact by doing both. In other words, when talking about technological solutions, focus on patient-centricity.


Here are some key strategies for pharmaceutical and biotech companies to effectively communicate about their digital-transformation initiatives and build corporate brand reputation with HCPs:

  1. Provide proof over promise. Technology brands have more freedom than companies in most other sectors to talk about the promise of new innovations in pie-in-the-sky terms. They’re able to iterate and release products before they’re perfected, graduating from alpha to beta to version 1.0. Proof often comes after the fact. HCPs are understandably more conservative. Before HCPs are willing to adopt new tech approaches over tried-and-true methods, they need to see evidence that they work at least as well as or better than existing methods.

  2. Remember that healthcare is human care. HCPs are cautious and clinical, but they also care deeply about their patients and are highly motivated by their desire to help. Communications about new technologies should focus on the emotional, human side of what they offer, while also speaking to utility.

  3. Revisit your collective purpose. Healthcare is an inherently purpose-driven industry. It’s all about improving the life of the patient. The pace at which tech is changing the industry is exciting, but pharma and biotech companies’ shared mission with HCPs to extend and improve lives is equally powerful. Technology is just one of the tools enabling us to do this.

Companies can demonstrate patient-centricity by spotlighting exciting breakthrough technologies with the awareness that their messages need to be delivered in the right way. The goal is always to connect the remarkable function of new technologies back to the impact on patients’ lives. Ultimately, this is what will influence HCPs’ decisions.

Read the full 2023 Brands in Motion study: "Healthy Reputation: More Than Medicine."