M Booth Health's "Pharma Brandemic" survey takes a deep dive into the changing relationship between consumers and the pharmaceutical industry.

One of the main takeaways from the first edition of the study in early 2021, M Booth Health CEO Stacey Bernstein says, is that there was "a heightened and increased awareness of the pharmaceutical industry following COVID-19." That did not change in the 2022 study.

"Patients are even more aware of pharmaceutical companies, aware of the differences between treatments," she tells Doug Simon, "They're far more engaged in their health than ever before."

Another big change: "More than half of Americans now see pharmaceutical companies as lifestyle brands akin to Nike and Apple. And that was incredibly surprising."

That shift, Bernstein says, has had a big impact on pharma communications. "When we're thinking about communications, you think about social media and getting someone's attention in the feed, your content has to be just as compelling as that of these lifestyle brands."

An increasingly educated consumer base has also transformed the industry. "COVID pushed every person in the world to care about health in a different way, in the way that if you're a patient and you're diagnosed with a disease, you go out and seek that information, you get smart."

For BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) audiences, she says, there's an additional question of trust. "COVID not only forced them to be more engaged in the same way it did all Americans, but it also brought up a lot of distrust of the past."

The spread of misinformation also impacts the trust factor. "99 percent of HCP's that we surveyed said that they have a patient coming to them with misinformation every week. And it's a huge concern."

While she says that "we are never going to have the scale to be able to correct every piece of misinformation," she stresses that "if you're in pharma communications outpacing misinformation has to be a critical part of what you do."

To do that, "raising the bar of how we communicate is really important. When you think about how pharma has to engage, it is faster, it's more authentic, it's more honestly in language that consumers are going to understand that's going to resonate with them."

She adds that the coming year will be "the moment for health communicators to step up, to play an active role in helping to guide more informed, smarter decisions about people's health."

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