Posted by Jim Ross on Sep 7, 2022

Pharmaceutical company brand websites for medications can be useful resources for healthcare professionals (HCPs) checking dosing requirements, learning about the latest clinical trials, and getting insurance coverage resources for their patients. However, these medication websites often fall short of meeting their potential because pharmaceutical companies often don’t understand what HCPs need from medication websites. The key to creating effective medication websites for this audience is to conduct UX research to better understand the information and resources they need.

From our extensive pharmaceutical UX research with HCPs we have learned a lot about their needs  and how they use pharmaceutical company websites. In this post, we will share what we have learned about why HCPs visit medication websites, the information they seek, and what they find valuable.

Why HCPs Don’t Often Use Pharmaceutical Company Medication Websites

A key finding from our studies is that HCPs rarely visit pharmaceutical company medication websites. There are several reasons for this.

They're already familiar with medications

HCPs are already very familiar with the existing medications on the market in their areas of specialty.. So, HCPS already know most of the information on pharmaceutical company medication websites and have no need to read it again.

They have many other sources for information about medications

HCPs have many other sources that they go to first for medication information. To learn about new medications and updates to existing medications, they rely on medical journals, medical organization websites, conferences, and pharmaceutical company representatives. When they need to look up specific information about medications, they tend to use familiar medical apps and websites such as UpToDate, PubMed, Medscape, Lexicomp, and Epocrates.

Their familiar sources are easier to use

With frequent use of these medical apps and websites, HCPs become very familiar with the navigation and interfaces, allowing them to quickly find what they’re looking for. Since they use pharmaceutical company websites much less frequently, they don’t remember the navigation and user interface from their last visit, so each visit is like learning to use the site for the first time. This makes usability and findability extremely important for these sites.

They feel that their familiar sources are unbiased

HCPs prefer to use medical journals, medical organization websites, and medical apps because they perceive them to be unbiased, credible, trustworthy, and up to date with the latest information about medications. They feel uncomfortable with pharmaceutical company websites when such websites seem too focused on marketing and sales. They dislike the feeling that they are being sold the medication, and they feel the information may be biased towards the medication.

They also feel that the marketing content makes pharmaceutical company websites harder to use as it interferes with, and distracts them from, their tasks of finding information. The medical apps and websites that they prefer to use are information-focused, rather than marketing-focused, which makes them easier to use.

Reasons HCPs Do Use Pharmaceutical Company Medication Websites

Although HCPs don’t visit pharmaceutical company medication websites very often, there are times when they do visit these sites. They are more likely to visit these sites in the following situations:

  •   For a new medication
  •   For a medication that they prescribe less frequently
  •   When an existing medication is approved for a new indication
  •   When a medication has a new method of administration

Quick Look Up Mode vs. Research Mode

We’ve found that HCPs visit pharmaceutical company medication websites in two different modes: quick look up mode and research mode. Understanding these two modes, the situation HCPs are in, the devices involved, and the information they seek, can help you design medication websites to facilitate information finding.

Quick Look Up Mode

In quick look up mode, HCPs need to find specific information about a medication, often in the middle of a busy workday during or between patient visits.

Devices Used in Quick Look Up Mode

Since they are in the middle of a workday, they are likely to be on a mobile phone, which is one reason why many prefer to use apps like Epocrates that are optimized for easy mobile use.

Information Sought in Quick Look Up Mode

In quick look up mode, HCPs are often looking for the following information:

      • Dosing information to remind themselves, or to confirm, the dosing for a particular situation
      • Dose adjustments
      • Administration method for a new medication
      • Contraindications, warnings, and drug interactions for patients who have an unusual situation
      • Side effects and adverse reactions, to see if something a patient is experiencing could be caused by the medication
      • Insurance coverage and financial assistance for patients
      • Educational information and resources for patients

In larger practices, nurses and support staff are more likely to handle insurance information and patient resources, while in smaller practices, physicians are more likely to handle these duties themselves.

Research and Learning Mode

In research and learning mode, HCPs have more time to research and read about medications. They are typically in their office at a time when they are not seeing patients, such as at the beginning or end of the day. This is when they take the time to learn about a new medication or about a new indication for an existing medication.

Devices Used in Research and Learning Mode

Since they are in their office, and have time to research and read, they are typically on a desktop or laptop computer. The larger screen, and easier navigation, of a computer is ideal when spending time researching and reading about a medication.

Information Sought in Research and Learning Mode

In research and learning mode, their goal is to learn more in-depth information about new medications or about new indications for existing medications. This may be in response to a pharmaceutical company’s email or representative telling them about medication. They usually do their initial research on third-party medical resources and journals, but they may also visit the pharmaceutical company’s website for the medication to learn about:

      • Clinical trials
      • Mechanism of action
      • Efficacy
      • Safety
      • Dosing

Up next: Best Practices for Medication Websites for HCPs in Part Two

In the next post in this series, we will describe the best practices that we have learned from our research on medication websites for healthcare professionals. Based on their goals and the information they need, we will describe recommendations to create the most effective medication websites.

Written by

Jim Ross

Jim Ross is a Principal UX Researcher at AnswerLab where he leads research with clients to help them better understand their customers, in order to create experiences that people love. He has over 20 years of experience in UX research and design, is a frequent speaker at UX conferences, and is a prolific author for UX magazines and blogs.

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