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Maximizing Impact of Medical Information/Medical Websites​

Executive Summary

Healthcare professionals (HCPs) desire greater access to unbiased, non-promotional, evidence-based, scientific content. The Medical Affairs teams are in an ideal position to make the medical information/medical websites the de-facto source for HCPs to find credible and unbiased information. However, this can only be achieved by investing in the right capabilities that can help in improving the overall awareness of the medical information/medical websites among HCPs.
This white paper, by the Medical Affairs Digital Strategy Council, aims to provide the current state of medical information/medical websites by biopharmaceutical companies and insights into how Medical Affairs teams can bridge the gap between the websites owned by Medical Affairs providing medical, scientific, or disease state information, and HCP expectations for their user experience.
Healthcare professionals (HCPs) require access to the latest information on safety and efficacy to appropriately prescribe products used to treat patients in their care. This information is essential for improving patient outcomes, minimizing risk to patients from untoward events, and maintaining current medical knowledge. According to a recent survey conducted by phactMI™, almost 90% of physicians reported searching for medical information daily or several times per week. The survey also identified that accuracy and ease of use are the main factors that drive HCPs to select the online resources they use for medical information.1 The number of medical information resources available to and accessed by HCPs continues to grow and includes organizations that develop aggregate platforms, biopharmaceutical and medical information services, professional journals, search engines, electronic health record systems, and HCP websites. The challenge faced by these information resource providers is to ensure that the relevant content is cutting-edge science, evidence-based, organized, easy to search and access, and is being delivered in a way that meets the needs of busy clinicians. Medical information content should not only be able to be accessed and rendered on the preferred device of the physician but should also be accessible on all other devices, creating a seamless experience for the HCP to obtain critically needed information.
As an expert on its products, the biopharmaceutical industry is well positioned to address this need and respond to inquiries for medical information through medical websites so that the companies are recognized as the credible primary source for prescribing and product information. The biopharmaceutical industry has long provided evidence-based, scientifically balanced, accurate, truthful, and non-misleading responses to unsolicited requests for medical information from HCPs. The responses to these inquiries follow internal processes, policies, and regulatory authority guidance. However, in the study by phactMI™, nearly 60% of physicians responding stated that their reason for not using the pharmaceutical company contact center was the longer duration required to obtain the requested information, and nearly 50% of the physicians stated they were unfamiliar with a company's medical information or medical websites.1 What can Medical Affairs teams do for developing and maintaining these websites and what can they do to optimize how medical information/medical websites are viewed and used as convenient, credible, and unbiased sources for scientific knowledge?
This white paper, by the Medical Affairs Digital Strategy Council, aims to provide the current state of medical information/medical websites by biopharmaceutical companies and insights into how Medical Affairs teams can bridge the gap between the websites owned by Medical Affairs providing medical, scientific, or disease state information, and HCP expectations for their user experience.

State of Medical Information/Medical Websites

The Medical Affairs Digital Strategy Council, a #FutureReadyHealthcare initiative orchestrated by Indegene, commissioned a survey3 in 2021 to explore digital evolution through the lens of Medical Affairs across 15 biopharmaceutical organizations. The survey highlighted that 60% of the respondents had implemented medical information/medical websites and 27% of the respondents were planning to do so (Figure 1).

Medical websites can act as the perfect gateway for building the customer 360⁰ view.

Maureen Feeney

VP Medical and Scientific Communications, Takeda

Figure 1: Status of implementing digital capabilities at a global level
Companies that have implemented medical Information or medical websites (hereinafter referred to as medical websites) have a composite best practice score (Digital Excellence [DX]) of 43 (Figure 2). This includes websites with product or prescribing information and disease state education that are non-promotional in nature and respond to the information needs of HCPs. This DX score ranks in the lowest quartile of the capabilities scored.
Based on these results, there is a significant opportunity for the Medical Affairs teams to rise to the next level by utilizing digital technologies and key customer insights to maximize the impact of medical websites. HCPs increasingly expect a straightforward and personalized experience when interacting with biopharmaceutical companies – such as their experiences while interacting with other digitally savvy industries. The Medical Affairs teams run the risk of distancing themselves from HCPs and not being viewed as a leading authority about their company’s products and development pipeline if the interactions HCPs have with medical websites are difficult to navigate, do not provide leading-edge information, or are not aligned to the individual needs of HCPs. Busy HCPs have limited time and they will not hesitate to access other sources of medical information and third-party websites if they do not derive value from the medical websites of biopharmaceutical companies.
Figure 2: Digital Excellence (DX) best practice scores

Key to an effective medical website is ensuring materials are discoverable through search engine functions and that access to the website becomes part of the HCP's workflow.

Jennifer Riggins

President, JSR Medical Affairs Consulting

Key Considerations in Developing and Improving Medical Websites

Raise awareness and differentiation

Awareness of medical websites operated by Medical Affairs teams in biopharmaceutical companies has traditionally been low. Perceived barriers resulting in limited use of pharmaceutical company websites included lack of awareness and perceived bias or lack of transparency,1 which may erode trust and adversely impact public health. Increasing awareness of medical websites has initially led to a cautious approach regarding what information is available and the ease with which it can be accessed. Although early concerns about possible compliance issues or verifying that requests for medical information are unsolicited on a website have been expressed, broad compliance issues have not materialized. Companies may struggle with what information can be made available on a website in addition to on-label product information. Medical Affairs teams working closely with legal and compliance have begun to reframe and gain alignment around content and searchability of medical websites for on-label, off-label information, publications, and congress materials. Additionally, progress is being made to raise awareness of medical websites through search engine optimization (SEO).
Biopharmaceutical company medical websites face stiff competition from third-party websites that host drug information compendiums and are readily accessible through general search engines. Unlike third-party websites, information hosted by Medical Affairs on company medical websites is specific to the company’s products or disease states. Although third-party website compendiums allow HCPs to access content across multiple disease states and therapeutic uses, these compendiums are challenged with the task of keeping the information updated. An assessment of the error rate in the drug summaries provided in these compendiums demonstrated 24% of inaccurate information, 46% of incomplete information, and 30% of omitted information.5 This highlights the importance of regularly updating drug information to ensure complete and accurate information for HCPs to prescribe a safe and effective treatment for their patients.

Design intuitive website architecture to optimize user experience

Not only do HCPs have to find and navigate through medical websites, but they also must adapt to varying content formats, organization, and user experiences across medical websites. HCPs are time-constrained and seek information that is simple, bite-sized, and accessible about common topics such as dosing, efficacy, safety, real-world evidence, treatment guidelines, disease information, and medical publications. Medical Affairs teams should consider these requirements while designing medical websites. If the information on the websites is not organized intuitively, HCPs will seek other sources for future information needs. According to a recent study, 40% of overall satisfaction with a brand’s website is attributed to the ease of obtaining information.4 Having a logical structure with an ease of navigation is essential to creating a superior user experience and building trust.

Customizing and curating content on the Medical websites is critical to delivering a superior experience to the HCPs and KOLs.

Sarah Guadagno

VP, Global Medical Communications, Alexion Astra Zeneca Rare Disease

Ensure content compatibility with devices and browsers HCPs use

Equally important is how the information is rendered on the devices. HCPs may use different devices and browsers in different settings, for example, in a hospital ward, in their office, or away from the office. Some prefer to consume information on their computers or laptops while others prefer accessing the same information on a mobile phone or a tablet. A recent global survey of 984 physicians demonstrated that there were significant geographical differences in the devices used and the content viewed by physicians.6 If the information is not optimized based on the devices or browsers that HCPs use, the HCP’s user experience will suffer despite access to relevant, high-quality content. Medical Affairs teams must incorporate a responsive web design into the medical websites allowing a consistent experience regardless of device or its features.

Empower HCPs through self-service options

The consumer industry has done well to integrate services such as chatbots, virtual assistants, and interactive content on their websites. These services allow users to ask questions and provide feedback regarding the content hosted on the websites or connect to experts with queries not addressed by website content. HCPs also expect the same immediacy of experience and support from medical websites. The demand only continues to grow as demonstrated in a recent survey report showing that 88.5% of the physicians searched for medical information at least several times per week.1 HCPs also have individual preferences regarding the format of information they find most useful. Unfortunately, many medical information websites are not able to meet these demands for value-added services such as intelligent search function or content format that addresses individual physician preferences, which can simplify the HCP's efforts to find relevant content. Medical Affairs teams should be cognizant of merely replicating traditional medical information content on medical websites. Pharmaceutical companies should ensure that medical websites can support multiple formats such as slides, videos, infographics, interactive content, and templates. Diverse and innovative formats will work to address HCP’s individual preferences and optimize their experience. This in turn will increase session time and return visits to the website for new information. Medical Affairs teams can elevate the self-service experience of HCPs and align more closely with their expectations by rethinking these services to meet the broader needs of HCPs.

Cultivate medical websites as the mainstay for all medical team information and services

Medical websites have generally been designed to be reactive. HCPs visit these websites seeking information. Traditionally, limited information about HCPs visiting these websites has been collected to optimize the customer experience. Medical Affairs teams should consider how medical information websites can become a full-service portal for HCPs, not just a self-service portal for medical information. This full-service portal connects HCPs to other valuable medical and scientific resources and services. Council members noted that the ability to better meet the HCP needs has shown increased utilization of medical websites with measures such as time on page. In turn, this demonstration of value has facilitated Medical Affairs teams gaining additional resources. This was aided further by the pandemic making virtual interaction required, and timely access to information vital. Teams have worked to enhance the means of engagement with HCPs on their medical websites.
In addition to medical information, congress content, and Continuing Medical Education (CME), medical websites should be configured to allow bi-directional communication between HCPs and Medical Affairs teams. Rather than requiring HCPs to use multiple websites, Medical Affairs teams should work to integrate the information needs with other interactions on a single website. Examples include connecting with a Medical Science Liaison (MSL), grant submission, grant status, inquiries about becoming a clinical investigator, or expressing interest in becoming an advisor for the company. Having a single contact with Medical Affairs helps improve communication continuity and enhances the relationship. This comprehensive web interface with the Medical Affairs teams helps facilitate the interaction in the HCP’s daily workflow.

Medical Information/Medical websites have become a foundational platform, supporting omnichannel and optimizing customer experience.

Jung Lee,

Sr. Director, AstraZeneca

Create a website plan, establish goals, and secure resources

Most often website projects get pushed off another year or are an addon if the budget remains. It is important to allocate an appropriate budget and resources to optimize medical websites’ search engine indexing. Typically, search engines are the first place HCPs begin looking for any information on the internet. The Medical Affairs teams should invest in search engine optimization (SEO) and other techniques that will help in improving the ease of discovery and credibility of the medical information/medical websites. This will ensure that HCPs have easy access to these websites when searching for scientific information. By investing in these capabilities, the Medical Affairs teams ensure that credible information is not lost in the flood of irrelevant information or misinformation that may be returned when HCPs search for scientific/medical information online. Additionally, biopharmaceutical companies should consider partnering with third parties that have established the credibility and trust of HCPs. They can do this by hosting educational and scientific content on third-party websites. By working with such third parties, pharma companies can remove the bias that is usually associated with their websites and build greater transparency with HCPs.

Goals and metrics may vary based on the maturity of the website and may include page views, time on page, click-through rate (CTR), new users, return users, and total users. Data are available that characterize how changes like SEO and responsive web design can help improve the discoverability of the website and optimize the user experience.

The Way Ahead

HCPs desire greater access to unbiased, non-promotional, evidence-based, scientific content. The Medical Affairs teams are in an ideal position to make the medical information/medical websites the de-facto source for HCPs to find credible and unbiased information. However, this can only be achieved by investing in the right capabilities that can help in improving the overall awareness of the medical information/medical websites among HCPs. For this, medical information/medical websites should be treated at par with other websites operated by pharma companies. This will also require that the Medical Affairs teams continue the dialog with legal, compliance, and regulatory colleagues around the growing demands for information and the shift of preferences of HCPs to obtain content through self-service channels. At the same time, the Medical Affairs teams should focus on building trust with HCPs, work to optimize the ease of access to information, and continue to advance the credibility and transparency of the information posted on these websites.


Hermes-Desantis ER, Hunter RT, et.al. Preferences for accessing medical information in the digital age: healthcare professional survey. https://www.jmir.org/2021/6/e25868/ Accessed October 1, 2022.
Medical Affairs Digital Strategy Council | Indegene. www.indegene.com. Accessed October 1, 2022. https://www.indegene.com/what-we-think/industry-councils#medical-affairs-digital-strategy-council
Aspiration vs Actuality - Assessing the progress of digital excellence in Medical Affairs | Indegene www.indegene.com. Accessed October 1, 2022. https://www.indegene.com/what-we-think/reports/aspiration-vs-actuality-assessing-the-progress-of-digital-excellence-in-medical-affairs
The Healthcare Customer Experience Playbook | Events | Indegene. www.indegene.com. Accessed October 1, 2022. https://www.indegene.com/what-we-think/reports/the-healthcare-customer-experience-playbook
Randhawa A, Babalola O, et.al. A Collaborative Assessment Among 11 Pharmaceutical Companies of Misinformation in Commonly Used Online Drug Information Compendia. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1060028016635196?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed. Accessed October 1, 2022.
The Digitally-Savvy HCP. www.indegene.com. Accessed October 1, 2022. https://www.indegene.com/what-we-think/reports/digitally-savvy-hcp


This white paper is written by the members of the Medical Affairs Digital Strategy with active contribution from the following:
Mary Alice Dwyer
Jung Hyun Lee
Sr. Director, AstraZeneca
Jennifer Riggins
President, JSR Medical Affairs Consulting
Dominick Albano
VP, Pfizer
Thierry Auperin
VP, Alnylam
Andrew Fariello
VP, AstraZeneca
Maureen Feeney
VP, Takeda
Catrinel Galateanu
Sarah Guadagno
VP, Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease
Rick Harms
Executive Director, Merck
Michael Kavanaugh
Executive Director, Boehringer Ingelheim
Deb Long
SVP, Vertex
Roy Palmer
Global Medical Affairs Operations Lead, Pfizer
Fran Paradiso-Hardy
VP, Astellas Pharma
Bill Strickland
VP, Elevar
Richard Swank
Head Global/US Field Medical, Amgen
Dave Tang
VP, AbbVie
Ravi Tayi
CMO and Head GMA, Endo
Robin Winter-Sperry
Global Field Medical Lead, Ipsen
Writing support was provided by Suvi Kanchan and Kay Uttech.
DISCLAIMER − The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this white paper belong solely to the authors and not to their respective employers or any other organizations.