Level Up Ep. 2

Level Up Ep. #2

Ethical Pitfalls in Healthcare Marketing

How to Avoid Ethical Pitfalls in Healthcare Marketing

Healthcare marketing practices are poles apart from other sectors due to the regulations in the industry that are tightly controlled and regulated by the government and medical boards. These are done to avoid malpractices and to set moral guidelines for promoting healthcare brands and hospitals ethically for a patient-centric approach over a product-centric one.

By utilizing the extensive range of traditional, digital marketing and advertising platforms accessible today, healthcare businesses can promote themselves where their target audience is present. Although, with the ease of accessibility that digital channels have opened up, the need for ethically reaching and engaging doctors becomes all the more important to rise above the chaos and share evidence-based, credible information.

Guidelines for ethical healthcare marketing are outlined under:

  • Uniform Code for Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP)
  • AdvaMed
  • GDPR

Although, currently there is no law governing healthcare marketing, these guidelines are adopted voluntarily to maintain an ethical code of conduct while interacting with healthcare professionals.

Who do these guidelines apply to?

The UCPMP code applies to pharmaceutical companies, medical representatives, agents of pharmaceutical companies (such as distributors, wholesalers, retailers), and pharmaceutical manufacturer’s associations. Learn about the 6 key protocols that the UCPMP code outlines.

AdvaMed code on the other hand, applies to medical device companies particularly. Whereas, the GDPR directive guides all companies at large for conducting compliant marketing practices, read more about GDPR here.

Risks & impact of unethical marketing practices in healthcare:

  • Patient harm:
    Unethical marketing can have a serious impact on the patients’ health and wellness due to existing medical history and mixing dosages with other drugs that they consume. To avoid malpractices, misinformation on the product benefits, side-effects, dosage frequency etc.
  • Fines:
    Government levies fines on breach of consumer protection laws. This can burn a hole in your business and put your brand in negative light.
  • Brand image & loss of credibility:
    Once a brand gets penalized for malpractices, it also attracts bad publicity affecting your brand’s image in the minds of medical fraternity and word-of-mouth communication among peers.
  • To give you a real-world scenario: A leading drug brand got penalized recently by the Federation of Medical & Sales Representatives Association of India.
  • The reasons: For giving freebies to doctors as incentive to prescribe their drugs. Such a practice goes against the statutory guidelines set under the Uniform Code for Pharma Marketing Practices (UCPMP).

How to ethically market your healthcare brand?

  • Better sales force training programs: The sales force is the human point of contact for HCPs, thus training them to highlight product information like benefits, side-effects, disclaimers for co-morbidities, and any other would have better positioning of your brand against the competition.
  • Focus on evidence-based marketing: Marketing that focuses on science, evidence-based communication not only educates the doctors on new drugs/ devices but also helps them learn about the important factors that distinguish your brand in the market.
  • Credibility check of third-party platforms & marketing agencies:With the rise of digital peer network and knowledge platforms for clinicians and the reliability that you bestow upon them to establish a connect with your target HCPs, there is also a need to check for ones that are compliant in their marketing practices. Questions you need to ask them:
    1. Do they focus on science and evidence-based marketing?
    2. Do they have a gated platform exclusively for allopathy doctors?
    3. Is their database verified?
    4. Are they compliant?
  • Conducting pharmacovigilance: Pharmacovigilance is a practice concerned with the identification, evaluation, comprehension of side effects or any other issue with drugs or vaccines that can be highlighted on the product packaging.

How does Docplexus help healthcare marketers?

After understanding the objective you want to achieve for your brand, we create a detailed plan with ways that would work best in achieving them. A dedicated project manager is assigned to guide you in each step of your brand’s journey helping you understand how your brand is performing through qualitative and quantitative insights for future course of action.

Our purpose is to empower doctors with credible, evidence-based, clinically sound, and patient-centric information. Taking this into account, we ensure that we customize campaigns for your target HCPs and simultaneously keep the process 100% compliant.

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