While millions of people turn to digital when researching symptoms, or looking up health conditions, Irish doctors still prefer traditional methods to educate themselves – according to a study conducted by GSK which looks at the digital habits of Irish medics.

The study found, that while Irish doctors are increasingly looking to online resources, including pharmaceutical company websites (61%), they still rate these less credible than face-to-face or more traditional information sources. The study, conducted amongst a national representation of Irish GP’s and hospital specialists, revealed that only 15% found medical information on social media as ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ credible. Even when it was a specialised healthcare professional only social media network (HCP group) credibility was still only ranked at 31%. Not surprising –  medical journals (100%), prescribing guides (99%), healthcare professional bodies (98%) and medical conferences (94%) were rated as the most credible sources of information respectively.

Speaking at the launch, Eimear Caslin, Commercial Director at GSK Pharmaceuticals said, “The relationship between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals is essential in helping develop medicines and treating patients so it’s really important that GSK ensures we are providing accurate, up to date information on our medicines. We wanted to invest in new digital ways of engaging with HCPs at a time, place, and through channels convenient to them.  By combining the benefits of our digital channels, including websites, webinars, emails, click-to-chat and analytics, with our face-to-face channels we can greatly increase the numbers of HCPs we can speak with, engage and educate with real-time information about our medicines and vaccines.”

Richard Corbridge the CIO of the Health Service Executive added; “The study clearly indicates that healthcare companies are in need of an ‘upgrade’ in terms of how information is used. It generates further debate about how the system communicates and educates in healthcare in the digital space. Although interaction between healthcare companies and healthcare professionals has traditionally been face to face, there have been positive steps made throughout the way we work in recognising this needs to evolve such as the onset of webinars the use of social media and the continued growth of video as a means of communication. In fact, with nearly three quarters of this survey’s healthcare professionals in agreement that pharma companies play a major role in education for HCPs, medical charities and patient groups, it’s an obvious endorsement of the changes made to date across the sector as a whole to better fit the needs of today’s modern medics.”

He went on to say, “eHealth Ireland has embraced the implementation of digital as a priority for the health system in Ireland, studies like this provide us with more evidence, more ways to engage and an affirmation that the reform of all health systems across the world can only truly be achieved through the onset of a digital change, a digital fabric for Ireland is our goal over the next 3 years.”

Further results

The study also showed that there is high trust between pharma companies and healthcare professionals, with very high credibility ratings for online study modules by professional development resources (96%), in-person events hosted by a pharmaceutical company (94%), sponsored conferences provided by a leading expert in their field (93%) and face to face medical information meetings (78%) with pharmaceutical companies, the latter was also the most frequently used information source by doctors in the last 12 months (78%).