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Ruder Finn and IPSOS Release 2014 Physicians Digital Outlook Survey


71 percent of Chinese physicians prefer E-Channels when accessing medical-related information

Beijing. The 2014 Physicians Digital Outlook Survey was released today by Ruder Finn, one of the world’s largest independent public relations firms, and IPSOS Group, the third largest market research company in the world. The study focuses on the online behavioral patterns of physicians and the evolution of social media usage across greater China, assessing the outlook for medicine promotion and doctor-patient relationships in the digital age.

The report surveys approximately 700 physicians from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. 99 percent of mainland interviewees worked in public hospitals – 17 percent of which were large hospitals with over 1,500 staff members, and 66 percent of which were mid-sized with 1,000 to 1,400 staff members, while small hospitals made up the remaining 17 percent. The physicians surveyed varied in level; 16 percent were chief doctors/professors, 35 percent were vice-chief doctors/associate professors, 36 percent were doctors-in-charge, and 13 percent were residents.

Going digital and mobile to access medical information

According to survey results, 71 percent of mainland China physicians preferred to use digital channels to access medical information. Compared to last year’s 37 percent, just 11 percent chose to communicate with medical representatives to obtain information. With 45 and 42 percent engagement, Internet forums and mobile apps were the top channels for accessing medical information. Medical news was the most important topic to 88 percent of physicians, while 86 percent of physicians valued disease information.

Mrs. Angie Li, Director of Ipsos China Healthcare Practice said, “Online resources are convenient, and save physicians’ both time and money, but 39 percent of those surveyed were concerned that e-channels were not sufficiently academic, while 37 percent said online resources were not detailed enough. Compared to last year, many companies now recognize the importance of digital communication, and some international corporations are becoming increasingly digital-focused. Survey results show that MSD, Bayer, and AstraZeneca were the top three companies in terms of use of e-channels, including forums, company websites, e-newsletters, and mobile medical apps.

Ms. Elan Shou, Managing Director and Senior Vice-President of Ruder Finn China, said, “With the development of mobile online platforms, initiating a digital reform in the present medical system is crucial. Reducing price of medicine becomes the main trend of health care reform in the world while the operation cost of pharmaceutical companies goes higher and higher. Digital communication is increasingly replacing traditional, high-cost communications activity, such as pharmaceutical representative visits, worldwide academic promotions, patient education, and community screening. China is set to become one of the largest mobile healthcare industries in the world.

E-Diagnosis: Important, but not useful

When it comes to leveraging the Internet for diagnosis and treatment, physicians in mainland China lag behind their counterparts in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Only 60 percent of mainland physicians showed a positive attitude toward online resources, compared to 91 percent in Hong Kong and 86 percent in Taiwan. Only 48 percent of mainland physicians used e-resources for diagnosis.

Mrs. Angie Li commented, “On the one hand, the credibility and privacy of online medical resources require improvement. On the other hand, the quantity and variety of the current mobile apps is highly appealing. The survey indicates that there are relatively few diagnosis and treatment apps available, which explains why only 19 percent of mainland physicians use mobile apps in their daily work. 84 percent of doctor-patient communication is still conducted via telephone besides face-to-face communication.”

Mr. Jefferson Hou, Vice President of the Ruder Finn Healthcare Practice, said, “Physicians in mainland China are under such tremendous pressure that they have little time for patient communication. Constricted doctor-patient relations also limit communication. However, major companies such as Google, Apple, Alibaba, and Baidu are now beginning to invest in the mobile healthcare industry. The Internet and mobile devices are driving innovation in healthcare products and services, medical management, and doctor-patient relationships. Today, the medical industry is becoming increasingly segmented, leading to proved national healthcare reform overall.