The LGBTQ+ community encompasses a wide range of patients across all races, ethnicities and gender identities. However, when seeking healthcare resources and support, many of these patients feel underrepresented and mistrustful of pharma advertising, new data shows.
Less than half (44%) of LGBTQ+ patients feel that pharma ads reflect their experience as members of the LGBTQ+ community, according to survey data collected by Phreesia Life Sciences and Klick Health from more than 1,500 patients in early 2022 as they checked in for doctors’ appointments. Similarly, only 45% of surveyed LGBTQ+ patients feel that pharma understands their unique needs, with those who identify as transgender or female being even less likely to feel understood by the pharma industry.
This lack of representation and understanding has affected LGBTQ+ patients’ overall trust in pharma, with 2 in 5 surveyed patients (41%) reporting that they don’t trust pharma ads at all and another 26% saying that they trust them “only a little.” And while representation is vital for building and maintaining that trust, outreach to the LGBTQ+ community also is crucial for bolstering these patients’ confidence in pharma, says Thea Briggs, Associate Director, Content Strategy, Phreesia Life Sciences.
“Representation matters, but it’s not enough to address disparities on its own,” Briggs says. “Pharma marketers must actively pursue robust outreach efforts, such as learning about LGBTQ+ individuals’ healthcare experiences, hiring LGBTQ+ people and partnering with community organizations to create effective campaigns, as well as dedicating consistent energy and attention to addressing the issues that this community experiences.”
Those issues range from having higher rates of either being uninsured or underinsured to postponing or avoiding medical treatment because of bias and discrimination. Additionally, although more than 50% of surveyed LGBTQ+ patients say they are aware of many preventive care services, the percentages of those who have recently used such services are much lower. For example, while 59% of LGBTQ+ patients are aware of blood-pressure screening, only 32% got screened in the past year.
As for outreach, many LGBTQ+ patients feel that pharma still has more work to do: Slightly more than one-third (34%) of surveyed LGBTQ+ patients “strongly disagree” and another 22% “somewhat disagree” that the pharma industry conducts sufficient LGBTQ+ outreach beyond HIV and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications that high-risk individuals take to prevent getting HIV.
To improve LGBTQ+ patients’ perceptions of the pharma industry, as well as their preventive care knowledge, Amy Gómez, PhD, Senior Vice President, Diversity Strategy, Klick Health, emphasizes that it’s important to include members of the LGBTQ+ community at every stage of the pharma-marketing process, including foundational research and concept and message testing. Doing so can help pharma companies develop a deeper understanding of these patients’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and ensure that those attributes are accurately reflected in pharma communications.
“We can and should use our skills to create empathy and urgency,” Gómez says. “We can partner with our clients and providers to develop model programs that demonstrate the positive effects on community health outcomes when empathy for LGBTQ+ people and awareness of the health issues that impact them help to ameliorate implicit bias.”
And while engaging with LGBTQ+ patients to better understand what they need from their healthcare experiences can help boost preventive care usage, Phreesia survey data shows that greater inclusion also translates into more opportunities to positively impact LGBTQ+ patients’ perceptions of the pharma industry. Overall, 82% of surveyed patients said they have more positive feelings toward pharma companies that conduct outreach to the LGBTQ+ community.
“We’re proud to be using our platform to connect with members of the LGBTQ+ community to learn from them directly about their experiences in navigating and accessing healthcare,” says David Linetsky, Phreesia’s Senior Vice President, Life Sciences. “Our hope is that the insights we generate from this work will help advance and guide efforts among providers and pharma manufacturers to address biases and create more equitable healthcare experiences for these communities.”
Actively engaging with members of the LGBTQ+ community and gathering data that educates providers and better equips them to meet these patients’ needs is crucial for continuing to build their trust in the pharma industry, Briggs explains. However, fostering that trust must be a broadly inclusive, long-term commitment for life sciences organizations if they want to make true progress within this community.
“It’s easy for marketers and public health professionals to fall into the trap of becoming prescriptive— assuming we know how problems are experienced by individuals without asking them and deciding that we’re going to go in with our preferred solutions, regardless of community buy-in and participation,” Briggs says. “That’s not effective or respectful. Building trust and designing effective interventions and campaigns that will be well-received and work in patients’ real lives requires a lot more listening and learning than talking.”