New digital entrants boost trust in pharmaceutical companies

As digital companies move into the health space, who does the British public trust to provide medicines and health services? Recent IPA research has revealed that new entrants into the health space are disrupting – and surprisingly boosting trust in traditional pharmaceutical companies.

New digital entrants boost trust in pharmaceutical companies

Who we rely on for our health is in a period of unprecedented change. Phones and wearables provide personalised health advice; Amazon has bought online pharmacy, PillPack; 23andme can personalise wellness and risk reports based on genetic makeup and GP services have moved online with Babylon and the NHS is following.

Consumers are responding. Our healthcare is no longer restricted to the friendly family doctor’s prescribed medicines, dispensed by a pharmacist. We all turn to Dr Google for answers as we struggle to secure GP appointments. Self-care is encouraged, nudging us towards health and wellness and leading us to consider new ways to manage ill health.

The IPA Healthcare Group wanted to understand how far the public would go in trusting these newer providers with their health and how this compared with traditional pharmaceutical companies.

The IPA research collected data from 2,000 adults using the Bilendi UK Panel. The nationally representative survey asked how much the public would trust the following sectors to offer advice on diet, physical health and mental health. It asked about trust to provide medications for minor, self-limiting conditions, such as skin or allergies, prescription medicines, right up to whether these sectors or companies would be trusted to provide a non-invasive procedure or minor operation.

  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • Health insurance providers e.g. BUPA, Vitality
  • Online GP/online video GP e.g. Babylon Health
  • Digital entertainment brands e.g. Sony, Microsoft
  • Fitbit
  • Nike
  • Google
  • McDonald’s
  • Supermarkets e.g. Sainsbury’s, Tesco
  • Coca-Cola
  • Boots
  • Samsung
  • Well known pharmaceutical companies e.g. Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Bayer
  • DNA-testing services e.g. 23andMe

Trust in the traditional

  • Healthcare – and the companies providing such services – is still perceived differently from other consumer retail categories by the vast majority. Pharmaceutical companies come out top when considering medication for serious conditions.
  • Around a half of people agree that non-healthcare specialist companies moving into healthcare makes them more likely to trust traditional pharmaceutical companies and healthcare specialists.
  • Only a minority of respondents would trust a company from outside of the traditional pharmaceutical scene with their health – around 15%.

Trust in non-healthcare specialists

  • The level of trust currently exhibited for non-healthcare specialists is not to be underestimated. Fitbit and Nike, for example, would be trusted by more than half of respondents in offering their own physical health advice.

The opportunity for newer entrants

  • 22% think that companies providing healthcare products or services are no different from those providing other goods and services (such as banking, utilities and consumer durables).
  • Up to 29% of those under 34 would trust a company from outside of the traditional pharmaceutical scene with their health.

“This data tells us that younger consumers are prepared to trust brands which many of us wouldn’t see as traditional healthcare businesses.” Said Nick Dutnall, Partner, Aesop and a member of The IPA Healthcare Group. “It’s a wakeup call to big pharma and an invitation to new players looking to capitalise on the UK’s growing healthcare marketplace.”

Sarah Sowerby, Chair of The IPA Healthcare Group and Founder of Wordbird commented: “This IPA Insights research shows that pharmaceutical companies are still front runners for trusted medical treatments. This is encouraging and challenges 2018 research suggesting trust in the pharmaceutical industry was at a five year low.

"There is no doubt that health is an attractive space for nimble, tech-savvy companies and younger consumers are very open to this.

"The IPA Healthcare Group represents agencies with a specialism in health and wellbeing. Agencies in our group are already responding to the changing health landscape and can provide unrivalled expertise to traditional pharmaceutical companies, or newcomers, with a health story to tell.”

The IPA research is free to members and £50 to non-members. It is available to download from the IPA website.

Last updated 21 January 2022