The State Of Customer Experience In The Pharmaceutical Industry, 2022: Patient Interactions

Executive Summary

The pharmaceutical industry has yet to provide patients with a good customer experience (CX); as a consequence, pharma firms are not maximizing the opportunities they have to improve health outcomes. There is a significant misalignment between how the pharmaceutical industry provides patients with information and services and how patients would like to receive them. Furthermore, the ways in which pharma companies use all the channels available to them do not currently meet patient needs. As companies continue to strive to be more patient-centric, there are important opportunities available by listening better to patients’ expectations.

Pharma Channels Perform Poorly for Patients

As patients seek to become more informed about and involved in their own healthcare, their health outcomes are closely related to the pharmaceutical industry’s success at engaging with them. To assess the current state of this relationship, we collaborated with Carenity, part of EvidentIQ, to survey patients across Europe and the US. We put patients in the role of the customer and applied our Customer Experience Quotient® (CXQ®) metric to see which CX efforts pleased or disappointed patients (see Figure 1). CXQ® assesses whether the expectations that patients have regarding pharma-created services and information match what they actually receive in terms of an information or service being trusted, accurate, personal, simple, and up to date (see Figure 2).[i] This year, we found that:

  • Patients want to be up to date. Patients’ primary activities involve accessing news and information about their condition or treatment (see Figure 3). They want to learn more about their health issues but don’t focus on wraparound support services that don’t contribute to this. Few respondents use medication reminders, patient support programs, or general health management resources. No type of content provided a good or excellent customer experience (see Figure 4). Patients judged most content types as just fair, although the poor ranking for symptom information and patient forums is a concern.
  • Patients rated telephone the highest… In this year’s CXQ® study, just one of the various channels that pharma uses to engage with patients managed better than a “fair” ranking (see Figure 5). Telephone help lines, which are often the first contact method that patients see on a pharma firm’s website, led the way. With an average CXQ® score of just 28 across all channels—slightly down from last year’s score of 30—it’s clear that pharma can do much more to meet patients’ needs and expectations (see Figure 6).
  • …but get most pharma-created content via email. Nearly four in ten respondents indicated that their most recent engagement with a pharma company took place via email—far ahead of company websites, mobile apps, and sponsored forums (see Figure 7). However, patients’ favorite channels through which to interact with firms were company websites, social media, or sponsored forums, as they increasingly seek information on their own terms to suit their digital lives.
  • Patients actually prefer different channels depending on which service they need. Patients are clear about which channels they do—and don’t—want to use, and the misalignment between what they want and what they get compounds already poor CXQ® rankings for channels. We also found an imbalance in the amount of information provided via some channels, particularly company websites, although it also suggests that firms don’t place enough emphasis on social media and traditional print media.

[i] We surveyed 763 patients and found that the primary expectations of patients are personal treatment, trustworthiness, accuracy, simplicity, and timeliness. See The State of Customer Experience in Pharma: Patient Interactions 2020 report.

Figure 1: The Customer Experience Quotient® (CXQ®) Survey, Patient Interactions

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Figure 2: Customer Experience Quotient® (CXQ®): the CX drivers of patient interactions

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Figure 3: Keeping up to date dominates patients’ needs

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Figure 4: Patients don’t judge any type of content to be good or excellent

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Figure 5: Pharma’s use of communication channels is not meeting expectations

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Figure 6: Most interactions that patients had with pharma firms disappointed

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Figure 7: Digital channels have definitively taken over as the primary source of pharma-created information

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Patients Engage With Information and Services, Not Companies

The majority of patients in our study have long-term treatment needs, putting them in regular contact with the pharmaceutical industry’s products and services. However, regular contact with a firm doesn’t often mean that patients remember it. We also noted that while patients consume a wide range of pharma services, their actual needs were primarily met by three service types. Our data shows that:

  • One in three patients doesn’t know who makes their medicines. Name recognition for individual pharmaceutical companies is low. More than one-third (36%) of respondents in our study did not know the name of the company that’s behind the medicine or treatment they need (see Figure 8).
  • Even when interacting with pharma services, name recognition is low. From websites to social media and beyond, 83% of the surveyed patients most recently engaged with one of eleven common industry activities. Even so, one-third of this cohort still couldn’t recall the name of the company involved, the despite the industry’s substantial investments in branding (see Figure 9).
  • Patients turn to company websites, social media, and sponsored forums for information. A pharma company’s website, social media account, or affiliated online forum accounted for the three most used services or types of information created by the industry (see Figure 10). In contrast, just 5% of the patients in our study used a chatbot most recently; 1% used a text message.

Figure 8: The name recognition of individual pharmaceutical companies is low

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Figure 9: Creating useful services doesn’t guarantee recognition

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Figure 10: Patients turn to websites, social media, and forums for answers

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Excellent CX Improves Patient Outcomes

Meeting patient expectations and providing high-quality experiences by a pharma company has a clear impact on what patients choose to do after interacting with its services or information. Most often, respondents said that they would either tell someone about the service or information or—damningly for the industry—simply do nothing (see Figure 11). However, we did find that one in four people would contact their doctor. We further found that:

  • Poor CX is more than twice as likely to result in patients doing nothing. Our study found that 26% of patients rating an experience as poor said they would do nothing after engaging with a pharma-created service or information, compared with just 10% that said they would take no action if their experience was excellent (see Figure 12). Poor CX also made it more likely that patients would tell their carer, friends, or family about the experience, while almost completely eliminating the possibility of patients enrolling in the program or service. Excellent CX leads to favorable behavior: 12% would save the information provided, 11% would request additional support, and 9% would actually enroll in the program or service.
  • Health decision-making is improved by excellent experiences. High-quality CX can improve patient health via benefits in decision-making, disease management, and treatment effectiveness. Excellent CXQ® also makes it significantly more likely that patients will view a pharma company’s medicines or therapies favorably (see Figure 13). For more than half of patients, receiving a poor experience will have a negative effect on their perception of the pharma company, the effectiveness of their treatment, and even their quality of life.
  • Excellent CX provides an opportunity for pharma after COVID-19. The post-pandemic picture is still evolving. Our study found that the majority of respondents anticipated no change in how likely they would be to engage with pharma post-COVID-19, regardless of whether the CX provided is excellent or poor (see Figure 14). The opportunity for the industry lies in the 35% of respondents who said that excellent CX would make them more likely to engage because of factors related to COVID-19, compared with the 23% indicating that poor CX would make them less likely to do so.

Figure 11: Patients are more likely to do nothing than contact their doctor

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Figure 12: Patients are more likely to act after having an excellent experience

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Figure 13: Poor pharma experiences undermine patient health

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Figure 14: Excellent experiences could increase patient engagement post-pandemic

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The DT Consulting / Carenity Customer Experience Quotient (CXQ®) Survey, Patient Interactions 2021 survey was fielded in conjunction with Carenity, part of EvidentIQ, from July to November 2021. The survey involved 543 patients whose primary condition was ankylosing spondylitis, bipolar disorder, breast cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or rheumatoid arthritis. Patient users of Carenity were invited by email to take the online survey and respondents came from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the US. Please note that respondents who use online networks, engage via email, and participate in online surveys have more digital experience and are more likely and confident to interact with companies digitally than those with less experience.

Related Research


Dominic Tyer crc

Dominic Tyer


Dominic has more than 20 years of pharmaceutical publishing experience at leading industry titles and is an influential author on the digital transformation of the healthcare sector. In his current role at DT Consulting he is responsible for defining and executing the company’s expanding publication agenda and peer networking event schedule, both of which address the needs of pharmaceutical companies and their leaders.

Tim van Tongeren

Managing Partner

Tim has worked for more than fifteen years with commercial leaders to navigate their strategic and organizational transformations required to thrive on digital technology change. In his current role as Managing Partner, he leads DT’s Solutions and Consulting offerings to advise the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms on how to best achieve customer experience success through digital transformation. He also directs DT’s ongoing effort to provide the pharma industry with the most relevant insights on digital strategy, digital health, and organizational change.
Tim van Tongeren crc
Hannah Price crc

Hannah Price

Senior Director

Hannah has more than a decade of experience working with commercial and technology leaders focused on digital and customer experience transformation. She advises organizations on how to evolve their customer offering to take advantage of digital capabilities and develop the internal competencies required to effect this transformation. In her current role as Director of Customer Experience, she leads DT’s customer experience practice, guiding the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms towards creating deliberate, holistic experiences for customers that leverage digital channels and deliver business value.

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