We at EPG Health Media pride ourselves on understanding our HCP audiences, but our most recent study on Good Publication Practice: the knowledge and views of healthcare professionals reminded us that we can’t take for granted that we know what makes doctors tick.
Collaborating with PAREXEL International , we conducted a survey with over 293 HCPs recruited from www.epgonline.org, the professional channel for doctors. The study set out to establish what doctors know about Good Publication Practice, what they think about medical writers and pharma funding, what influences those views and what, if anything, could be done to improve their views if necessary.
Now, it has to be said, we (EPG) did have a number of preconceived ideas about what the study would reveal. These included:
Doctors (in general) would have a pretty good awareness of what qualifies someone to author on a peer-reviewed publication.
HCP attitudes towards medical writers and pharmaceutical involvement in publications would be linked to their awareness of Good Publication Practices.
Doctors that have first hand experience of bad publication practices (such as guest and ghost authorship) would have a more negative view of the involvement of medical writers and commercial sponsors than those with no such experience.
Fair assumptions? Apparently not!
Its not that the results were inconclusive on these hypotheses …the data actually proved them entirely false! We don’t feel ashamed to admit we were wrong though. Given the lack of existing studies on the topic, I think we could be forgiven for our misguided expectations.
What the study actually revealed was:
While the majority (58%) of HCP respondents said they were aware of Good publication Practice Guidelines, only a small minority (<10%) correctly identified the correct criteria for authorship. And whether the respondent claimed they were aware of GPP or not, made no difference to their ability identify the correct authorship criteria.
There was no correlation between doctors’ awareness of GPP and their attitudes towards professional medical writers or pharmaceutical involvement in publications.
Doctors that had previously authored reported more trust in papers with a commercial sponsor than those doctors that hadn’t, and this was despite 54% reporting having co-authored papers with ‘guest’ authors (who did not merit authorship), and 70% reporting working with ‘ghost’ authors (who merited authorship but were not named).
Perhaps less surprising is that younger doctors are more trusting commercially supported peer-reviewed papers than their more senior (in age) colleagues (who are perhaps more likely to have experienced outdated publication practices).
So what does this all really tell us? Download the report to find out more!
The key learning from the research is that awareness of GPP has little impact on doctors’ views of pharma involvement in peer-reviewed articles, however first hand experience does!
Doctors are more comfortable with industry funding if they have personally co-authored publications with a pharmaceutical sponsor (as 36% had). However, while they are apparently open to collaboration personally, they are also suspicious of others that do so. Perhaps experience of incomplete disclosure on publications they have worked on has led to this. Either way, this would indicate a ‘do as I say not as I do’ culture.
It would seem that transparency is key
Doctors expect a robust level of transparency. We could educate doctors about GPP and authorship criteria until the cows come home but until there is full disclosure of all contributors on individual articles, they will probably continue to be skeptical.
As Tom Rees from PAREXEL suggested based on the study findings “A contributorship model of authorship would resolve these problems by ensuring that all those who made a contribution were named and, more importantly, their role in the publication would be clear. This increased transparency would help to increase confidence in publications of industry-sponsored trials, by ensuring that the many people who contribute to a publication but who do not meet conventional authorship criteria are fully disclosed.”