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Seeking Medical Guidance, but in Different Ways – How Patients and HCPs Interact with Conversational AI on Pharmaceutical Websites

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By: Dr. Duré Hussain, VP, Medical Strategy and Commercial Consulting

The way physicians and patients interact with conversational AI is representative of what both types of users seek in health content online and presents a new opportunity for brands to connect with customers on a deeper level, while providing a channel for on-demand engagement and real-time customer data with valuable intelligence for future activations.

When both doctors and patients are empowered to ask conversational AI medical questions, and receive a near-human, trusted response without any of the potential embarrassment or stigma that comes from interacting with another human, what do they ask and how? The nature of inquiries and the ways different groups engage with conversational AI highlights distinct differences between patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs). However, as conversational AI is the next step in enhancing the pharmaceutical website – making it more user-friendly while driving bottom-of-the-funnel engagement and valuable first party data – it’s key for marketers to be aware of the unique ways that both interact with AI technologies in the context of pharmaceutical information, enabling marketers to understand (and appeal to) each audience better, using the voice of the customer to inform future strategic planning

Swoop analyzed over 90,000 typed queries across eight agents and four brands to understand how doctors communicate, as opposed to patients, when speaking anonymously to a virtual AI agent. What sets conversational AI apart is the ability to gather first-hand insights based on consumer interaction, helping companies understand how the market is reacting to their messaging and uncover gaps in their marketing programs. 

While traditional websites may offer insight into navigation behavior, there is no way to get total clarity into the reasoning behind a user's visit – for instance, the information they seek – why they’re interacting and if they actually received the answer they were looking for. Conversational AI removes the guesswork, giving brands leverage through unique first-party data that can be used in marketing materials to get ahead of customer queries or even issues. If multiple customers are experiencing the same uncertainty with dosing, for example, a campaign can be created that addresses this query, aiding customers proactively. Ultimately, understanding how distinct types of consumers communicate presents a valuable opportunity for brands to more effectively engage with their target audience.

Healthcare Professionals – Information Seeking via Sophisticated Questioning 

Healthcare professionals often approach conversational AI with specific, technical queries related to the drugs or treatments. Their questions obviously reflect a deep understanding of medical terminology and an interest in detailed, evidence-based responses. But at the same time, the general topics of their questions are fairly simplistic. The gaps in information brand and medical leadership believe physicians receive and what actually comes across their desk become blatantly apparent. 

Clinical Inquiry Depth

HCPs tend to ask questions that require a deep dive into clinical data, such as "Can the vaccine be used with immunosuppressive therapies?" or "What is the mechanism of action?" This shows a need for comprehensive, accurate information that can inform clinical decisions, in the moment of need. 

Patient Management

Questions like "How can patients remember every other day dosing?" indicate concerns surrounding patient compliance and the practical aspects of treatment administration. They seek solutions or tools that could assist in improving patient outcomes.

Detailed Drug Information

HCPs often require detailed information about drugs, including inactive ingredients, drug interactions, dosing guidelines and stability. For instance, asking for "specific ingredient information" including excipients, or "the usual dose prescription for this medication" highlights the importance of transparency as a predictor of  prescribing behavior. 

Regulatory and Efficacy Data

Queries such as "How do I access the phase 3 and 6-month efficacy data?" or "What are the approved ages for use?" reflect an interest in the regulatory aspects and the evidence supporting the use of pharmaceutical products and represents an opportunity for more thorough follow-up. 

Patients – Personalizing Pharma and Emphasizing the Practical 

 Patients, on the other hand, tend to ask for information from a more personal and practical standpoint. Their questions often revolve around how the medication or treatment will affect their daily lives, potential side effects, and how to manage their conditions more effectively, reinforcing the value of key messages that marketers need to get across to their ideal audiences and the empathy demanded of that messaging.

Personal Experience and Concerns

Patients frequently ask about the experiences they can expect when taking a medication or treatment, like "What are the expected side effects?" or concerns about taking a second dose of medication due to inefficacy, as in "I just took a dose around 11:30 but I don’t feel differently, can I take a second dose?" These questions relate to their health directly and are posed casually but with obvious levels of anxiety.

Practical Usage Questions

Queries such as "Missed dose with every other day dosing" or "What happens after a first dose? " show a focus on the practicalities of medication use in everyday life and indicate how trusting patients are when interacting with an MLR-approved conversational AI. They take their health seriously and seek reliable answers from the brand itself, rather than third-party sites.

Effectiveness and Compatibility

Patients often inquire about the effectiveness of treatments ("How effective is this vaccine?") and their compatibility with other medications or conditions ("Will taking my current prescriptions impact taking the vaccine?") or (“What’s in the vaccine?”). Providing patients an immediate answer to these key queries provides an on-demand first-hand resource and lets the brand serve as a primary source of education, as opposed to a non-validated third-party. Sentiment analysis of how patients phrase questions and respond to the conversational AI, there’s a clear level of trust as they seek to overcome hesitancies, concerns or skepticism. This trust translates to action, with patients following through with a doctor’s appointment to start treatment.

Eligibility and Accessibility 

Questions like "I am 40, am I too old for this treatment?" or "Who can take this medication?" reflect concerns about eligibility and accessibility, indicating a desire for clear, understandable guidance that directly applies to their personal health situation. Patients have become more health-literate than ever, giving brands a massive opportunity to engage 1:1 with them as the CEOs of their own diagnosis and treatment journey.

Interactions with conversational AI on pharmaceutical brand webpages reveals a clear dichotomy between the informational needs of HCPs and patients. While HCPs focus on clinical details, efficacy data and patient management services, patients seek answers that relate to their personal experience, practical medication use and treatment accessibility. Understanding these differences is crucial for pharmaceutical marketers as they create campaigns to effectively address the diverse needs of both core groups, thereby enhancing the user experience and contributing to informed health decisions.

Conversational AI provides access to the real-time voice-of-the-customer, giving brands a unique opportunity to understand their audiences’ individual demands along with the intent behind their queries. As a leader in privacy-safe audiences created with real world data and pharma-specific, MLR-compliant conversational AI, Swoop connect the dots between finding, targeting and engaging with ideal DTC and HCP audiences throughout the health journey – from pre-diagnosis to diagnosed, diagnosed and treating, and even likely to become non-adherent or progress to a new line of treatment. With Swoop, brands can more effectively reach the patients in need of their treatment, the providers most likely to prescribe it and then hear directly from those customers to better inform future campaigns. This closed-loop system supercharges first-party data, leading to more efficient and effective campaigns, driving better patient outcomes and positive Rx behavior. 


To find out more, contact hello@swoop.com


About the Author

Dr. Duré Hussain


VP, Medical Strategy and Commercial Consulting

Dure Hussain-1


With a background in clinical practice, Dr. Hussain brings a unique perspective to the company by intersecting technology, healthcare, and access. She is passionate about breaking down global infrastructure barriers and promoting health equity. Dr. Hussain's journey with Swoop began after meeting a fellow physician who explained the unlimited potential of scaling medical conversations through advanced AI; this resonated especially after observing telecommunications were far more accessible than healthcare first-hand in her work overseas. In her role as a commercial consultant, Dr. Hussain ensures that current customers can reach out during escalations and provides training and support for data questions. She also communicates with customers during sales calls, addressing concerns from the Medical Legal Review (MLR) process to the quality and effectiveness of the conversation.