Around the Globe: Canada
Canadian Medical Information Benchmarking Survey: MILE Framework for Digital Provision of Medical Information for Healthcare Professionals
Marie-Ange Noué
EMD Serono Inc.
Joanna Rizos
Eli Lilly Canada Inc.
Dan Quinn
Boehringer Ingelheim Canada Ltd. (retired)
John K. Wong
Regulatory Consultant

n pharmaceutical companies, Medical Information (MI) departments serve a key role in providing balanced scientific and medical information in response to unsolicited requests, through various channels, from healthcare professionals (HCPs).

In 2022, the Canadian Pharmacovigilance and Medical Information Network (PVN-MI), a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to helping shape the future of pharmacovigilance and MI in Canada, undertook an industry-wide survey to better understand which channels Canadian HCPs currently use to access medical information. The survey’s primary objective was to determine the volume of requests from Canadian HCPs, across all channels available, including MI websites.

A total of 17 pharmaceutical companies in Canada were invited to participate in the survey, conducted between March and April 2022. The survey had a 100% response rate.

Survey results indicate that more than 90% of incoming requests arrived through traditional channels (i.e., telephone, email, or company representative), with about half coming in via phone. While 70% of companies reported having an MI website, the number of standard medical responses accessed, downloaded, or viewed represented approximately only 0.5% of the annual volume of HCP inquiries. This low usage is likely driven by the restrictive gating requiring registration on most MI websites which also prevents content from being indexed via search engines.

This presents a significant challenge that may ultimately impact patient outcomes. Easy access to pharmaceutical companies’ MI websites is crucial for both HCPs and patients to ensure informed decision-making, patient safety, and improved health outcomes. While a plethora of medical information resources are available online, not all are credible, which poses a real risk that HCPs may be relying on medical information that is either inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated. This may potentially lead to product misuse, suboptimal treatment decisions, or patient harm.

This is a first-of-its-kind survey, benchmarking request volumes and channel usage by Canadian HCPs of company medical information. While demand for information by Canadian HCPs is high, the on-demand digital channels provided by Canadian pharmaceutical companies are not broadly utilized by HCPs, nor are they indexed to search engines, in contrast to other markets where HCPs report using MI websites more frequently than MI call centers.

Medical Information Leaders in Europe (MILE) recently published A Principles Framework for Digital Provision of Medical Information for Healthcare Professionals, which outlines strategies on improving accessibility while preserving HCP authentication and complying with regulatory requirements. These strategies include implementing tactics to ensure the accessibility of the services (e.g., self-validation of HCPs), the discoverability of the content (e.g., access facilitated through internet search engines), and its suitability for the digital channel (e.g., concise content designed for digital use). There is an opportunity to increase accessibility and usage of Canadian online medical information content by adopting these strategies.

The PVN-MI network is working closely with members, healthcare professional associations, and regulatory bodies to increase access to Canadian online medical information resources such as MI websites. Future surveys will look at the impact of implementing these strategies (i.e., indexing content to search engines, self-validation of HCPs versus registration, etc.) and impact of AI on HCP use of company medical information.

Click here to view the full survey results. To learn more and stay informed of these developments, visit the PVN-MI website.

The authors wish to thank the following contributors for their work in developing, distributing, reviewing, and analyzing the benchmarking survey results: Robert Milne (EMD Serono), Mitesh Patel (Hoffmann-La Roche), Lucie Gingras (Novo Nordisk), and Alex Lang (Johnson & Johnson).