Entire health care industry suffers from a poor reputation

Drug makers and insurers received terrible grades from participants in a new Harris Poll

Just 9 percent of Americans agree that drug makers and biotechnology firms “put patients over profit.” (Photo: Thinkstock) Just 9 percent of Americans agree that drug makers and biotechnology firms “put patients over profit.” (Photo: Thinkstock)

As Americans pay more and more for health care, their perception of the companies and people they depend on for treatment is not particularly flattering.

While the United States is one of the only countries in the world that allows pharmaceutical companies to advertise their products, the billions of dollars drug-makers have spent on TV ads, billboards and the like has hardly bought them any trust from the American public.

A new survey shows only 9 percent of Americans agree with the statement that pharma and biotechnology firms “put patients over profit.” Thirty-eight percent disagree, while 52 percent say they are neutral.

Health insurers fare better, but only barely. Sixteen percent think insurers are focused on patients, according to the survey of 1,018 adults conducted by Harris Poll. Thirty-five percent say health plans do not put patients over profit, while roughly half are unsure.

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Perhaps most striking is how few Americans believe that doctors, nurses and hospitals’ top priority is patient well-being.

Only 36 percent say that health care professionals put patients over profits, although only 10 percent assert that is not the case. Fifty-four percent are neutral on the question.

Similarly, only 23 percent say hospitals prioritize patients over profits, while 19 percent disagree and 58 percent are neutral. The fact that a large swath of hospitals are nonprofit does not appear to have much of an effect on people’s perceptions of their motives.

While few consumers believe the health care industry operates out of altruism, far more believe the health care they receive is high quality. Roughly half believe that pharmacies, doctors and nurses providers offer high quality products and services.

However, pharmaceutical companies and insurers receive poor ratings when it comes to quality. Only 31 percent say that pharma delivers high quality products and only 26 percent say the same about insurers.

That so few actors in the health care sector elicit confidence is indicative of a health care “maelstrom,” says Wendy Salomon, vice president of reputation management and public affairs at Nielsen, the parent company of Harris Poll.

“While at times the pharmaceutical industry seems an easy target for criticism, it is stunning to see the little credit it receives for making a positive difference,” says Salomon. There are real opportunities for companies across the health care landscape to proactively share their stories and engage in reducing reputational risk.”

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