A Wider Lens for the Patient Journey

As the pharmaceutical industry evolves toward increased customer engagement, patient journey analysis has not evolved with it. Today’s depiction of a patient’s journey needs to deftly incorporate hard data along with emotional resonance to create an actionable map of engagement touch points.

Metrics-driven consultants depict the journey as a treatment algorithm while traditional agency planners tend to focus on the emotions and behaviors the patient and key stakeholders experience. Both are important, but missing key insights around the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why” and “how” can limit a marketer’s ability to identify, prioritize and develop targeted areas for customer engagement.

The most actionable patient journeys are linear, quantifiable and contextual.

A Linear and Quantifiable Flow of Key Events

The first part is a linear and quantifiable flow of key events the patient experiences over time, from the first trigger (e.g., symptom or episode) to an ultimate desired outcome. The outcome for a chronic disease (diabetes) might be maintenance through adherence to a drug regimen. An acute episode (ruptured brain aneurysm) might be resolved through a minimally invasive intervention. The events captured in between should be those that ultimately affect the desired outcome in a significant way. It helps to look at the events in a reverse flow—define the desired final state and work backward through the journey to identify the key events that impact that final state.

Key events to capture include the “who” (who are the key stakeholders involved in moving the patient through the journey), “what” (what decisions are being made at each key point), “where” (in which settings are decisions made) and “when” (when and how frequently are decisions made). Intersections across these events can reveal critical new insights.

For example, the “who” and “what” often differ significantly as a result of the “where.” One hospital marketer uncovered differences in the patient journey across the ER, in-hospital and elective settings, showing that the ER offered the greatest opportunity to benefit patients and physicians (the who) and impact decision-making (the what) in a meaningful way. Another marketer discovered that patients were best targeted through community mental health centers, based on where patients were most likely to receive care and how patients were treated.

Once the flow and intersection of the key events are mapped and quantified, a marketer can dig deeper into the best business opportunities.

Contextual Drivers and Barriers

The second consideration is an understanding of the contextual drivers and barriers—guided by softer, yet quantifiable aspects of the journey such as “why” and “how” key events are occurring or being influenced. These insights provide the emotions, needs, attitudes and behaviors driving the “who,” “what,” “where” and “when” of the patient journey—and help the marketer choose and map specific opportunities that are worth pursuing.

For example, the marketer who understood the mental health center to be the greatest target opportunity used contextual insights derived from on-site, observational interviews to discover an untapped opportunity to engage the full treatment team (not simply physicians) at specific touch points during patient intake and re-evaluation.

Thus, a linear, quantifiable and contextual approach to a patient journey uses a wider lens that can more effectively uncover opportunities for compelling, actionable customer engagement.

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