Differentiate Your Brand by Understanding What Physicians and Patients Want

Inside hundreds of thousands of exam rooms across the country, nearly 12 million prescriptions are written each day (http://bit.ly/2c3eQlY). When a physician starts to order his or her next script—is your therapeutic solution going to be the prescribed treatment option? Do you know what makes your product stay top-of-mind and stand out with physicians?

Equally important, when a patient gets diagnosed and awaits the doctor’s orders, are they aware of your brand as a possible treatment option? Does the patient even know or feel comfortable asking his physician to write a different prescription?

For pharma marketers everywhere, the ongoing challenge is how to make your Rx brand rise above the competition and become the treatment of choice for physicians and patients.

The Obvious (and Difficult to Prove) Answer

The most cut and dry way to set your product apart from the competition is with superior efficacy claims that patients want and can understand. But as any pharma marketer knows, that’s a lot easier said than done. Because of clinical trial requirements, FDA guidelines and regulations, what a marketer sets out to say may often sound like a different language to patients after MRL review. You simply can’t state your brand is the best.

So even though efficacy may be the most obvious answer, it is difficult to prove. How many drugs advertise “relief in 24 hours” or being the “No. 1 doctor-prescribed”? In a crowded playing field, do those claims even really stand out? Or are consumers dismissing them as ad-speak and looking for other ways to evaluate what works?

Flip the Script

Instead of only talking to the masses in general terms or relying solely on what the doctor may have picked up from their latest two-minute rep detail, what if you flipped the script and provided what physicians and patients want: Education and information, meaningful dialogue, and better health outcomes? Engaging physicians and patients in the privacy of the exam room is a significant way to differentiate in a market where the efficacy of many products is the same.

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This is precisely what well-executed point-of-care marketing does: Micro-targeting the right message to the right patient at the precise moment when they are ready to hear it, at the precise moment the physician is writing the prescription. Remember, at the same time medication is prescribed or recommended, the patient is grappling with the stress of a new condition or diagnosis. How much can the patient really process or retain during this moment of stress? Educating the patient on the disease or condition not only helps them engage with their healthcare provider to reduce anxiety and confusion, but also empowers them to take control of their health.

So how can you “flip that script” your way?

Explain the why and the how: Going to the doctor creates anxiety for many people so they try to get in and out as quickly as possible, even if that means leaving with incomplete information. In doing so, they shortchange themselves a critical moment in their care. Patients often hear “what” they have, but don’t ask questions about “why” they have this condition and “how” it will affect their body, their daily life, or their future. Some don’t even understand “how” their particular treatment will work to help.

This is the ideal opportunity to educate patients and empower them to make informed decisions about their treatment. Be aspirational. Remind them that understanding how their medicine works will promote compliance, and in, turn how compliance will help them live better lives.

Think of switchers too. Many conditions are progressive, so treatment options likewise must progress. A patient who’s been taking an NSAID for years may think her medicine is working fine, but her top three kitchen shelves are empty because reaching that high causes so much pain. We want to educate patients to talk to their doctors—about the fact that this is exactly the kind of information doctors want to know to help assess their treatment plan. Sponsoring education in the exam room helps you develop a meaningful connection between your brand, the patient, and the physician. When it comes time to choose a therapy, your brand will be remembered as one that cares about patient’s health outcomes, not just sales figures.

Remove the stigma: Many patients may feel embarrassed by their condition or the unhealthy life choices that may have led to their condition—and quite honestly, some conditions are simply more difficult to talk about than others. At the same time, by not opening up and having an honest, adult conversation with their doctors, patients aren’t giving their doctor a chance to provide the best treatment. Here’s where you can help: Brands can help facilitate important conversations between patients and physicians.

The middle-aged man suffering from erectile dysfunction is quite likely embarrassed or even depressed. But sitting in the exam room waiting on the doctor for a routine physical and trying to decide if it’s worth broaching the uncomfortable subject, he notices a brochure on ED. As he browses through it, he sees he is one of 30 million of men suffering from a common condition (http://fxn.ws/2bzra0u) and ends up feeling comfortable asking his doctor the recommended questions included in the brochure. In a moment’s time, he’s gone from depressed to encouraged, thanks to your brand providing the right message—one of care, concern, and empowerment.

Let them know they aren’t alone: Letting a patient know that they aren’t the only one with a given condition is key. Brands can push this feeling of inclusion in the form of well-liked celebrity endorsements or simply connecting patients with others like them who are dealing with the same condition.

Advice from support groups plays a huge role in a treatment plan, and being an advocate for a support program will help your brand equity. Testimonials have proven to be incredibly effective for engaging patients.

In each of these “flip the script” tactics, you’ll notice how brands can go beyond simply talking about the medication. By educating and engaging patients at the point of care, these brands are building relationships. In turn, these relationships, established in the exam room, become an influential difference that set brands apart from the competition. Essentially, you are reinforcing the message that while yes, you want the patients to choose your medication, more than anything else, you want them to be healthy.

Reintroducing Your Brand

Now that you have educated the patient by explaining the why and how of their disease, removed the stigma, and let them know they aren’t alone, you’re finally ready to start talking about your product again.

Here are a few suggestions for how to highlight your brand without alienating the patient or physician:

Talk about the benefits, not features: People don’t like being sick, and taking pills often is a negative reminder of the illness. As a marketer, you are charged with turning a negative (“I have to take this pill because I’m sick”) into a positive (“I’m going to take this medication because it restores my energy and makes me feel good”). By highlighting the benefits of how it makes them feel, as opposed to the features of how it treats a condition, you will again empower the patients to feel better about their diagnosis and treatment plan.

Explain how it works: This is as simple as “show versus tell.” Telling someone a product works is one thing, but showing him or her makes it easier to believe. For example, a video detailing how a dual-release capsule works is much more impactful than simply telling consumers it provides relief for 24 hours.

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Remove cost barriers: One of the leading causes of non-adherence and non-compliance is the perceived or real cost of prescription drugs. For marketers and healthcare providers alike, the idea of patients going without a treatment they need isn’t just frustrating—it’s frightening. While the industry works to lower costs and improve patient compliance, brands that promote their rebate programs earn incremental trial and patient loyalty.

Engage the physician via the patient: Building relationships with physicians is obviously a key part of Rx brand strategies. But extending the impact of that trusted physician relationship to the patient is integral as well. Patients are tuned in, and trust their doctors the most in the exam room. In fact, PatientPoint research shows that 65% of patients believe their doctor only allows a brand to advertise in their office if they feel it is the most effective product available. By choosing a point-of-care partner that specializes in providing patient education, you’ll further connect with physicians by benefitting the patients they serve.

What Patients and Physicians Want

After reading through the tips above, one theme should be perfectly clear—brands build equity by delivering what patients and physicians want. By shifting the focus of your marketing efforts away from talking to mass audiences about your product to educating patients and physicians in the personal point-of-care setting, you’ll position your brand as a leader in your category.

  • Linda Ruschau

    Linda Ruschau is Chief Client Officer at PatientPoint. As Chief Client Officer, Linda leads a national sales team in helping brands impact patient-physician dialogue, drive patient engagement, and create sustainable success for forward-thinking pharma, OTC, and CPG clients.

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