1st Annual DTP Conference Reveals How To Put the Patient First

Industry experts and key stakeholders from across the country came together to share their insights with brand managers at the 1st Annual DTP Conference hosted by Health Monitor Network and PM360 on September 18th in New York City. This inaugural event included eight sessions featuring speakers and panelists from diverse backgrounds and specialties. In this intimate setting, attendees watched dynamic presentations and directly interacted with speakers and panelists to glean insights into the most successful, cost-effective ways to market their brands with a targeted direct-to-patient (DTP) strategy—one that puts the patient, not the product, at the center.

Winning Patients in Pharma 2.0           

The conference kicked off with a presentation by healthcare/pharmaceutical consultant, speaker and author Stan Bernard, MD, MBA. Dr. Bernard outlined the five habits of highly effective competitors and what it takes to prepare, plan and play to win in today’s marketplace—what he calls Pharma 2.0. “The ‘good old days’ of commercialization in the ’90s—20% or more growth rates, not a lot of competition—are gone,” explains Dr. Bernard, President of Bernard Associates, a leading global pharmaceutical industry competition consulting firm in Morristown, NJ.

“The product lifecycle has matured as the industry has grown older, and we’re now in the competition cycle, where there are fewer new products, more brands and generics, more regulations and more costly R&D,” he adds. “It’s a very different world and you can’t compete in the same way as before.”

To win at DTP marketing, Dr. Bernard stresses the following:

Leverage the Pharma 2.0 stakeholder ecosystem. This goes beyond the traditional patient-doctor-payer model (“old pharma”). Pharma needs to extend their reach to other stakeholders, including health systems, disease foundations, advocacy groups, patient opinion leaders, social media leaders and many others to stay competitive. He says, “Companies who grasp this web of influencers will ultimately be better at winning patients.”

Win the “pre-launch.” That means creating strategic campaigns that generate brand buzz and corporate recognition with all the various stakeholders, such as reaching health professionals with special presentations at major conferences.

Manage patient access with innovative approaches. Dr. Bernard gives the example of a company that conducted research to discover what type of messaging affects patients’ willingness to start on, and pay for, certain drugs.

Learn to “win beyond the molecule.” Find new competitive approaches beyond the clinical attributes of your products. Dr. Bernard advises differentiating your brand with initiatives such as advocacy partnerships and patient engagement programs.

Prepare to win! Dr. Bernard helps pharma clients test their game plan by conducting competitive simulations to find their weaknesses and strengths. “To go from competitor to winner, you have to influence a wide range of stakeholders at the point of care and beyond. You must be confident that your strategy reflects that.”

Implementing DTP Best Practices

Once you understand the new reality of Pharma 2.0, how do you leverage DTP marketing to your advantage? That question was answered by a panel of your peers with a collective 60 plus years of experience in marketing and brand management across a wide range of products and medical conditions. Their overall message: The patient—not the product or disease—takes center stage. “It’s about understanding the patient journey,” says Cliff Barone, Associate Director of Patient Marketing/Levemir at Novo Nordisk. “At Novo, we’re patient-centric and use evolving tactics to address their needs at every stage.”

Julie Holcombe, Director/Team Lead of U.S. Inflammation Marketing at Pfizer, agrees, adding that it’s important to consider the entire patient “universe”—meaning the patient plus everyone who surrounds him or her, including healthcare professionals and spouses. “One aspect we focus on is improving doctor-patient dialogue with initiatives to raise awareness and aid diagnosis.”

However, casting a wider net as the patient journeys from diagnosis to treatment to chronic disease management can be tricky, notes Adam Friedman, current Field VP and former Sr. Director of Cardiovascular Marketing at GlaxoSmithKline. “The biggest DTP challenge is reaching patients so they can sift through the materials and find the most relevant information for them—to crystalize insight for the right customer at the right time.”

Some tactics this panel recommends:

Customization and simplicity. “We use these to reach targeted segments,” notes Friedman. “For example, with sales reps, we ask: What can they deliver to the patient that’s helpful? It’s better to provide a one-page diet sheet to hand out than a big booklet. Patients digest info better in small amounts.”

Collaboration with med/reg. “Get inside the med/reg world and bring them into your world from the beginning,” advises Friedman. “Explain what’s going on—how there are many different brands all fighting for the same space.”

Building bridges. “We make a point to deliver non-pharma and brand-neutral information to patients,” explains Holcombe. “We’re also exploring how to leverage social media and bloggers. It’s a community that will soon own the patient population.”

Leveraging Healthcare Peer-to-Peer

Social media expert Craig DeLarge, a former Global Leader of Multichannel Marketing Strategy at Merck, confirms that healthcare P2P is thriving. And pharma will need to enter this world sooner or later. “We’ve gone from being patients who are focused on sickness, to patients who are empowered, and then influential. Patients form healthcare ‘tribes’ to compare notes and address questions that don’t get addressed—or asked—in the doctor’s office.”

The role that pharma can play? “Professionals should be in P2P chiefly to listen,” notes DeLarge. “They need to gain knowledge to create more empathetic, personal marketing strategies. It’s about supporting patients as well as telling them about your product.” Other opportunities include using social media to reach caregivers, demonstrate corporate social responsibility and enhance customer service. He says, “These are greatly missed opportunities.”

Reaching Key Stakeholders

Conference attendees also participated in Q&As with three speaker panels. In the first, HCPs explained their challenges and how pharma can help by providing concise patient education—something doctors struggle to find time for, says primary care and sports medicine physician Steven Collina, MD, of Philadelphia. Certified diabetes educator Maureen Williams, RN, CDE, of Bayonne Medical Center in New Jersey added that she must “sell” each individual on their treatment plan and why self-care is an important part of the equation. She likes giving patients simple printed materials, such as a carb counting “cheat sheet,” and reputable websites to visit if they want more information.

Another panel featured advocacy association leaders for the National Psoriasis Foundation, National Osteoporosis Foundation and social media-driven Stupid Cancer, a grassroots organization started by brain-cancer survivor Matthew Zachary. The overall message: Advocacy groups want to partner with pharma but are challenged by regulations and the need to guard against biased information. They also want to provide targeted information that’s appropriate to each patient’s stage in the journey—e.g., newly diagnosed, ongoing treatment, long-time survivor, etc. And, of course, all three groups are actively cultivating patient leaders to connect with others in the community and through social media.

Finally, patients weighed in on what pharma does right when marketing to customers: Providing drug info on the full spectrum of products available and making it easy to contact the company. “I get most of my information from print ads I see in the doctor’s office,” says patient advocate Ginamarie Russo of Long Island, NY. “And I have a great relationship with my doctors, so I trust any patient education I get there.”

The gap that pharma could fill: Support for coping with the emotional issues of their disease. “The Arthritis Foundation doesn’t have good support groups for people with rheumatoid arthritis, so I started my own group on meetup.com,” notes Karen Ager, a New Yorker who’s had RA for more than 30 years. “There’s a huge emotional need with this disease that isn’t being addressed.”

Maximizing The Data

The patient-centric theme was echoed in presentations that explored data-driven information for identifying the right patient at the right time. “Traditional measurements just look at patient events—the number of prescriptions written. We emphasize a ‘patient pathing’ approach that captures continuous data from all stakeholders,” says Jeff Kirsch of Symphony Health Solutions, an industry consulting firm. “Who is really influencing the prescribing?

In essence, the prescriber universe includes not just the physician, but also the patient, the provider—small or large group practices, the hospital, the pharmacy—and the payer,” Kirsch explains. “Although physicians can have similar total Rx, the business in play—who switches patient treatments, which payers deny certain scrips—is very different.”

EHR expert David Keith Butler, MD, a VP at Sutter Health, also stressed that what is not measured can’t be managed or improved. While it’s easy to capture dollars spent, he notes, patient outcomes and satisfaction should be factored into the value of care. He advises pharma to pay attention to corporate reputation among patients and providers and “market your wins.” And once again, he sums up the overall message at this inaugural DTP conference: “It’s not about the doctor anymore. Put the patient first.”

  • Lori Murray

    Lori Murray is Deputy Executive Editor at Health Monitor Network, where she specializes in creating patient and physician educational content for specialties such as primary care, endocrinology and rheumatology.


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