In our March column, we talked about hindsight being 20/20 and indicated that the way forward is to allow the patient perspective to be the driving force behind initiatives concerning them. But from here, where and how do we develop a relationship with the patient and how do we provide a custom healthcare experience?
Let’s start out with something many of us can find application in: “Know your audience.” Whether you are trying to convince your spouse that the 60-inch flat screen makes the most sense because “it will be so great watching movies together on a Saturday night,” or you are preparing for a job interview by researching your interviewer’s profile on LinkedIn, this is all a part of knowing your audience in a personal and professional context.
For me, I was once a sales rep for a major pharmaceutical company who carried a bag and held down a territory that had me trekking more than 100,000 miles in three years. I don’t mean to seem too pleased with myself, but I knew almost everything about my customers—from where their kids went to college, to their favorite teams and even the color they were painting their kitchen the following weekend.
Why tell you this? Because I understand firsthand the power of knowing your audience. And that this is just the first step in ascertaining an intended result. Whether you are communicating, delivering and exceeding patient or consumer expectations, or are navigating through personal and professional relationships, knowing the needs or challenges of your audience is a key first step.
Take Active Engagement to the Next Level
Pharma marketing often starts the same way: A person with some condition is feeling the warm sun on her face or is walking through a field of golden rods. What you most likely won’t see, however, is a patient managing his or her disease. And although treatments are designed with the patients in mind, they aren’t marketed to patients as consumers.
We all are (because we are all patients) savvy consumers inundated with information, messaging and education all day long about everything we should do, buy or follow. As a result, most brands need to make a shift to identifying the interaction and influencers at each touch point.
In the March issue, we illustrated five key touch points in the patient experience and showed where and how patients are actively engaged. But developing a comprehensive strategy for today’s savvy patients requires introspection beyond just where and how they engage, but why and what they expect or need from this experience.
Strip away the traditional home, front desk, exam room and waiting rooms of expected patient experiences and examine how patients feel about themselves and their condition before, during and after the their office visit. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do patients research any information before attending their medical appointments? As many as 72% of patients use online searches before seeing a physician.
- How much do patients know and what was shared with them in the waiting room or the exam room? Approximately 8 to 10 patients use online searches in an attempt to diagnose or find additional information about their symptoms.
- Does the disease overwhelm them? How much are they able or willing to learn? What format of delivery will help them learn best? How much will caregivers want and need to know?
By not only identifying, analyzing and correcting missteps in patient education, but also understanding the needs of patients, marketers can provide a better experience for the patient, physician and caregiver through maximizing each touch point and the delivered message.
Are You Talking to Me?
The pièce de résistance of this approach is delivering a custom message that is seen and experienced as a valuable resource and support tool. So let’s go back to our example showing a patient in an idyllic setting versus one in which the patient is managing his or her disease in day-to-day-life.
We talk about the direct-to-consumer need and how patients are savvy consumers, but what does this really mean for what you need to do to connect with a patient? Insert not just the consumer experience but the human experience.
We are each challenged, frustrated, confused, concerned and scared when it comes to our health and the health of a loved one. Don’t be afraid to share in those feelings, good or bad. Recognize them and then provide a solution or a message that provides patients with the answers they need specifically for their life.
With technology and innovation, we have a metaphorical Milky Way of information related to patients, their behaviors and their individual lives. We can analyze their web navigation behavior, observe their search results and determine how long they engage with a piece of information or a visual cue.
In our experience, we leverage this information by taking a deeper dive into the human needs and develop solutions that are Clear, Actionable, Relevant, and Engaging (CARE). We apply this standard in creating all of our custom solutions. For example, the images in our graphics depict real patient populations, and the textual content and messaging are at a fifth-grade reading level. All of these elements are clearly labeled and oriented to the body and provide patients with meaningful lifestyle information and resources for the management of their disease.
Let’s agree that we, as marketers, will be able to promote our brands much more effectively by addressing patients’ challenges and needs and delivering solutions and education that help them in their everyday lives.
Before you develop your next marketing campaign, assess the key elements that will drive a successful patient experience. Determine the needs of your audience. Identify where, when and how they want to use medical resources and information and respond with the messaging that will engage and help them on their journey (Figure 1).
This approach will require introspection, change and hard work. The desired results will not happen overnight, but by understanding each patient’s burden of treatment, needs and emotions at a basic human level, you will increase that person’s adherence and loyalty—and create a long-term impact on your brand.