Improve, Educate, Empower

The adage “Hindsight is 20/20,” applies to all aspects of life. Looking back on past experiences is a necessary stage in our personal and professional development. Everything can be improved in some way. For example, the report you turned in to your supervisor could have had a few more details added to pull it all together. Or, maybe a busy HCP could look back on a hectic day to find more time to spend with patients.

Having enough time is a gift we all wish we had. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Lost time is never found again.” Our ability to find more time, however, does not come down to adding more hours in a day but, rather, to learning from the past and using our available time better than before.

Put Yourself in a Patient’s Shoes

Achieving this goal begins with reflecting on the past and anticipating the future. Let’s play a mini scenario to illustrate this even further. For a few moments, imagine yourself living the life of someone else. You are a 65-year-old patient who for the past year has been living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). You live in a rural area and still visit your general practice HCP, Dr. Smith.

You are having difficulty breathing when walking around your home, so you call up Dr. Smith’s office to schedule the earliest appointment. When you enter the office for your 3:30 appointment and walk up to the front desk, Lucy, the front-desk receptionist, takes your name, asks if you still have the same insurance, and then motions for you to have a seat. The office waiting room is sparse, with a few brochures about allergies and the flu vaccine. You pass the time by looking at the allergy brochure that has a picture of someone close to your son’s age running in a field with a dog. You stop and wonder, “How does that have anything to do with the runny nose I get every spring?”

So now you are sitting there in the exam room and you notice a model of the pancreas and lungs, but in all your years as a patient of Dr. Smith, you have never felt the need to ask how they work together and he has never dusted off the model to explain how this might help you understand your COPD better.

Shortly, Dr. Smith comes in and sits down. He takes a look at your chart and again asks you why you are there. You tell him, “I am having increased shortness of breath.” Dr. Smith tells you that you should switch your inhaler, but he thinks “it could just be the time of year.” You trust Dr. Smith and believe the right decisions have always been made about your healthcare, so why ask questions? What would you ask anyway?

So, what could be changed to make your experience more robust? How can we empower Dr. Smith and provide the solutions to help him educate you more efficiently in his busy day? What can we improve, and where and when do we improve it?

By identifying, analyzing and correcting missteps in patient education, pharma marketers can provide a better experience for the patient, physician and caregiver by maximizing each touch point for optimum active engagement (Figure 1).


Achieving Active Engagement

Patients and professionals are more proactively and physically seeking information on their mobile devices and computers and are consumed in active conversations with others. It is hard to appeal to patients and get them to ask the right questions and adhere to a treatment plan. It’s even harder to get professionals to fit anything extra into their time-crunched days. What we have found is that a custom experience for the HCP, patient and caregiver promotes awareness, increases usage by healthcare professionals and prompts action from the patient. What is even more amazing is that patients are asking for that custom experience! About 75% of consumers expect drug companies to provide information and services that help them manage their own health, and 64% are willing to provide personal information to get free, relevant content.

Engagement is not just a dialogue, but a comprehensive approach to interaction. For instance, consider an innovative comprehensive plan that could provide access to HCPs and patients through a custom consumer experience at each stakeholder touch point—making active engagement possible. It would be quick and flexible for HCPs and help them in their practice, while engaging patients beyond the traditional healthcare visit. It could also promote adherence and active involvement in the patients’ healthcare decisions, and offer the ability to provide continuous data and feedback to the brand about what the HCP and the patient want and are seeking.

You know the numbers: About $188 billion in lost revenue is attributed to medication nonadherence. The average cost of developing a new drug ranges from $500 million to $1.2 billion depending on how costs are allocated. The time is now to stop the bleeding and recognize that the patient is a consumer and expects the same service and experience as in any other service industry. Bottom line: Patients are savvy consumers, and if they don’t believe it, if it doesn’t speak to them, they won’t act on it.

So back to “Hindsight is 20/20.” We need to listen, reflect and analyze for the future. This year will be a big year for pharma marketers, and their success will really depend on adapting and delivering engaging, flexible and innovative solutions that provide value to the HCP and the patient. The good news is that it is all entirely possible. Traditional marketing strategies will always have a place in the industry, but the real gem is in understanding patients as consumers and providing them with the custom educational experience they are looking for. Stay engaged for our next Expert On Call article in August, in which we dive into the real expectations of the patient as the consumer.

  • Marc Sirockman

    Marc Sirockman is an expert in the industry with more than 25 years of experience delivering a “patient-centric” approach to healthcare education. Marc is the EVP and GM of Artcraft Health, a cutting-edge marketing agency that delivers innovative, educational solutions for the clinical and consumer health markets.


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