Point of Care communications provide a channel for reaching both patients and healthcare professionals where they spend most of their time gathering information and before they make a lot of their decisions. This is quickly making PoC one of the most effective marketing channels for healthcare companies.
PM360 asked healthcare marketers:
- When developing a PoC marketing program, how can you ensure patients/physicians do not view it as a disruption or violative promotion? How do you deliver value to each person you are trying to reach?
- How can PoC communications be used to build stronger relationships between pharma, providers and patients?
- What are the most effective PoC marketing strategies?
- How do you see PoC communications evolving in the future? What new factors should marketers already have their eye on?
Point of Care (PoC) communications provide pharma an inclusive opportunity to be part of the conversation by providing medical expertise to assist providers in helping their patients live longer, healthier lives. PoC is a growing channel that aids providers in educating patients on health conditions, therapies and management strategies through digital, print and electronic platforms. Providers today, operating in a time-constrained and demanding environment—spending on average 10 minutes per patient—need health resources and tools delivered when, where and how they choose to receive it. When pharma can deliver effective communications, providers are delighted and view pharma as a valued resource. Data suggests that patients take action more frequently from PoC communications versus other traditional methods such as TV and print ads. They become active participants in their care, which translates to better health outcomes.
Importance of Trust
Trust is a primary factor in developing relationships, and providers are looking to pharma to help them help their patients. They want pharma to understand their needs and treatment goals and provide health education that is accessible and relevant to the patients they treat. This platform offers an opportunity to begin to change negative perceptions and trust issues around pharma information by providing quality solutions. Pharma must demonstrate consistency and a willingness to be customer focused, not brand focused.
Additionally, the PoC channel allows for robust patient engagement as patients trust their provider and often perceive communications in the PoC setting as being provider endorsed. When patients trust and understand health information, it drives greater satisfaction. Partnering to create positive experiences for the patient and provider helps build credibility and trust, resulting in more meaningful collaborations between pharma and the healthcare community.
PoC has an ideal mix of ingredients: Access to a trusted provider, actual delivery of healthcare services, a relevant audience and a setting that is conducive to education. For example, pharmacy PoC programs can create value for patients, physicians and pharmacies by reaching consumers when they are actively searching for solutions in a healthcare environment.
Good PoC efforts will arm and educate patients with the info they need to communicate effectively with their providers. We have found that PoC communications are most useful when they help achieve awareness at the right “mindset moment.” Brands who are communicating effectively through PoC focus on reaching people with messages that say “this is relevant to me.”
The Future of Point of Care
Driven by changes in healthcare delivery, PoC marketing will likely look different in the future. The Association of American Medical Colleges is forecasting a shortage of 45,000 primary care doctors in the U.S. by 2020. Add to that the demand created by new entrants to the health system under the ACA, and you have a significant gap that pharmacies are uniquely positioned to fill.
Pharmacists’ roles continue to expand with increased face-to-face interactions, vaccination delivery and other clinical services. In-store clinics are becoming a significant force and are expected to double by 2015. These efforts reinforce the pharmacy’s value as a patient resource and a creditable point of care. A variety of tools are available to reach patients through the pharmacy channel including communications delivered at the shelf, at prescription pick-up, within specialty in-store publications and in adherence programs. Based on the key attributes of access, care, audience and education, the pharmacy is one of the most effective locations to reach patients throughout the treatment continuum.
Under the value-based healthcare system, physicians have a greater interest in helping patients increase medication adherence to improve outcomes. Pharma, too, reaps rewards from improved compliance. Older one-size-fits-all models like DTC advertising and CRM programs meant to influence patient behavior need serious improvement. Communicating with physicians and patients at the point of care via EHR/e-prescribing platforms creates a unique opportunity that has not been fully leveraged.
The physician can provide personalized content on a prescribed medication and remind the patient of the importance of the prescribed therapy and how it fits into his or her overall treatment regimen. This helps set the tone on therapy, but the content must be right—and it must be personalized.
It is important to deeply understand patient behavior so the language and information can be tailored to motivate patients to follow their physician’s instructions. Applying analytics to insights drawn from EHR data can help determine the optimal communication for each individual. Patients are more likely to start therapy if they leave the prescriber’s office with details on what they were prescribed and why, and where they can both pick up their medication and find more information.
Continuing the dialogue beyond the office is essential to ensuring patients stay on therapy. Understanding which communication channel patients prefer also increases the chance you’ll connect with the patient in the right place, at the right time and with the right message, whether the channel is text messages, integration within the physician’s patient portal, email, letters to home or new emerging channels. A more sophisticated approach that builds upon deep data, patient insights and communications expertise helps patients make better health decisions, which are essential to better outcomes.
Point of care is the single most effective place to build stronger relationships among pharma, providers and patients. The patient-physician relationship is built on inherent trust. Pharma can leverage this trust and reach patients more effectively by offering patient education through the physician. This information—distributed at point of care, when decisions for treatment options will be made—has the implied and/or direct endorsement of the healthcare provider.
The key to building the relationship is through targeted education—i.e., raising awareness about certain conditions, helping patients better understand their conditions and informing patients about treatment options that they may not have known existed. Patients often need tools to help them overcome the behavioral and emotional challenges that can deter treatment plans or compliance. However, it is important to note that the education materials also need to garner the approval of healthcare providers, so that they are encouraged to share them with their patients.
Patients are more condition-conscious at the point of care—that’s why engaging them then is the most effective method to get any pharma message seen, particularly if it’s included in an unbiased, actionable patient-education medium. There are numerous ways to do this, including print materials, mobile and digital technology, and TV programming in waiting rooms.
Fundamentally, building a stronger point of care relationship among pharma, providers and patients improves the quality of care. And, in the end, a better patient outcome is the primary goal of pharma, physicians and patients. The added benefit for pharma is that more engaged and aware patients who are motivated to take action will lead to a significant lift in new prescriptions (NRx) and total prescriptions (TRx).
As a social/behavioral scientist I am interested in the knowledge translation of medical evidence from clinical trials to evidence-based communication tools for patients and HCPs. I have been the principal investigator on various health outcomes studies within the pharmaceutical industry focused on improving the effectiveness of communication to HCPs/patients, understanding the experience of treatment on a patient’s quality of life/survival, and qualitative understanding of benefit-risk from the patient’s perspective.
Based on my research, I think there are two key opportunities for pharma to improve communications at the point of care: Shared treatment decision making (STDM) and risk/safety communications. PoC communication tools allow for a unique opportunity to elicit patient preferences for their treatment decisions—so often the healthcare provider model has relied on a paternalistic approach to care for patients with little to no involvement from the actual patients. I think the patient empowerment movement is responsible for this shift, and it will be an enormous opportunity for pharma, payers and providers to improve patient care and encourage patient involvement.
Secondly, there is an opportunity to improve risk communication using PoC tools, especially if we think about digital labels and medication guides that can be reviewed with patients at the point of care—instead of relying on paper-based medication guides and labels that are neither read nor understood by the majority of patients.
As a cautionary note, PoC tools will not solve all patient-healthcare provider problems. However, if we use a scientifically based approach to thinking about communicating more effectively with both patients and providers, then PoC tools can provide a set of solutions that will improve the effectiveness of communication so that patients can make more informed treatment decisions.
As pressure to prove the value of each dollar spent steadily increases, PoC communications offer both a measurable and strong Return on Investment (ROI). The most effective PoC strategies are those that fit into a physician’s daily workflow when it matters the most—at the point of prescription decision.
Continuously engaging with physicians when they are making critical clinical decisions leads to improved brand awareness and in turn, more prescriptions for appropriate patients. This approach enables brands to prove how they can contribute to better clinical outcomes by providing scientific and educational information about the use of their products in the exam room, when the prescribing decision is being made. Demonstrating this value is essential with healthcare shifting toward a more outcomes-based, patient-centric model.
The opportunity to reach physicians when they are making diagnosis and treatment decisions is growing as a result of healthcare reform and emerging technologies. Physicians are using online and mobile tools to access clinical content and interact with peers, patients and pharmacists—often at the point of care. In the near future, EHR/EMR’s will be embraced as a key channel to engage with physicians at the relevant time and place. Providing clinical-decision support information alongside e-prescribing tools has the potential to enhance the physician-pharma relationship.
Marketers should have their eye on these trends and be prepared to evolve their PoC strategies towards a multi-channel approach incorporating a mix of traditional print and digital vehicles to create synergies in their marketing plan.
The highly targeted nature of digital solutions will allow brands to cost-effectively reach desired audiences. Precise targeting also ensures that you are delivering value to each physician by offering content relevant to their specific clinical needs at the point of prescription decision.
During a patient visit, it is disruptive to push information on the HCP and interrupt the focus on care. By giving HCPs tools and resources they can access through their daily workflow and on their timetable, we avoid disrupting care and allow the value of the resources to be recognized. In targeting specific trigger points, we are sure to message where it is most effective—not where it could possibly disrupt the physician-patient discussion. When HCPs are free to seek the practice tools they need, not only is patient visit time preserved, but brands can also unobtrusively trigger HCPs to interact with the rich content, resources and actions that can truly influence future behavior.
Building Stronger Relationships
Relationships depend on trust. You strengthen the pharma-physician relationship when you extend valuable information, tools and other resources to physicians and their patients. More importantly, you bolster the credibility and use of these resources when you deliver them through a source HCPs already trust to manage their practice.
In addition, when you deliver relevant information such as clinical content, not advertisements, you keep the focus on efficient care. Finally, HCPs want to be seen as trusted sources, as authorities, so you give their patients quality information and support materials—quickly and securely, typically through a patient portal.
Strengthening pharma, provider and patient relationships improves these stakeholders’ interactions and communication with one another, enhances HCP engagements with various programs and leads to long-term behavior change. When you use a platform a physician inherently trusts, and then introduce new tools to help with other aspects of patient wellness, you reinforce the provider’s relationship with and trust in pharma.
Would you take the risk of breaking your entire point of care system to ultimately deliver better patient outcomes? Given that 69% of Americans say they would like direct access to their health records: Do you think your current system is set up to deliver this?
This patient need combined with the acceleration of adoption of new technology will take all of us into unprecedented arenas—patients and doctors will play a stronger, more confident role in health and wellness decisions.
Currently, wearable technologies are predicted to grow 350% in 2014 (yes, really, triple digit growth) with more than 17 million people consensually wearing tracking devices. The coming generation—Wearables 3.0—moves internal, to subcutaneous sensors, with spatial and temporal relevance. Think “deleterious selves”—where people will become a unique kind of digital organism as they try to achieve higher productivity through these subcutaneous devices despite their potentially risky and harmful effects—as the evolutionary mates of “quantified selves.” Imagine this:
- High blood pressure, glaucoma and high cholesterol patients get a mild vibration from their ear chip when it’s time to take their prescribed medications. This vibration becomes more insistent and longer in duration until the medication is taken.
- A cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy has vital signs continuously transmitted to his doctor’s mobile device from his ankle insert, with his doctor responding to any changes in his condition in real time.
This is the milieu of digital science—the new frontier of point of care that is literally there at the moment of need. The inevitability of patient power is as inherent as the new technology. Our role as healthcare providers will evolve to a new collaborative connectivity that extends beyond the limits of our skin.
HCPs need solutions that help facilitate a real, educational conversation and address low health literacy. Drug marketers can achieve that by sponsoring tools that are organic—allowing the HCP to flow naturally from disease education to branded prescription content in a non-promotional way. Physicians have told us this provides substantial value-add to the physician-patient interaction and subsequent patient understanding and adherence.
A typical patient accurately recalls about 10% of what they are told by their HCP. That’s no surprise when you consider an office visit lasts less than 15 minutes and more than 89 million people in the U.S. have low to no health literacy (source: AMA). The results over time: A significant number of prescriptions are lost to non-starts and non-adherence. Studies have proven however that patients are more successful when an HCP engages them in a meaningful consult. Actually recording the conversation along with the personalized educational content the physician shares with the patient allows them to review it again and again at home or with their spouse or caregiver—a virtual house call! This approach builds trust and strengthens the bond between patient and HCP while ensuring better patient outcomes.
We have conducted a great deal of research to understand how patients and HCPs interact. Aligning patient communication tools to the learning needs of a vast spectrum of patients is critical. Visual learning tools are proven, powerful reinforcements to comprehension and allow for HCPs to provide the narrative. Infographics improve retention and understanding by a cross section of patients.
Providing the tools necessary to deliver an educational encounter without disrupting HCPs’ workflow is a significant challenge. The advancements in mobile technology and the ubiquitous availability of tablets for referencing, EMR and education have created a perfect storm of opportunity to address the needs of both HCPs and patients.
The Point of Care is an evolving landscape for healthcare marketing that offers a communication opportunity at a unique time. Pharma companies are now able to reach patients minutes before they discuss key therapeutic decisions with their doctor. This engineers a major opportunity for brands to create results-driven marketing programs.
Own Your Brand’s Offices
The most effective PoC strategy is the initiative to “own your brand’s offices”—those that are most targeted for the success of your brand in not only raising awareness, but also driving sales. How do you “own” your brand’s offices? By designing innovative and measurable campaigns that use multiple touch points around the patient-physician visit, thereby maximizing your brand potential.
Marketers can also go a step further and drive sales at the point of care. One way to achieve this is by using integrated programs that combine digital TV, tablet, print and mobile technologies allowing for multiple patient and physician touch points at the point of care.
For instance, marketers can create 360-degree brand support for their campaigns by using various tactics in order to develop a holistic marketing solution. Employing numerous channels to target patients, the best programs will include brand messaging that’s engaging, educational and placed in contextually relevant settings. Our best advice: Don’t choose just one avenue to display your message; make your message compatible with multiple mediums, ensuring that every demographic, gender and age group has the potential to be affected by your marketing. The ability to reach and educate patients when and where they take action on their condition is now an actionable opportunity for pharmaceutical companies.
PoC communications are evolving not only in the way patients receive communications, but also in the content and type of communications they receive. Mobile will continue to play a key role in physicians’ waiting rooms as management systems and publishers innovate the patient experience through tablets, smartphones and email.
For an increasing number of patients, that experience will become interactive for all administrative functions, such as updating their personal, billing and insurance information. Based on the medical information provided and recent office visits outcomes, patients will be served content, assessments, tools and marketing messages personally tailored to them. These patient-specific, customized experiences provide for better and more precise care, as well as a less cluttered, highly targeted marketing environment.
But PoC is moving beyond waiting and exam rooms. In the future, all HCPs will communicate aftercare with patients through apps, text and email—using curated content and tools specific to the patient’s condition. We now see publishers integrating with management systems and EMRs to provide relevant content and marketing messages from the HCP outside of their office. And PoC communications at the pharmacy are rapidly evolving, too. Through geo-location tools using smartphone GPS-technology, medication adherence communications and refill reminders are now deployed when patients are near the pharmacy—increasing action, adherence and refills.
Marketers should keep their eye on the evolution of mobile, curated content based on data targeting and Office Software Management integrations with EMRs. We believe they will quickly come together to create the next phase of messaging based on an individual patient’s specific needs and care—benefiting both the patient and the marketer.