Over the past few years, I have heard the phrase “patient journey” uttered precisely 4,372 times. OK, so I made that up—but you get my point. Like me, I am sure you get several emphatic emails a day encouraging you to attend the latest conference on the patient journey or hear the latest insights on it from the guru of the month.
My beef with all of this focus on the patient journey is that by itself, it doesn’t really illuminate much. I can make a case that for pharma marketers, these journeys are pretty similar across therapeutic categories in that they all cluster around four major milestones: Diagnosis, treatment, ongoing therapy and outcome.
I can also make the case that a focus on the “patient journey” tacitly encourages a decoupling from the most critical component of all: The physician journey and his/her inseparable impact on the patient. Regardless of all the noise around “patient power” in pharma, nothing really happens without the physician fully on board.
What we find more useful is to define the therapeutic journey in terms of what single behaviors we marketers are trying to drive at each major therapeutic milestone. For our clients’ brands, we develop a “Behavior Journey Plan,” where we specifically, collaboratively identify the single behavior we want patients and/or physicians to enact at each critical stage. Then we focus on creating customer interactions that drive toward each of those single behaviors.
Create a Patient Behavior Journey Plan
A recent effort we developed for a CV product can serve as a case study. Brand and agency teams agreed that the single action we wanted patients to take at the beginning of the ongoing treatment milestone was to fill their prescriptions. We resisted the temptation to expand that action to include “learn about their disease.” Or how to change their lifestyles going forward. Or the importance of enrolling in a support program. All communications were instead single-mindedly directed toward ensuring that the first thing patients did after walking out the door was to fill their prescriptions. As we had hoped, this corresponded with an uptick in first fills.
In another case for a CNS product, we developed a Behavior Journey Plan for target physicians. In the diagnosis stage of their journey, the behavior we sought to drive was for them to provide patients with appropriate disease education materials. It was not to immediately write a prescription for our brand—that would come later in the journey, though both behaviors proved to be inextricably linked. That is another benefit of a Behavior Journey Plan: It forces us to better understand and optimize behavioral sequences and to avoid trying to force an action before it’s time. Tracking data indicated a more favorable perception of the brand.
Using the Behavior Journey Plan to define single, target behavior objectives for each critical milestone changes the customer journey from a “nice to know” to an essential, manageable and accountable tool in your marketing plan. It’s a lot more fun, too.