Today, most brand marketers recognize the importance of having a solid patient engagement plan. Building that plan, though, is incredibly challenging. You must consider and assess a lot, from balancing financial resources and ensuring patient privacy, to addressing legal, regulatory, and compliance hurdles. That’s why it’s critical to take a methodical approach to analyzing the patient landscape: It allows you to make strategic decisions about the resources you need and to compare that to the resources you already have.

So yes, as a brand manager, you have a lot of challenges to juggle! But you also have a real opportunity to form meaningful relationships with the patients you serve. You can’t take those relationships for granted. The first step in building patient relationships is to answer one question: Are you patient ready?

What does it mean to be “patient ready,” and why is it so important? A patient ready brand is one that engages with patients in a meaningful way, with communications that are real and authentic to their experience. Patient ready brands put in the hard work to understand their patient community’s needs and identify how—and if—those needs are being addressed elsewhere. They also assess their own internal processes and resources to identify and fill any gaps. As a result, they create the kind of communications that drive value and resonate in a way that makes a difference.

Easy to say, tricky to execute—especially when you’re dealing with an educated, savvy patient population. So, if you want your brand to be patient ready (and really, why wouldn’t you want your brand to be patient ready?), start by asking yourself three questions.

Question 1: Do you understand the patient needs?

The foundation of any patient ready assessment is a thorough understanding of the patient community’s unique needs and experiences. These aren’t surface-level insights based on general disease-state knowledge or anecdotal evidence. Instead, we’re looking at a level of understanding so deep that it can only be achieved by researching the patient landscape and capturing first-hand voices of the patients themselves.

You have to find out what concerns your patients; what they expect and what they’re hoping for; and where gaps and issues exist that no one else is addressing. These insights are key to understanding how your company can become an authentic and trusted partner.

Question 2: Do you know how your competitors are currently engaging with patients?

Once you understand the patient landscape and what patients want, the next step is figuring out how your brand fits into the overall competitive landscape. Observing how your competitors engage with patients offers a strong indication of what does and doesn’t work, and how the industry’s offerings measure up to patients’ expectations. On top of that, researching how patients talk about your competitors’ products and services highlights what it takes to keep up and stand out.

Of course, “keeping up” and “standing out” isn’t about parroting the good things other brands are doing. Rather, it requires illuminating the role your brand can play in supporting the patient across every stage of their disease journey. That in turn informs how you position your own initiatives and what you need to do to fill the gaps where your competitors aren’t engaging with patients.

Question 3: Do you have the infrastructure and specialized experience needed?

Patient engagement is highly regulated and requires deep expertise and detailed processes to ensure compliance with legal and regulatory guidelines. Navigating this landscape, both internally and externally can involve numerous stakeholders, but with the right help it can be done successfully. While not the most glamorous or exciting part of a brand manager’s responsibilities, process, training, policies, and procedures can make or break your ability to execute. For this reason, it’s critical to have partners with specialized expertise to help mitigate risk and provide turnkey solutions.

How to Get There: Applying the Patient Ready Model

Those are all very big questions, none of which have quick and easy answers. That’s why an industry-standard, replicable model to understand and evaluate a brand’s needs is so useful.

The Patient Ready Model is a data-driven approach that explores three dimensions of how companies approach patients:

  • Insights: Understanding patient needs
  • Benchmarks: Benchmarking against competition
  • Resources: Assessing specialized resources and requirements

Each of these dimensions have value on their own, but taken together they paint a full portrait of how your brand can better engage with patients. Pulling this together is really only possible with an external lens. The survey at AreYouPatientReady.com can be a first step to building such an overview. Once the picture is complete, nothing is stopping you from building positive, durable patient relationships. And as any savvy marketer knows, good long-term relationships are the foundation on which real brand success is built.

  • David Reissner

    David Reissner is Senior Director, Research & Insights at Snow Companies. David has worked with a roster of biotech clients across the globe, including Genentech, Celgene, and Shire Pharmaceuticals. He currently serves as the lead for Snow’s research and insights department. David holds a master’s degree in Market Research & Consumer Behavior from IE University in Madrid, Spain.

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