Point-of-Care marketers had to make a lot of adjustments as the pandemic completely upended the experience of patients seeing their doctor and getting their medications. The changes included the increase of telemedicine, waiting rooms limiting or completely eliminating resources patients could touch, and pharmacies adding delivery or drive-thru pick-up options. As we readjust post-pandemic, what will be the lasting impact on the point-of-care space? What will marketers need to do differently? How can they work to improve their strategies? PM360 asked our readers to address one of three questions:
- What is your best pitch for how you would make point of care marketing better? What kind of initiatives or campaigns have you not seen within this space that you think life sciences marketers should be doing?
- What will be the biggest changes in the point of care marketing space in 2023 and beyond?
- Where are the biggest growth opportunities within point of care marketing as we watch this space undergo an evolution following the impact of the pandemic?
In a service-based industry like healthcare, marketers need to let the method be part of the message, and the decentralized point-of-care model that exists today amplifies this strategy. More consumers than ever are foregoing primary care physicians and annual check-ups in favor of occasional urgent care visits—and telehealth has great potential to be a convenient, centralized access point.
We saw that during the COVID-19 shutdown; however, at that point in time it was a necessity, and now that healthcare has returned to pre-pandemic practices, it’s a convenience. And with any convenience, we need to understand what customers want and what their pain points are. One way to achieve this is putting the focus back on market research, such as customer satisfaction surveys and market surveys, to understand the evolving needs and barriers for consumers and healthcare providers. Once we learn what consumers want, we can improve the telehealth experience and develop effective marketing campaigns that highlight what’s most important to them.
As a 30+ year veteran and advocate for point of care (POC), I think about this question a lot. It may sound elementary but making POC better starts with prioritizing the channel for all healthcare brands. It is intuitive that a message a patient sees when they are with their doctor—the end all be all moment—will resonate and lead to strong results, so let’s place POC where it belongs at the top of the channel-planning pyramid.
Equally important, let’s challenge the view of POC as “just a media channel”—it’s so much more than that. While POC is proven to drive brand volume, we collectively can make the most impact when we put the needs of patients first. This means featuring relatable patients in creative, showing credible and engaging testimonials, and promoting patient savings and support programs. As an industry, we have an opportunity and an obligation to not just generate new patient starts, but more importantly to help people live healthier lives. When brands create messaging that removes stigmas and empowers patients to ask their doctor about a symptom that leads to a diagnosis, we have succeeded.
Only four of 10 ads are recalled by the patient in the doctor’s office, according to a recent study by Kantar Media. Meanwhile, 90% of patients believe their primary care physician will give them solid information to help them and their disorder. So, the key for improving point-of-care marketing is for companies to develop programs that allow the physician, nurse practitioner (NP), or physician assistant (PA) to have an interaction with the patient that includes a Q&A as well as an understanding of the individual’s assessment. Just leaving an ad on the wall or counter in the hope the patient will subliminally absorb the information is not going to work. Gimmicks like exam table paper do not work either.
Instead, providing something in the exam room that the doctor, NP, or PA can share with the patient such as a visual aid or iPad presentation is useful. When the patient can watch the visual, relate to it, and then also hear the details from their “trusted” provider, that is a strong message. It may be basic POC, but that is what sets the foundation for the targeted messaging to work. It’s almost as if the HCP needs to detail the patient.
After the pandemic pushed reluctant patients and physicians into incorporating more mobile device use into clinical and pharmacy settings, it’s no surprise that POC marketing has zeroed in on digital behavior. In-office WiFi, targeted mobile advertising, and print/digital displays with QR codes have become our default tactics. As pharma marketers, we’ve traditionally been asked to lead conversations with a single-focused messaging framework. Moving forward, brand messaging must adapt to user behavior; digital can do that.
It starts with compelling content that gives a person a reason to tap (or click) to engage in their health management. Then, if a brand wants to be relevant to an ongoing conversation, it must orchestrate its med-legal submissions around messaging frameworks that can be nimble, testable, and optimizable in real-time in response to user needs. As more and more brands try to compete for these digital spaces in 2023 and beyond, they will always face the challenge of staying relevant in the moment and establishing the value of a continued conversation. The brands that can adapt the fastest and be the most valuable to the user will stand out in the growing competitive space.
From my experience, the biggest change affecting POC is balancing the acceleration to digital with the continuing need for in-person care. Now that the first major waves of the pandemic are behind us, both providers and patients are returning to the office. Many patients are more engaged in their health than just a few years ago, and are having frank conversations in the exam room with their providers about the cost of care, including prescription medications. Simultaneously, telehealth grew rapidly over the past few years, so those navigating POC marketing must figure out an appropriate hybrid approach using in-person and digital touchpoints to maximize reach and engagement with both HCPs and patients.
I haven’t seen a lot of POC tools that meet providers where they are and help simplify their workflow, enabling them to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time focusing on patient care. We see on our platform that HCPs are using GoodRx primarily during business hours as a POC tool, so the greatest opportunity may be for similar transparency and access tools. Providers need help treating the whole patient, as they consider an individual’s out-of-pocket medication costs and other social determinants of health.
With the rollout of large-scale vaccination programs came the realization that community pharmacists and allied HCPs in urgent care centers are our proverbial “boots on the ground” HCPs who serve patient populations that may not have adequate access to healthcare due to geographic remoteness or financial considerations. The commercial pharmacy became the distribution center for life-saving vaccines and ad hoc COVID-19 testing. While ease of access to both vaccines and testing via local public health channels dramatically varied by city or town, privately owned pharmacies and urgent care clinics developed local and national websites to streamline the appointment process and maximize reach. Crowds flocked to these newly minted healthcare hubs by the millions—gaining a newfound appreciation and trust in pharmacists and NPs/PAs who they rarely interacted with prior to the pandemic.
As we move into 2023, the need for targeted patient messaging around wellness, prevention, and screening will grow more dire. A significant portion of the U.S. population has been on the sidelines of healthcare—especially primary care—either directly due to the pandemic or chronically because of socioeconomic factors. Capturing the attention of these “lost to follow-up” patients in pharmacy and urgent care settings can help extend the reach of POC marketing.
One of the biggest growth opportunities we’re seeing today is a manufacturer’s ability to connect their point-of-care Electronic Health Systems (EHRs) strategy with other channels while remaining clinically focused. For example, one opportunity for manufacturers is that they are now able to tailor social media outreach for HCPs because of the significant strides made in targeting this medium.
Another growth opportunity for POC marketing is the ability to enhance communications between providers and pharma field reps in real-time from the EHR. This capability allows HCPs to message pharma reps, delivered via text, with questions as the HCP treats the patient.
Finally, real-world data capability has made a major impact on POC marketing. We are seeing significant script impact with manufacturers who have employed communications that leverage AI and real-world evidence to reach prescribers in real time with cost savings information to help patients remain on their therapy. Providing an appropriately timed message to the provider, while leveraging more holistic patient information, gives providers more knowledge of the barriers that prevent patients from remaining adherent to their treatment regimen.
Despite the return to in-person visits, telehealth has become a mainstay and preferred by some patients, especially those with chronic conditions. Born from this is both the need and opportunity for HCPs to collect important patient data that goes beyond routine bloodwork and in-office vitals. Real-world data, generated from wearable technology, offers untapped potential for HCPs and marketers.
Real-world data integrated into EHRs offers POC marketers’ richer data to trigger and share relevant messaging and content to help drive solutions for HCPs. Wearable technology has evolved to the point where we can measure blood oxygen levels on our smartwatch, read glucose levels from a phone app, and much more. The integration of this precise data (rather than a patient’s recollection) into the EHR will lead to better clinical decision-making and preventative measures.
For pharma, this presents an opportunity for brands to support HCPs’ POC treatment decisions (e.g., appropriate treatment for an arrythmia detected on a smartwatch) with greater accuracy than ever before. Delivering messages that provide data, guidelines, and financial support at the right time will help validate treatment choices, save time for overworked physicians, and ultimately lead to better patient care.
The definition of the point of care is inherently changing. Patients are not only able to access care in more ways than ever—whether that’s in person at the doctor’s office, via telehealth, or even getting care from pharmacies—but the types of traditional points of care are also being totally redefined. We’re seeing opportunities for these changes as more and more Big Tech, retail companies, and pharmacies enter the realm of inpatient care, such as some of the intentional moves that Amazon has recently made in the healthcare space.
In short, we need to embrace a fresh approach to the “old school point of care,” which is a patient sitting in the waiting room before their appointment at the traditional doctor’s office. To really capture a patient’s attention when it’s most relevant, we, as marketers, should be helping to identify and redefine the most important interception points of the patient journey. The window of opportunity to provide patients with the information they need to confidently engage in critical health-related conversations with their provider can look different for all patients. And it’s our responsibility to adapt to this modern view of patient care.