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May 31, 2017 Phil Baumann1

Here’s the big question: How does an industry with regulatory constraints around how it communicates with the public successfully engage on social media through robust, timely, and helpful interactions?

There’s not a simple answer, but creating clear and consistent “rules of engagement” can make for a good first step forward.

As a digital and social media strategist for C3i Healthcare Connections, I help pharma clients build out their social presence and extract meaningful information that can be gleaned from social media. While ongoing monitoring of conversations is a key component of any pharmaceutical brand’s social strategy (see my previous article here), companies need to be well-equipped to participate in those conversations, too. Five broad steps can help you get started.

  1. Develop engagement strategies

Take the time to outline your plan of attack, along with the ways your team can apply these principles to their everyday interactions. Doing so will benefit everyone involved by making operations more efficient and streamlined, your customers more satisfied, and your brand more favorable.

Start by assessing the engagement opportunities available to non-regulated industries and rule out those activities which regulations prohibit, such as providing off-label information, soliciting or prompting users to share content that might lead to off-label questions, and recommending or directly promoting the use of a product to a user. After implementing compliance safeguards for handling Adverse Events (AEs), Product Quality Complaints (PQCs), and Privacy Violations (see this article), you can begin to develop your own engagement strategies and practices.

As part of this process, you should:

  • Work with key stakeholders — including marketing and branding, public relations, medical information, and pharmacovigilance — to identify the objectives of engagement
  • Be prepared to identify and report any AEs and PQCs on owned properties (e.g., branded or unbranded Facebook Pages) and any properties over which the pharma company has control or influence
  • Evaluate the current social media space and your role in it
  • Develop workflows and escalation guidelines, perhaps considering third-party technologies that help streamline workflows and support operational evaluation
  • Establish community guidelines — besides guidelines for posting and commenting, this may include a statement that explains the purpose of the property, links, and contact information
  1. Be consistent … but human and flexible, too

After you’ve decided to move beyond monitoring and begin engaging on social media, many companies often start with a simple first-step strategy of responding to AEs and PQCs with a “contact-us reply.” For example: “Hi Sarah. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We take product safety seriously and are interested in learning more about your experience. Please call us at 800-555-5555.”

A standardized “contact-us reply” can sometimes feel robotic. While remaining consistent is important, it’s equally necessary for brands to consider how to bring the human element to their interactions. Beyond AEs/PQCs replies, teams can add a personal touch by taking the initiative to respond to on-label inquiries or consumer sharing of experiences: “Thank you for sharing, John. We’re glad that you’re taking steps to manage your health.”

Being more human means listening carefully to what is being asked and acknowledging what has been stated. Text can be difficult to interpret sometimes, but you can take cues from emojis, emoticons, and images. While providing accurate on-label information is critical, so too is the emotional tone of an interaction, especially in the sensitive area of health.

  1. Establish KPIs

If something can be observed, it can be measured. Two kinds of key performance indicators (KPIs) help assess the performance of your interactions and resource needs of your initiatives. They are productivity KPIs and volumetric KPIs.

Productivity KPIs include metrics such as:

  • First Response Time — the time between the consumer’s first contact and the company’s first response for all engagements over a period of time
  • Response Time — the total time from the consumer’s first contact and the company’s last response
  • Handle Time — the time from the consumer’s first engagement and the completion of all tasks required to process a case
  • Resolution Rate — the ratio of the number of resolved posts to the number of those that needed resolution

In today’s world, consumers expect swift responses. In an ideal world with infinite resources, response times on social media could be less than a minute. In reality, however, resources can limit optimal response times. Establish your initial KPI standards based on the number of people on your staff, hours of labor, and average number of posts per hour they can handle. Often vendors can assist in the heavy load of supporting customer care in cooperation with your company.

Volumetric KPIs might include the total of all posts in a given period for a given property (e.g., total Facebook posts in May), or the volume of posts for which the company responded, which can be further organized by type of post (AEs, PQCs, product inquiries, etc.). Third-party technologies can assist with these KPI measurements, although some are better suited for monitoring and reporting, while others are built to support consumer care and interaction. Your technology selection depends on the objectives of your engagement strategy.

Besides supporting the initial stages of your engagement efforts, tracking KPIs after they have been established helps to identify areas of improvement and opportunities within your operations.

  1. Prepare for the unexpected

No matter how refined your social strategy, there are always surprises. While you can’t control unexpected events, you can prepare for them.

Before launching your social media initiative, carefully document the process for escalating an issue depending on the situation presented. Establish escalation criteria and communication protocols to avoid last-minute panic. Be transparent, and continually monitor the situation until it resolves.

Keep in mind that a response isn’t necessarily an answer. Make sure your teams can distinguish legitimate consumer concerns from spam content. If a consumer posts an inquiry and an immediate answer is not available, it’s OK to acknowledge the question and inform the consumer that he or she will receive a follow-up response. Suggesting a private message can be another effective way to handle, or public responses that benefit the community.

  1. Evaluate performance, apply insights, and adjust practices

In social media, as in any initiative, there is always room for improvement, refinement, and course-correction. For example, if average response and handle time goals are not being met, is it due to a lack of staffing (a volume issue), or a need to coach your representatives? On the flip side, if response times are quicker than anticipated, are there other activities that can be added to the initiative, such as improving the quality of responses?

A big advantage social media has over traditional media is the ability to more immediately measure and evaluate the performance of content. As experience is gained and insights are gleaned, proceed to evolve from a passive/reactive model to an active approach that seeks out opportunities for engagement.

Consumers are eager to receive information and support from all parties in the healthcare system. Those pharma companies or brands that have established the foundations for social media processes and, ultimately, build up to higher tiers of engagement, not only have a greater opportunity to meet or exceed patient expectations — they’re also able to earn long-term trust and favorability among patients.

May 31, 2017 Linda Ruschau0
Sponsored Content

In light of the upcoming Men’s Health Month in June, I thought it relevant to talk about one of the biggest challenges pharma marketers have come to PatientPoint for help with: how to engage men and get them talking about their health. While George Clooney has always been my ideal target, for pharma brands, the challenge is getting their message to men at the most impactful moments when they are willing and ready to act. Those moments are rare.

According to a recent survey, in the last year,1

  • Almost one-fourth of all men had not seen a doctor
  • 1 in 3 men had no regular doctor
  • More than half had not gone in for a routine checkup

Further, nearly seven out of 10 men with advanced prostate cancer ignore their symptoms.2 These statistics are not just shocking, but concerning. That’s why we fully support movements like Men’s Health Month and organizations like the Movember Foundation that speak to men in a way that gets their attention and encourages them to take better control of their health.

These initiatives represent a huge opportunity for pharma brands to be involved in the conversations happening outside of the doctor’s office. But I want to focus on what, I believe (and is in my sweet spot), is an even greater opportunity—inside the doctor’s exam room. It’s here where men’s attention and willingness to engage has peaked; they are in a private space and can be vulnerable about even the most sensitive conditions. They’re attuned to their health, and they’re ready for the right information from their physician and you.

Our presence in the exam room with the PatientPoint urology educational program has shown us the exact type of messaging that resonates with a male audience to get them to speak up. My recommendations:

  1. Spark a conversation

While many initiatives are catchy and get men to think about their health, the most important conversation happens inside the physician’s exam room between the man and his doctor. That’s the conversation that leads to action—and prescriptions. Being present in exam room educational materials that men can peruse while waiting for the doctor to enter primes the conversation about to happen. Topics like erectile dysfunction or prostate problems aren’t easy to bring up. Our brochures offer men starter questions and discussion prompts to get the conversations going.

  1. Catch his attention

A brand in a plethora of many isn’t going to catch anyone’s eye. Category exclusivity should be a crucial component of your marketing strategy in the exam room to ensure your brand is the only brand the man sees.

  1. Tell him what to do

More than half of men say they find great value in information available when deciding what drug to take—so tell him! Offer a discussion guide that men can use to start talking with their doctor, provide calls to action that prompt men to ask the doctor about a specific topic or bring attention to symptoms that may lead to a better, more productive discussion with the doctor, and better health outcomes overall.

Helping enrich that discussion keeps you top of mind at the moment of script and reinforces your brand when men are at home or with their partner reviewing the brochure they took from the exam room: 68% of men strongly agree it’s their responsibility to inform themselves about the medicine their doctor recommends.3

There’s no greater opportunity for pharma brands to make an impact on men and drive greater effectiveness than in the exam room. Make sure your brand is the only solution top of mind when men are actually ready to take action about their health and talk to their doctor.



  1. Commonwealth Fund survey
  2. The International Prostate Cancer Coalition, Bayer HealthCare, Harris Poll—Prostate Cancer Symptoms Survey
  3. ID Media, New Realities study

May 31, 2017 admin0

Outcome Health announced its first-ever round of funding closed at a $5B valuation pre-money from a group of investors, including Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Alphabet’s growth equity fund CapitalG, Leerink Transformation Partners, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Balyasny Asset Management, and strategic healthcare stakeholders. According to the news release, the nearly $600 million raised during this round “will fund the company’s continued acceleration as Outcome Health grows from 20% of U.S. physician practices currently to 70% by 2020, and pursues new investment opportunities and international growth.” The leading health decision platform will increase its market share in a variety of point of care settings – including hospitals, health systems, and health practices.

Outcome Health provides tablets and large-format, wall-mounted touch screens which doctors and patients can utilize during their appointment. Among its unique features, the technology provides the largest English-language health library, showcases 3-D models that doctors can move and use for demonstrations, and allows drug ads that share health or Rx information or recruit patients for clinical trials.

Rishi Shah, the Founder and CEO, stated, “Outcome Health and its investors have gathered around a shared commitment to connect ten million exam rooms and billions of moments of care around the world to ensure that patients and doctors can make the best health decisions every time. Together, we have the opportunity to bring healthcare from an age of information to an age of intelligence.”

According to Todd Cozzens, co-founder and Managing Partner at Leerink Transformation Partners, one of the investors, “Outcome Health is redefining the way that the life sciences, payers, healthcare IT, physicians and patients interact. The technology enhances the most important event in the delivery of care – the trusted moments where the doctor and patient make decisions about their conditions and treatments – and represents innovation that we are proud to support.”

Shah explained to Forbes in an exclusive interview, however, that Outcome Health is not simply in the point of care market, but rather has a broader reach in the healthcare industry, especially as it continues to fuel its significant growth. In addition to working with healthcare professionals and patients, the Forbes article noted how Outcome Health also works “on businesses for healthcare providers and with Medicare on new payment models. With the new funding, the company can pursue more aggressive acquisitions in the months to come, as well as invest in startups that might want to create content or build applications to house on Outcome’s content network.” As Shah told Alex Konrad and Matthew Herper, “We’ve created a multi-sided network that gives payers and life science companies a seat at the table. They can help doctors and patients make the best decision every time.”

May 31, 2017 admin0

Mesmerize Marketing will increase their Healthy Living Network by more than 70% with the recent acquisition of Elite Sampling & Media Group’s national network of doctors’ office wallboards. The positions Mesmerize Marketing, a leader in patient education at the point of care (POC), as the “largest provider of static media in high prescribing physicians’ offices” reaching more than 50,000 physicians nationwide.

Image c/o Marketwired & Mesmerize Marketing

The Healthy Living Network provides multilingual editorial content in specialty practices, targeting specific patient populations – including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, women’s health, pediatrics, mental health, cardiology, oncology, and infectious disease. This also expands upon Mesmerize’s current reach with mobile technologies, such as WiFi, geofencing, and NFC beacons.

According to the news release, Mesmerize founder and CEO Gregory Leibert noted that the company is “excited to increase our scale to be able to provide our clients with access to thousands of more high-prescribing physicians and millions of more patients.  Static media remains vital to the point of care landscape.” Nick DeBellis, President of Elite Sampling and Media Group, LLC added that “over the past year Elite and Mesmerize have collaborated on several successful wallboard campaigns. That joint venture lead us to see the strength in the size of a combined wallboard network. Therefore, we decided to leave our wallboard clients in excellent hands with Mesmerize. We know that static media at the point of care has an important role in the patient education process.”

Click here to read the full news release.

May 12, 2017 Tom Pitcherella0

Feel that? That’s the seismic shift happening right now in the healthcare industry. Over the past twenty years, several distinct market trends have emerged across the healthcare landscape. Now, these trends have arrived – and they’re only gaining more traction.

The Affordable Care Act facilitated many of these changes, including an influx of digitally savvy customers hungry for education. And although its survival has recently been called into question by a new administration, the ACA’s impact will undeniably live on.

These conditions point to more than a shift in demographics and behavior. They also indicate a new model of healthcare consumerism: one that pivots away from a broker-driven B2B model and more toward a straight DTC model.[1]

If this seems like déjà vu, it’s because the same shift occurred in the property and casualty (P&C) insurance industry just a few decades ago, with auto insurance sales leading the way.

The consumer largely drives this new dynamic in the healthcare industry. So to understand the DTC shift in the healthcare industry, let’s start by understanding the modern healthcare customer.

What Does the Modern Healthcare Customer Look Like?
To start, they’re technologically savvy.

Healthcare customers don’t just understand technology, they prefer it. This means they tend to have less patience for processes that lack a technological edge. They’re getting more information, from more places, in less time. Are you keeping up?

In a snapshot, today’s healthcare consumer is…[2]

  • Always connected. They’re using multiple devices and channels, often at the same time.
  • Socially minded. They’re using social channels for gleaning insights and reviews from family, friends, and experts.
  • Knowledgeable. They’re independently educated with content available to them 24/7 (and they’re also in-tune with your competitors).
  • Experiential. They’re expecting a personalized experience, and one that will knock their socks off.

The modern consumer is looking for (and finding) content primarily on digital channels. If you want to reach them, you must do so online. In fact, of today’s healthcare consumers…[3]

  • 67% are interested in being offered insurance via mobile.
  • 48% regard product advice on social media as important.
  • 54% use mobile phone apps for the purpose of health monitoring.

As healthcare consumers become more and more technologically savvy, they become more accountable for their healthcare decisions. Consumers are moving beyond “sick care” and toward an overall health and wellness agenda. It’s an opportunity for healthcare organizations to facilitate their goals and establish trust with new and existing customers.

So by using technology to stay connected, simplify healthcare processes, and provide a way to help people monitor their health, healthcare companies can attract and retain this emerging class of healthcare consumers.

After all, this is a familiar trend – one that occurred even earlier in the auto insurance industry.

The Auto & Health Insurance Parallel
In the early 2000s, about 80% of personal automobile insurance policies were placed through a broker.[4] But as consumers shifted toward online shopping and insurance agencies moved toward a DTC sales model, dynamics started to change.

Between 1995 and 2011, the overall number of P&C insurance agents declined by 10%.[5] Even more illuminating, P&C insurance carriers increased their marketing spend from $1.7 billion in 2002 to $5.9 billion in 2011.[6]

These growing investments have moved the focus away from individual agents and toward the carrier brand. So when asked, “Who is your insurance carrier?” a policy holder will now likely respond with a brand name over an agent’s.

Today, auto insurance providers continue to spend more to reach customers through multiple channels. And there’s no better case study to demonstrate this shift than the P&C insurance giant, GEICO.

In 2010, GEICO became the first auto insurance organization to provide mobile users with the ability to quote and buy a policy right on their smartphones.[7] More recently, GEICO was the lead sponsor for Amazon’s new original content streaming service.

Translation: GEICO is evolving to fit their consumer’s lifestyle. And by doing so, the industry pioneer has actually overtaken Allstate in premium sales.[8]

That’s a tremendous shift in the auto insurance industry – one that could soon be replicated in other industries, like health insurance.

Who Will Be the Breakout Player?

While the health insurance industry has yet to match the dramatic transformation seen in the auto insurance space, it’s trending in that direction.

In 2014, only one health insurance provider found its way on the list of insurance companies with the highest share of media spend. Coming in at number nine, UnitedHealthcare was that organization, but it trailed significantly behind top P&C insurance carriers.

Fast-forward one year, and UnitedHealthcare still stood as the lone health insurance industry provider on the list. Yet this time, it had climbed to number seven, increasing its media spend by over $20 million.

Share of insurance industry U.S. measured-media spending


Source 1


Source 2

Will UnitedHealthcare’s spending trigger other health insurance providers to spend more on marketing to the modern consumer? Only time will tell.

There’s ground yet to be covered, but the parallel between the auto and health insurance industries evolutions is undeniable.

Making Up the Gap
As demonstrated, the healthcare industry is not the only industry affected by this fundamental market shift; it’s just one of the slowest to react.

Of all surveyed industries, the following percentage of respondents agreed they are developing new applications, features, and processes to cater to new generations of customers:[11]

  • Healthcare – 61%
  • Travel – 64%
  • Telecom – 74%
  • Retail – 76%
  • Financial Services – 73%

A major gap exists between what consumers want from health insurance providers, and what they can actually offer them.

To reach today’s healthcare audience, companies need to cater their outreach to the digital-savvy consumer who’s searching for tools to interact and educate themselves with.

If the classic mantra “Be Where the Customer Is” holds true, then organizations should expose these tools less to the broker, with whom the emerging consumer may be unfamiliar, and more toward the consumer themselves.

While not every customer will have a linear experience, brands should be prepared at every stage of the buyer’s journey. To help with this, we’ve compiled the questions here that marketers need to continually ask to stay in-tune with this new consumer.

Save this guide (we recommend keeping it right next to your desk) and use it as a self-assessment for your brand. As you navigate the new consumer-focused world of healthcare marketing, every bit of help counts.

[1]PwC Health Research Institute, “Healthcare reform: Five trends to watch as the Affordable Care Act turns five,” March 2015.

[2] Andrea Moneta, “The Digital Insurer: The Customer-centric Insurer in the Digital Era,” Accenture, 2014.

[3] Ibid

[4] McKinsey&Company, “Agents of the Future:The Evolution of Property and Casualty Insurance Distribution,” June 2013.

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] GEICO, “GEICO’s Story from the Beginning,” retrieved February 23, 2017.

[8] Steve Daniels, “Geico Overtakes Allstate As No. 2 Auto Insurer,” Advertising Age, March 3, 2014.

[9] Advertising Age, “2016 Marketing Fact Pack,” December 21, 2015.

[10] Advertising Age, “2017 Marketing Fact Pack,” December 19, 2016.

[11] Melanie Matthews, “Infographic: State of the Consumer Healthcare Experience,” Healthcare Intelligence Network, January 27, 2017.

May 12, 2017 Linda Ruschau0

Sponsored Content

“Don’t get Ubered” is a common phrase uttered in the tech world today. It’s referencing companies who don’t (or won’t) pay attention to the changes happening around them. As a result, they scramble for survival as more attuned companies see success by adapting their entire way of doing business.

Put in that perspective, “Ubered” is now a relevant term for healthcare, too. Our industry has been relatively immune to the disruption tech, finance and nearly all other industries have experienced. Until now.

Consumerism, driven by the likes of Uber, Amazon, PayPal and Airbnb, is greatly affecting how we operate. When it comes to the evolution of our industry today, all signs point directly to the patient, who is demanding the same level of fast, personalized service from healthcare as these aforementioned companies are providing.

The result? Regulators, payers and providers are trying to rapidly transform into systems that focus on experience rather than products and services. Case in point: the rapid rise in the number of insurance companies making on-demand services, such as telehealth RNs, available—and seeing financial rewards because of it.

Pharma must follow suit if they want to see similar success.

Taxis Never Saw It Coming

When Uber first debuted in 2010, taxi companies were focused on all the wrong factors to effectively compete. Their primary concerns, including how to spend less yet earn more, increase passenger rates per driver and lower the cost of vehicle maintenance, focused on improving their bottom line—a company-first, customer-second mindset.

Uber flipped that focus, putting consumers’ needs at the forefront and asking itself: What is the best possible experience we can create for people needing a ride? How can we use technology to streamline service and make it more convenient and user-friendly? What do consumers ultimately need from us? The approach worked: The company says it fulfills over 1 million rides each day.

When it comes to our approach, what type of questions are we asking? Based on recent patient feedback regarding pharma, it seems they may not be the right ones:

  • 55% of patients say pharma isn’t working collaboratively with patients[1]
  • 45% say the industry doesn’t understand their real needs[2]
  • 46% say pharma does understand their needs, yet it’s just not doing enough to address them[3]

These consumer opinions are disappointing, considering that 86% of pharma executives state that patient centricity is key to their profitability.4 Recognition is the first step toward a more patient-centric business model, but there’s more action to take, starting with understanding the patient journey and the numerous opportunities it offers pharma companies to improve patient interactions.


The Point of Point of Care

Broad reach used to be the ultimate goal in the point-of-care industry in the days of blockbuster drugs. Given the new landscape, what matters most now is whether you’re connecting with the right physicians and patients. Based on the following statistics, there’s work still to be done.

  • Nearly 40% of patients don’t know any of the pharma companies behind their treatments[5]
  • Of the 14% of patients who said they felt they had a relationship with their pharma companies, only 40% indicated it was a good relationship[6]

How do we raise awareness of pharma as a true partner in the patient’s desire for better health? Just look to Uber for the answer: cater to a person’s individual preferences and needs. This ability to provide relevant, personalized information and education when and where the patient needs it represents a significant opportunity for pharma companies to engage patients at the moments that matter most.

That is exactly the point of point of care—to educate patients during their healthcare journey to enable them to have more productive interactions with their physicians and make more informed decisions about their health, ultimately leading to better overall outcomes.

This is the point of PatientPoint, too. It’s why we started this business 30 years ago and why we continue to lead its innovation, creating new, integrated solutions across the physician office and hospital that providers and pharma companies can leverage to impact the patient experience at every engagement point.


The Answer Is…

Today, Uber is worth more than $60 billion and has over 8 million users. It is a great example of a company that recognized the importance of putting the consumer experience at the center of its operating model—and is seeing success because of it.

In this new healthcare landscape, pharma companies must ask themselves: Do I want to be a taxi, or do I strive to be Uber?

[1]Sarah Mahoney, “Patient Engagement: All Grown Up—Patient Engagement Comes of Age,” MM&M, June 1, 2015,



[4]Dr. Nicola Davies, “Creating Patient-Centric Growth,” eyeforpharma, Jan. 22, 2016,

5]Ed Miseta, “Patient Survey: Technology Use Up, Pharma Disconnect Remains,” Clinical Leader, Jan. 25, 2017,


May 12, 2017 Kathleen Bonetti0

Specialty Drug Marketers Can Tap into Patient Stories

Stories are ingrained in us from the time we are infants. The nighttime ritual of parents and children cozying up with a storybook or two is a genuine and enjoyable encounter, one with an underlying message or lesson that is served in a palatable way. Once we begin reading for ourselves, we turn to stories to bring clarity to a topic, brighten an experience, or learn something new.

Patients often have many stories of their own to tell, no book needed. At each story’s core are kernels of information that can help biopharmaceutical marketers, healthcare professionals, and other patients understand an individual’s challenges and triumphs as well as reveal unmet needs and gaps in care.

What can be learned from the tale of an active female patient with rheumatoid arthritis? As it turns out, quite a lot. The story of Lisa Hehn’s journey includes a lot of twists and turns, revelations, and teaching moments relevant to brand marketers. Patient stories resonate. They illustrate real-life experiences, pull at heartstrings, and humanize disease.

Lisa’s Journey

Six months after her second child was born by cesarean section, Lisa woke up with total body pain. As a young mother, she needed to be well in order to care for her children and keep up with the daily demands of an active lifestyle that included walking, dance classes, and regular gym visits.

Lisa set out on an odyssey to discover the root cause of her pain and find a solution, relying primarily on library research and the expertise of numerous physicians and other healthcare professionals. Her pain was managed with anti-inflammatories, steroids, and other medications that left her with serious side effects including stomach bleeds. She wore wrist braces to carry her children, and even added carpet padding to her slippers to soften the pain of each step she took.

Years passed before a specialist diagnosed Lisa with rheumatoid arthritis and ultimately prescribed a TNF inhibitor to manage her disease. The change for Lisa was life-altering, in fact, she’s said that the biologic gave her life.

Drugstore Aisle Opportunities for Specialty Brands

Patient narratives like Lisa’s can help specialty brand marketers pinpoint effective marketing strategies across various channels at every step of the journey. Although Lisa’s disease is now well managed, that was not always the case. Prior to her diagnosis, she frequently shopped at the pharmacy for OTC solutions to address unidentified pain and other ailments related to an unknown disease.

Once diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, prevention became a regular part of Lisa’s day. To minimize exposure to germs and viruses and thereby prevent illnesses, Lisa turned to the pharmacy for products including vitamins, over-the-counter pre-cold remedies, and hand sanitizers. In addition, as a mother, Lisa often shopped for health remedies and other products for her husband and children.

Patients gather information from various touchpoints and needs continue to evolve as a condition unfolds and treatments are prescribed. The pharmacy is a prime touchpoint because it’s a venue patients visit when they’re open to, and often seeking, health-related solutions and education.

At the beginning of the treatment continuum for a chronic disease such as RA, a patient may be most interested in the potential side effects of a particular therapy, whereas over time, concerns shift to more global issues including affordability and adherence.

Even now, Lisa seeks solutions for occasional health needs both related and unrelated to her main diagnosis. Though Lisa’s medication is filled through a specialty pharmacy and shipped to her home, she turns to retail and community pharmacies on a regular basis for a variety of needs.

Weaving the Pharmacy into a DTC Campaign

When handed a new diagnosis, and prescribed a new medication – whether traditional or specialty – patients often hunger for information, feedback, and guidance. Though each individual patient will seek information in different ways, knowledge is often gathered from multiple sources.

So how can the patient perspective help shape a DTC campaign? Listening to the patient experience can help brand marketers identify lingering needs and information gaps. In Lisa’s case, being prescribed a biologic nearly two decades ago left a lot of unanswered questions. She was starved for more information about RA but also how the biologic worked, how it would improve her symptoms, and what she could do to maximize its effect.

Though Lisa feels more medically savvy now out of necessity, at the time she would have liked access to educational content with patient-friendly language. To her, the pharmacy is well suited to disseminate simple messages about particular diseases and conditions.

When Lisa enters a pharmacy, she has health on her mind and she knows the onsite pharmacist is available to address questions and concerns. She finds the setting professional, comforting, and accessible for health-related messaging. In fact, if the option presented itself, she’d jump at the chance to pick up her specialty medication in the neighborhood pharmacy rather than receiving a shipment in her home.

Visiting the pharmacy is not a one-time event. Patients have different needs at each point along the way, affected by medication, age, and a variety of other factors. Patients with chronic diseases often continue to cope with a few minor symptoms, particularly at the beginning of a new treatment option. Therefore, the pharmacy can be a vehicle for driving patients to other resources such as a comprehensive disease website or online tools to help manage the disease burden.

Build Customer Awareness at the Pharmacy Level

With shrinking budgets and increased scrutiny of traditional DTC advertising, marketing tactics need to be more targeted, more effective, and less expensive. Specialty pharma marketers in particular are tasked with learning about the people taking their products, and that includes uncovering their needs. Who can clearly define patient needs and wants better than the patient himself?

Listening to patients can help marketers identify the best messaging approach before creating a branded shelf aid in the pharmacy or creating a magazine advertisement. Targeted products for specific populations, like RA for example, require a targeted marketing plan even though the number of patients affected by the disease is large. In some cases, the patient pool prescribed specialty medications is quite small which requires a more focused messaging approach.

Patients rely on specialty pharmacies to dispense specialty medications; however, the same patients are also regularly stopping by retail pharmacies. In fact, these patients may spend even more time in drugstore aisles than the average consumer. It’s a moment in time when the patients have their own health concerns – and likely that of a child, parent, or spouse as well – top of mind.

The pharmacy is an appropriate setting to deliver strong messages to patients while they’re looking to improve their health. Drugstore aisles are a proven platform to reach patients with targeted and specific information that helps establish a close link and provide the support needed. In-store campaigns can also open the door to other media channels, driving the patient to continue the brand experience. Integrated programs that include multiple touchpoints such as mobile and internet reinforce messaging found in store aisles.

The Next Powerful Patient Story Awaits

Marketers hope the messages they develop motivate patients to take action. Some patients may respond positively to information about how a newly marketed product differs from those that have been available for years. Another patient type may want to be informed in order to open a conversation with a pharmacist or physician. The communication’s value and credibility increases exponentially by having a healthcare professional available in-store. Patients can easily discuss questions and concerns with a pharmacist and in some cases, a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.

We’ve all heard of the cardiologist who has an epiphany about what a patient truly needs once he himself has had to endure triple bypass surgery. When patients share real-life experiences of their diagnoses, it’s the closet way to feel their pain and see their struggle without actually having the disease ourselves. Keeping real-life patient stories in mind can elevate a marketing campaign’s effectiveness and ensure the product and patient develop a genuine and worthy connection.