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November 22, 2016 0

The patient as the consumer. You’ve heard this one before. Additionally, you’ve probably read about how you, as a healthcare marketer, need to view patients through that lens from now on. But how do you actually turn that insight into action? Before answering that question, we should be asking ourselves how accurate the “consumer” label is.

Why consumer?

Tremendous improvements are changing the healthcare landscape to make it more consumer-driven. Since 1990, average life expectancy in this country has increased from 71.8 to 76.4 years for men, and 77.8 to 81.2 years for women. Meanwhile, the uninsured rate in that same period has dropped from 13.9% to 9.1%. The number of physician visits is increasing at a rate faster than the increase in the population of the US.

As a result, patients are spending more than ever, which is one of the primary reasons we, as healthcare marketers, now call them “consumers.” This trend will likely continue: health spending in 1990 accounted for 12.2% of our GDP; today, it accounts for 17.5% of our GDP, and this is expected to grow to 34% by 2040.

Is the label ‘consumer’ accurate?

The physician/patient relationship has also changed dramatically, as has the manner in which patients seek information. Calling them “consumers” makes marketers feel they have a handle on delivering this information. However, patients now seek to share in the decision-making around treatment options, and are no longer just taking orders in the exam room. We cannot underestimate the importance of the physician in these decisions. Removing “patient” from our language can do that, because it takes the physician out of the equation.

Young black woman looking at laptopAdditionally, the “consumer” label oversimplifies the complexity of decision-making for patients, and the extent to which they seek input. Patients want to know more than they find in the retail emails they receive. Today, 72% of patients seek information about their healthcare online, 60% turn to friends and family, and 24% get support from others with the same condition. Yes, patients want to make informed decisions, but demand more than a web search or advertising message.

In the past, I’ve promoted the use of the term “Well-Connected Doctor.” As a counterpoint, I’d like to propose that we also adopt the term “Engaged Patient”. Health decisions require more input than almost any other decision we make, and we should treat the individuals who we hope to reach with respect.

How to reach the ‘Engaged Patient’

Back to the original questions: How do we as healthcare marketers, best approach the needs of the Engaged Patient?

  1. Offer Authentic Value to the Patient. The Engaged Patient reads about conditions, seeks communities for support, and has conversations at the dinner table about their health. More than any other group, the Engaged Patient doesn’t want to be sold to. To deliver on the unprecedented desire to present the Engaged Patient with reliable information, we need to accept that there is no easy route to build this trust, and find creative ways to include them in all the relevant inputs.
  2. Leverage Technology. It is our job to understand the complexity with which they seek information, and present it in a meaningful way to patients and physicians. From point-of-care platforms that place us in the exam room during the consultation to online support groups to shared experiences, it is critical to align on messaging across channels, and generate relevant content on a consistent basis.
  3. Address the Rising Health Care Costs by Investing in Outcomes. As marketers, reaching the Engaged Patient is different from reaching other consumers, because patients are subject to a system that does not make it easy to understand pricing, or why costs continue to rise. For healthcare marketers, by identifying health outcomes as a KPI, this means a greater life-time value for each of the patients we can impact.

Republished with permission. Click here to read the original posting on MediaPost.


Editor’s Note: On Nov. 16, 2016, ContextMedia, the leading healthcare decision platform, announced that it will acquire AccentHealth, which provides best-in-class patient education at the point of care. Click here to read the full news release.

Ashik Desai

September 24, 2015 0

We are creatures of habit. We buy the same products and follow the same daily routine. Unless compelling information is served to us the moment we’re making a decision, we are reluctant to change.

As the saying goes, old habits die hard.

For healthcare marketers, changing behavior within our industry can seem impossible. Earlier this year in DTC in Focus, I discussed the difficulty in implementing innovation within healthcare marketing. Changing patient behavior can be even harder.

Years ago, we sat on the exam table surrounded by outdated collateral and posters that seemed more decorative than anything else. A clutter of pamphlets about influenza or the dangers of smoking meant nothing if you were visiting the doctor for migraines. These were the early years of point-of-care marketing. With only mass delivery of paper collateral in their toolbox, healthcare marketers lacked the technology and focus to truly target campaigns. The lack of targeted delivery meant that the information being served was actually, by design, misinformation.

Doctor Discussing Records With Senior Female Patient

But the landscape has changed. For the past decade marketers have applied digital innovations to target consumers at high-impact moments. Digital point-of-care marketing makes it possible to address patients with relevant information at a time when their treatment is top of mind. When patients are sitting in the doctor’s office thinking about their condition right before speaking with their doctor the messaging that surrounds them is very powerful. Starting with the waiting room and following the journey through the appointment into the exam room, point-of-care messaging has become an increasingly necessary part of patient education.

As DTC marketers, it is becoming increasingly more important to ensure we target our exact patient. According to a study by ZS Associates, the majority of treatments are now targeted toward less than 1% of the US population. New point-of-care channels allow us to target specific patients – the ones that can benefit from these exact treatments. As a result, point-of-care spend is growing 8x faster than the overall DTC spend, totaling ~$400M in 2014. Point-of-Care marketing is no gamble, but a tried and true solution that consistently delivers ROI.

None of this is news, but it’s an exciting indicator of the road ahead.

While digital marketing is an incredible tool for DTC marketers, actually changing patient behavior the ultimate goal. Fortunately for us, innovation has progressed and we now have more tools to increase the frequency of engaging patients. New innovations like Mobile advertising capabilities are just the beginning of rounding out the patient journey. By taking a comprehensive approach to POC marketing and embracing the tools that are now at our disposal, we can actually achieve the impossible: change patient behavior.

At the same time, we as patients are increasingly incentivized to take advantage of these tools and be hyper-engaged in our treatment. With recent changes to the healthcare landscape, we are now responsible for more out-of-pocket healthcare costs. This means we want and need to know more about our conditions and the treatment options that are at our disposal. Read: we crave the information and consume it, especially when we’re at a doctor’s visit.

Similarly, healthcare providers are taking advantage of improvements in technology to redesign their workflow and create a more efficient practice with better care coordination. EMRs are rapidly improving in quality, which, when integrated with point-of-care messaging, can create a customized, contextual experience for every patient.

Medical tablet

Imagine walking into an office and receiving messaging on your mobile device that is relevant to the specific point in your treatment. Imagine being able to see, in the exam room, visualizations of your past visits, alongside your treatment options. As a patient, you will have more access to information that will better inform your decision-making.

So, remember those behaviors that were so hard to change? It is now easier than ever to understand the impact of changing them. Tech companies have made these technologies a reality, and they will continue to make it easier to guarantee returns for brands.

DTC marketers have built an industry creating hundreds of effective solutions to a singular challenge – how to change patient behavior – and we are at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to address the challenge with unprecedented accuracy, which means we need to approach these new channels intelligently and empathetically, always with the patient in mind. Our goal is to change patient behaviors for the better, and if we embrace and continue to innovate the platforms available, we will make that goal a reality.

There are millions of patients that need to change their behavior to live healthier. Let’s do something about it.

Ashik Desai

February 18, 2015
Why innovate? It’s a question frequently asked by many pharmaceutical marketers. From a campaign development perspective, innovation is seen as a way to break through the clutter in order to set new benchmarks for success. Unfortunately, in the process, it’s easy to just innovate for innovation sake, and implement the latest thing without regard to how it will accomplish brand objectives or scale in a meaningful way. Measurement is also often an afterthought that mitigates the cultivation of valuable insights and leads to irrelevant KPIs.

Widespread conservatism within the industry, due to regulatory burden, compounds the issue. Unorthodox innovation initiates a waterfall of time-consuming MLR reviews, which can lead to the dilution of the concept itself in order to gain approval. That new thing you were so excited about? Not only has it lost some of its luster, but the window for launch has been delayed to the point that it is no longer considered breakthrough. To make matters worse, the annual planning cycle compresses your once innovative idea to a four-month flight.

Marketers should never veer from paving new ground. It is essential that we identify and execute new marketing strategies that best align to our brands, can be effectively measured, and also meet the restrictions unique to our industry. In a time where technology, platform and content evolution is happening faster than ever in leading consumer and HCP channels such as mobile, social and point-of-care, it’s critical that marketers understand the challenges of adopting new strategies and utilize a tactful, big-swing approach to overcome each of them. That said, a methodical approach to prioritizing should be considered so that the new path leads to meaningful success.

Herein lies the innovator’s dilemma. How do pharmaceutical marketers embrace innovation successfully while adhering to the constraints unique to our industry?

For all of us, a brand’s life cycle is finite. FDA approval process and patent law has given us a clear start and end point. We’re all under pressure to use this time and our yearly budgets as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, the default is to reinvest in tactics that have worked well in the past. While this is not 100% unwise, there are steps to be taken to reset our baseline for success.

  1. Be Selective: Pursue innovative tactics that are conducive to meeting your objectives. Just because everyone is talking about the next big thing doesn’t mean it is right for you. It’s critical we take aggressive bets on the right innovation, as that is how we can raise the bar.
  2. Think Big: Rather than pursuing many ideas at once, focus on a couple ideas that can make a meaningful difference.
  3. Think Long-Term: Twelve month media planning cycles aren’t going to change anytime soon. What can change is the way we think about our most strategic programs. Rather than approaching impact from an annual perspective, you can focus on ideas that you incrementally improve over time. While you may not be committing to a multiple-year program, empower your partners to ideate with you on what a long-term vision could look like.
  4. Consider Immediacy: Immediacy comes in two flavors – launch timing and time to impact. Innovation doesn’t have to mean creating new assets. It could be deploying them in new ways. Giving legs to proven assets not only squeezes more out of your creative budget, but it also allows for a more timely review so that you can move the needle for your brand faster.

As new technologies, channels and strategies surface in our industry, all marketers will inevitably face the innovator’s dilemma. Take confidence in knowing that innovation can truly change the success of your brand. If we as an industry can take an approach to adoption that is thoughtful, sustainable, and scalable, the pay-off will be tremendous for all groups involved.

Ashik Desai