Your parents are the ones who always take care of you. Mom kissed your knee when you fell on the playground, and Dad drove you to the hospital when you needed to get your tonsils out. Your parents kept you healthy and safe. They were your rock and knew all the answers and just what to do.
Time passes. You’re in your thirties and somehow in an instant the role of caregiver has flipped. This was the case for me. Nothing could prepare me for the moment I learned my mom, my rock, was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I recall googling “NHL” only to be served hockey statistics; I was frustrated and scared. Every time we went to see her oncologist or when I accompanied her to chemo, I would get hit with a wall of anxiety. Each time we stepped into the hospital, what my mom and I truly needed most was support.
As a caregiver and patient, I understand the emotional moments that can happen at the point of care. As a healthcare marketer, I also understand the value of this space as a channel, and I’ve been fortunate to see it evolve over the tenure of my career. Today, pharmaceutical brands and healthcare and lifestyle advocacy groups push messages at these point of care (POC) settings, hoping to educate patients about therapy options.
But POC as a marketing channel needs to be treated both similarly and differently from other marketing strategies if a marketer wants to appear relevant and connect in a meaningful and useful way. The reality of distracted, concerned patients and worried caregivers means brands that want to engage with patients at the POC need to approach them with greater empathy and understanding, with content that resonates emotionally and rationally with this audience.
But what makes POC unique anyway?
The POC channel supports the patient at critical moments of their health journey.
From acute illness to more chronic or prolonged conditions, important milestones of the health journey happen at the point of care. Through a recent survey collaboration between Outcome Health and Nielsen, we learned that the wait times within the rooms of point of care are substantial, with patients waiting on average up to 38 minutes in the waiting room and then another 36 minutes in the exam room. These wait times represent a huge opportunity to communicate with and impact patients, caregivers and physicians all at the same time — essentially turning a “captive” audience into a “captivated” and educated one.
Inventory is finite if POC content is done right.
POC differs from other digital ad channels because inventory is specific, targeted, and limited. Think about it. There are only so many rheumatologists in the United States, and there are only so many brands that treat or support patients who see a rheumatologist. Factor in the attention span of the average person today, include the other places they can get content in the doctor’s office (like magazines, posters, pamphlets), as well as the fact that we are all walking around with smart devices that can deliver content that we ask it anytime, anywhere, and you realize how critical it is to provide content that is aligned with why a patient may be in that rheumatologist’s office in the first place. This content (continuing with the Rheumatology example) could include anything from signs and symptoms of Lupus, to managing rheumatoid arthritis through diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices, to understanding how to best support a loved one who has osteoporosis — this is just the short list of potential content that may be pertinent to patients or caregivers seeing rheumatologists. The funnel of dependencies leading to the opportunity to message a patient who is seeing their provider for an ailment and being able to support that patient on their journey means that there are finite opportunities like this, which makes messaging at the POC more sophisticated and challenging in the same breath.
The point of care is the final touchpoint of the marketing message.
On many occasions, I’ve heard pharma marketers muse, “What if we could hold hands with patients when they have those important conversations with their provider?” In the POC channel, you can. Unlike TV, print, and digital that serve to create awareness for new therapies or reach patients before they reach the office, POC holds their hand in the office, moments before and during time with their physician.
POC drives patients to take action.
Messaging at the POC has been proven to impact and shift patient behaviors. In a study by ZS Associates, patient behavior was measured after being exposed to digital signage at their provider’s office. Of those exposed, 84% were more likely to ask their doctor about an ad they saw, 68% asked their doctor for a specific medication, 31% were more likely to fill their prescription, and 34% were more likely to take their medication as prescribed.
Where does POC marketing fit in alongside DTC and traditional channels? The point of care should serve as a complement to your brand’s other marketing and sales efforts, with specificity and context for patients waiting to see their doctors, moving them forward towards treatment. POC marketing can be leveraged as a digital tool, as a TV alternative, and even as a patient engagement solution to share benefits like co-pay assistance programs. Because your ad is now in the room with patients and their physician, messaging must be tailored for this space; simply dropping your TV spot onto an exam room screen isn’t likely to cut it with patients who are waiting to see their doctor. Advertisers should welcome the opportunity to become more deeply integrated into the patient-doctor experience and develop content that can be integrated into the clinical setting.
Because there’s such a range of experiences (and emotions) that happen at POC, it’s important that any content (sponsored or not) intended for this space is sensitive to that. You can’t create effective content without considering the patient’s mindset. Content must be curated and contextualized for each touchpoint of the point of care experience. Videos should be relevant for that clinic’s specialty and help to facilitate physician-patient conversations. When you’re at the doctor’s office, sitting in a gown (or in the passenger seat supporting an ill parent), wouldn’t you prefer fact-based, custom information that’s helpful and supportive of the conversation you’re about to have with your physician?
On the other hand, there are also moments of the health journey when patients don’t want to dig further into their treatment plan or condition and prefer access to content that simply entertains or distracts them. We as marketers need to take into account the range of experiences that happen within the point of care and provide content that aligns with and supports these unique moments.
The most important thing to remember is that patient needs vary within the POC environment, and you can’t take a “one size fits all” approach with your messages within each channel. The diversity of needs and experiences is prompting the space to evolve beyond just awareness. New trends within the space include patient education, adherence, support group registration, and more. The channel is poised for continued growth and we, as healthcare marketers, need to continue to innovate so that everyone entering the POC space can feel informed, inspired, entertained, and renewed during the most critical moments of care.
For years, marketing has begun with the brand, the campaign, and the big idea. It has been shaped by what we want to say, how we want to say it, and how many times we want our “targets” to hear it. We would spend months and months developing headlines, copy, TV spot, print campaign, email and banner ads. Then, at the end of the process, we’d call the media team to find a place to stick it. Of course, the best places where we could “hit” as many people in our target audience as possible. Often not realizing that we shared this audience with our competition.
Many brands in healthcare tend to focus on women aged 35-64, either they suffer from the illnesses we aim to treat or we believe they hold the keys to every healthcare decision in their household. This is why for years, and even now, shows like the Today Show look like they our sponsored by big pharma and healthcare; we have been stuck in a game of “whack-a-mole,” trying to hit our target with our message as many times as possible, with a goal to change her behavior.
We need to remind ourselves that health is a journey like no other. From the moment we are born, it begins; from boo-boos and scraped knees, to getting fit, giving life, battling illness, the health journey is something we all have in common. It is a journey that is continuous, challenging, and sometimes rewarding – but always requires fortitude – from within and from without.
Health is a journey that matters. It’s one of the reasons that health is one of the most searched categories on Google, and the most discussed topic in social media; the reason that there are 1.2 billion pages of web content dedicated to health and wellness, and that half a trillion dollars of investment have been spent there in just the past 10 years.
Health is a journey made up of moments; moments that are full of emotion, decision and action. Moments that require us to take a step back and make sense of a new situation, to assess, learn, ask advice and seek answers. It is time to stop thinking first about the big idea and the campaign, but to begin our thinking with understanding where these moments and conversations happen. Basically shift from a media last mentality to embracing a media first point of view.
For years media was the afterthought. When we were in a “tonnage” game this was fine. We were able reach the majority of our audience through prime time television and print. And let’s be honest, shooting the TV spot and the print campaign were much more sexy than talking about TRPs and reach frequency curves.
However, today, media is changing faster than advertising. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country behind India and China. According to comScore (May 2, 2014), 166 million people in the US own smartphones (68.8% mobile market penetration). These stats were not the case only 12 months ago. I believe media is the new black and where the sexy is happening.
Media has moved beyond spots and dots and impressions, to delivering critical information about what our customers truly want, how they want to engage, and where they gather information across their health journey. It’s beyond buying space. Media agencies today are working with publishers and producers to broker content deals. This is happening because our customers don’t want to hear everything from the brand. Furthermore, in pharma there is only so much we can say. However, we need to realize our audiences need more support and information than what is prescribed on our label.
Publisher partners can lend credibility and a trusted voice to help meet the needs of our customers. Oftentimes they can deliver the content our audiences desire faster and more cost efficient than creative agencies. For example, if your audience requires information around food, why are you creating the content, and not Food Network? If your audience loves music, why aren’t you streaming content from Pandora? Media agencies can help identify and develop partnerships with these types of publishers and move you from simply selling your brand to providing a service.
So, next time you are kicking off a campaign, thinking about your next big idea, I encourage you to look around the room and make sure your media team is present. Health is different. It is the only journey we are on that never stops. As brand marketers, we need to know where and how we are going to show up, not just what we want to talk about.