The one-size-fits-all “wonder drug” and the physician-voice-driven model, as we know it, is rapidly undergoing a paradigm shift towards advanced biologics and outcomes medicine based on patient-centered participation. Rapid advances of technology and exponential growth in Internet use drive much of this shift.
The Inspire Inaugural Annual Survey of 13,000+ patients found that 55% of the patients are well prepared for their doctor’s appointment, 52% of the time patients are largely responsible for initiating new treatment discussions (89% ask about other treatment options at least once a year), and when it comes to making the treatment decision, about 70% of patients said it was a collaborative effort with their physicians. While some other data have suggested growth impediments in the area of mobile technologies (older age group) and financial barriers, the trend is clear, patients are actively participating in their medical care journey via electronic communication tools.
Many patients want information from multiple sources – even from industry.
The rise of e-patients
Every day, stories are being shared that features the various dimensions of the “E” from the phrase “E-patient” – empowered, equipped, engaged, enabled, emancipated, equal, and experts. Marketers now must be able to comprehend the vast network of digital information that contains what the patients are thinking, feeling, saying, and discussing about.
We are now seeing an increasing trend by several leading pharma brands developing advanced content and digital marketing capabilities such as Social Media Listening (SLM) to support their product launch. Many Software-as-a-Services (SaaS) and big data analytics vendors are now available to help process and organize various types of data, in real-time, that are relevant to their brands. While this approach has worked well in other industries, in reality, there are still many challenges in this area for pharma, with the major ones being the ability to make informed decisions from so much data (or noise) and find Return-of-Investment (ROI) from the data.
The patient journey and your brand strategy
Many patients begin their journey by inputting their query into a search engine, and throughout the journey they are most likely to return to the search engine and ask other questions. Many pharma brands partner with companies like Inspire to better understand the patient experience and provide intelligence to the brand, market research, digital, and commercial team.
Here are the top five consumer-based tools that marketer can leverage from patient-centric social media sites (by way of targeted surveys or UGC analysis) to build a humanized, patient-centric brand strategy:
- Persona Development: These are fictional representation of the patient customer archetypes that provides a model point-of-reference of who they are, what they do, and what motivates or causes them to engage with your brand (or not to). Many patient archetypes are becoming empowered and are actively seeking for information. This is especially true for patients who are seriously ill, as referenced by an Inspire member below when asked her opinion of DTC ads, the member responded:
“I would support and provide any information to any drug company able to provide me with any information on any new drug that could help me with my quality of life. Which at this point is not much of a life.”
- Patient Journey and Content Mapping
Patient experience maps can offer tremendous insights to developing the right content at the right time point for the right patient. When an Inspire member was asked about the practicality of talking to your doctor about a potential drug, she shared:
“What good is it for me to suggest a drug to my doctor, if he knows nothing about it?”
- Empathy/Sentiment Testing
Today many brands are working with various creative groups or agencies and empathy can grossly be diluted in the translation.
- Message/Perception Testing
The color, model in the picture, side effects, labels, background, sounds, and words are all integral parts of how a customer may or may not perceive the message.
- UGC Analysis
The inherent nature and advantage of using niche patient-based social media networks for UGC analysis is its privacy. 70% of online users do not use main stream social media sites to discuss health because of privacy concerns, which leaves most of the information that are available to be fragmented or possibly useless.
These tools provide a good sense where marketers can actively access humanized data that can serve as the bedrock to a patient-centric brand strategy, and move away from the mindset of “advertising” to “engaging.”