Marty Samples is the Senior Vice President of Customer Experience and Digital Innovation for Precision Xtract.
In the past, it was up to doctors to deliver a meaningful patient experience. We called it “bedside manner,” and it wasn’t always a good one. But today, even drug brands can find ways to incorporate next best action (NBA) technology to make the patient experience a more positive one. (Full disclosure: My company offers NBA technology.)
I believe improving the patient journey should be a pharma marketer’s imperative — and not only because it is the right thing to do. A 2019 Gallup poll found that pharma was the most poorly regarded industry in Americans’ eyes, ranking last among 25 industries.
Before looking at how you can use NBA to improve patient experiences, it’s useful to define terms. (This has nothing to do with explosive athleticism.) We’re talking about how pharmaceutical companies can follow the lead of innovative brands like Netflix, Peloton and Amazon.
This NBA focuses on predicting and fulfilling customers’ needs and wants. Through machine learning, NBA considers different possible actions and then decides which the best one to take is for each customer.
Every Netflix user has experienced it. When you search for a movie genre, Netflix recommends other movies in that same genre. Based on past behavior, your homepage becomes personalized with “because you watched” TV series and “top picks for you” movies. The point is to lower the barrier to conversion — you hitting that play button.
Getting Patients Closer To Meaningful Moments
Of course, the patient journey is more complicated than watching TV.
That path includes more and varied conversion points and more opportunities to make a meaningful difference. Therefore, pharma brands should ask big questions when they’re considering how to support patients, like this one:
How can we help bring about truly meaningful moments in patients’ lives?
A recent research article in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology defined meaningful moments as “specific events in life that are felt to be of great value and significance.” But they don’t always happen spontaneously. Minor events lead up to each specific one, which is where pharma brands can come in. Fortunately, health care is a data-rich industry ripe with potential insights to uncover.
The following are four meaningful moments in a patient journey. As a patient or caregiver, consider how you can reach these with more speed and ease.
1. Getting A Diagnosis
Before a patient can get an accurate diagnosis, they have to find the right care. Pharma marketers who are keenly aware of the specific challenges the consumers of their drug face finding care can develop ways to alleviate them.
Perhaps the person doesn’t have a trusted health care provider or the patient’s particular condition prevents them from keeping an appointment. Pharma can explore ways to use NBA to lower these barriers.
2. Discovering A Treatment That Works
Medical treatments don’t always have a 100% success rate, so when a patient finds a treatment that works, it can literally be lifesaving. People may need to try multiple therapies before finding relief.
Pharma companies can look for ways to use NBA technology to support a patient’s progression to finding a treatment that works. For example, brands could create NBA algorithms that give health care providers personalized market access information for their patients to make getting drugs to patients easier.
They could also use machine learning to recognize that a patient’s journey has been interrupted in some way and proactively offer coupons to help patients cover costs.
3. Feeling Like Part Of A Community
Studies suggest that battling a high level of chronic illness can lead to loneliness. People want to know they’re not alone. Indeed, Maslow’s hierarchy includes belongingness as a psychological need.
This part of the patient journey is an opportunity for pharma to help people feel less isolated. If a drug manufacturer can find ways to understand where patients go online, for example, it can use that data to meet them where they are and offer ways to find connections.
4. Helping Someone Along Their Patient Journey
If you’ve ever cared for another human being, you know how that experience can make you feel helpless at times — or even scared.
Caregivers can benefit from feeling confident in their ability to advocate for a patient. Because pharma understands the patients they serve, the health care providers (HCPs) caring for those patients, and the disease state, they can help patients progress on their journey by connecting them with like-minded caregivers. Drug brands can also facilitate or lead programming to educate caregivers about a condition or the logistical challenges patients might face with insurance.
Pharma can be an advocate for the caregiver.
Expanding Pharma’s Approach To Treatment
A holistic view of the patient experience should run from the first time someone queries symptoms online to when they leave a doctor’s office once treatment is complete. Along that journey, they interact with a range of people and organizations.
While pharma can’t interact with a patient like a doctor can, brands can develop NBA solutions to drive meaningful patient experiences. This kind of digital innovation could present drug manufacturers with a great opportunity to step up for patients.
Begin by defining the audience you want to engage and the channels you believe they prefer. Define a specific content block you will optimize over time by presenting various pieces of content on this page and measuring performance using a KPI like bounce rate. Once the bounce rate is positively impacted by the change you made in the content block, continue to refresh this content, measure performance and optimize it over time. The performance analytics on this content and the content itself can feed your AI model, which can identify ways to present this content dynamically and continue to improve performance over time. This AI-driven optimization and presentation can be done using software from companies like HubSpot or Salesforce.