I recently read an article on the The Atlantic’s Health channel referencing a study on social media use among new parents. The study found that not only were new moms using facebook more after giving birth, but also that moms that increased their facebook use the most also tended to be the most stressed. Ignoring facebook-related stress (admittedly its hard to control for variance in annoyingness of facebook friends), the study implies that new parents seek out support from their friends and family through social media during the stressful period of parenting a new-born.
The article got me thinking about how, as pharma marketers, we can provide real support and value to patients through the digital channel. In thinking about the needs of patients living with chronic conditions like MS, RA, and cancer, the need for support is a topic that comes up frequently. Patients who’ve been recently diagnosed with a medical condition feel constant stress, anxiety, and uncertainty about their wellbeing – and they have the same need for support as the stressed out mom’s in the study, whether it be encouragement, resources, tools, or tips on things that have helped others who’ve lived through a similar experience. But frequently, pharma branded and unbranded initiatives (particularly websites) tend to miss the mark when it comes to delivering on this expressed need for support.
Although social media offers a vast range of different ways for patients to seek out support, I don’t want to wade into those waters in this post… Instead, I want to share two points of consideration for creating digital assets that go beyond product info and provide real value and support to patients:
1. It’s about you, not me: Being respectful of the patient journey
Yes it’s the product website, but it’s about the patient. Many pharma sites focus solely on acquisition through information–lots of not-always-intuitively organized information. While patients certainly want to know about the product, its side effects, etc. they are also interested in what their whole treatment experience will be like. What barriers are they likely to encounter and how will they be supported in overcoming those barriers? If you have support resources, showcase them–individuals that are considering treatment will factor them into their decision.
Expanding on the concept of barriers, it is absolutely essential to keep in mind that patients progress from symptom detection, through diagnosis, to treatment and beyond at different rates and through different pathways. Having a solid understanding of the various stages of the patient journey, the barriers faced at each stage and the needs that these barriers create is crucial to architecting an online experience that helps patients feel supported in their current stage in the journey and confident to move on to the next one.
2. Provide useful tools and resources
Having identified the barriers faced by patients and the resultant informational and emotional needs, we can consider how our proposed solution meets each patient need. To use the example of the frequently-used doctor discussion guide, it’s not always clear whether the intention is to educate the patient through an informed discussion with her doctor or to influence the physician to prescribe a specific product, or for some other unspecified reason.
The product and/or unbranded websites (aka the place where these discussion guides are located) should contain the answer to these questions. And if we’ve identified this information as being a key patient need, maybe the questions are answered through a video featuring a real HCP or through an interactive chart to ensure proper understanding of the content rather than text on a page. Again, the need should determine the tool or resource we choose to create and use of the tool/resource should help patients move past their barriers. A patient that knows the answer to the question above is going to have a more informed conversation with her HCP about treatment than one who doesn’t.
So if ensuring that patients get the answer to the question above isn’t the reason it appears on the discussion guide, then why is it there? And how does it help to support a patient need? If the answer to that question is ever unclear, chances are that it doesn’t.
How do you ensure that your digital tools help support real patient needs? Do you use analytics, surveys, educated guesses, or blind luck?