The Path to Patient Centricity: Part I

By Regina Shanklin

Learn more from Regina Shanklin on how seeing things from the patient’s point-of-view will help you meet them where they are and increase the relevance of your brand communications

There are four key steps to ensuring that your brand is patient-centric. If you integrate these four points into your marketing efforts, information about your brand will become more relevant, actionable and drive more patient engagement. The first step is meeting patients where they are in their journey.

  1. Meet patients where they are:

This is, by far, the most important thing that must be done to improve patient centricity. To gain a thorough understanding of this you need to consider three key elements:

  • Where they are in the patient journey
  • Their emotional state
  • Life issues they must overcome

Where they are in the patient journey: Patient journeys are a hot topic in healthcare. A key fallacy is that they are not always done from a patient’s point of view. They tend to only have information about how the patient got on the brand and interacts with the brand. It usually does not include the steps it took for the patient to get to diagnosed not to mention get on the Rx. Being too skimpy on pre-diagnosis could mean missed opportunity to engage with the patient sooner to move them along the process quicker to get on therapy. You should understand when they first noticed something was wrong, what they did, what resources they used and how satisfied were they with these resources? Search for the symptoms, talk to friends of the patient and test-diagnose yourself through a healthcare website.

Understanding this could lead to new areas of engagement with the patient, helping them along the path to diagnoses, and eventually your brand, quicker. Engaging with the patient doesn’t always mean sending a brand message. It could mean leveraging an advocacy group to reach them or disease state information that will eventually lead to your brand. Sending a branded message too early may be off-putting and ineffective.

It is equally important to understand the steps a patient takes post-diagnosis, even while waiting for the results. Steps frequently missed are those that do not include the brand or HCP. This will include patient’s own investigating to verify additional information that was not presented to them or alternative options to what was presented to them. This becomes an example of a more informed patient who is in charge of their health and values additional opinions and options.

The post-diagnosis patient journey should also include getting the patient to a “steady state”, including being compliant and persistent on therapy. Identify what steps in this journey are causing patients to drop off therapy or not utilize it as directed. There could be resources you can employ to ensure retention.

Patient’s Emotional State: The emotional state of the patient at any point in the journey must be incorporated into the patient journey and overall communications. This will help the brand be viewed as an empathetic and more understanding resource. Answer the following questions about your patient:

  • Are they in denial? This could be true for dreaded diseases like HIV or cancer. How can the brand move them out of this emotional state quicker to make sure they get the treatment they need to save their lives?
  • Are they angry? The brand needs to plan the best way to move them past this so that they can effectively deal with their situation.
  • Have they accepted their condition and how they need to live for the best outcomes? This patient is looking for tips to stay on track in their therapy, which can include branded messages.

Acknowledging Life Issues: The brand may not be able to address these issues through a product, but you can be more relevant by acknowledging the issues and providing a list of resources that can help.

Lack of support system: For instance, a patient may not have a caregiver to lean on. What resources are available to help? Consider resources that are available locally as well as those from national organizations. Similarly, a patient’s family may not be supportive of dietary changes that need to happen for the patient, such as a low-sodium or diabetic friendly diet. Being more realistic with what patients are actually dealing with will go a long way in advancing patient centricity.

Financial stability: There could also be issues affording the treatment that need to be addressed. Most pharma companies are effective at helping patients navigate reimbursement on more expensive Rx therapies. However, when a patient is in a situation of just failing to meet the criteria for assistance, little help is given. Even if the brand cannot help, they can refer patients to potential resources that may be able to provide assistance.

Really going deep and seeing things from the patient’s point-of-view will help you meet them where they are and increase the relevance of your brand communications. Being more relevant means that a patient can better relate to the information being provided and that the information is actually useful to them. This will lead to patients finding your brand to be more valuable, which should lead to higher acquisition and retention.

Take the next step on the path to patient centricity in Part II of this series, “Be Understandable.”


About the Author: Regina is a marketing strategy consultant specializing in marketing strategy in the Healthcare industry. Her clients range from pharmaceutical/biotech and healthcare non-profits. She has helped clients enhance the strategic skills of their marketing, develop business cases to enter new markets, and develop new synergistic products and services that significantly increased revenues. Prior to becoming an independent consultant, Regina worked for Sanofi as the Senior Director of Marketing for the Plavix, Lantus and Avapro brands. In these leadership roles, her experience spanned consumer/patient marketing and professional marketing. In addition to being a well-rounded marketing leader, Regina has a specialty in patient engagement. Regina has experience spanning marketing, finance, operations and, combined with her engineering background, has helped her bring a fresh perspective on solving business problems. Regina received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management of Northwestern University.

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