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Home | Newsletter | UPDATE 3 | 2018 | Optimizing digital support for patients
October 24, 2018

Optimizing digital support for patients Life Sciences & Healthcare patient information and treatment decision support

The past years have brought massive changes to the way in which patients obtain information and make decisions. Patients are better informed than they have ever been. These new habits offer significant opportunities to life sciences and healthcare companies that can develop and implement a patient-oriented customer journey.

 

The term “customer journey” refers to deliberate, targeted support and control offered to the customer – or, in this case, patient – at all touchpoints with a brand, product or service. Its purpose is to provide the patient with optimal help and assistance in obtaining the right information and making a decision. This increases customer loyalty, strengthen your brand values and, ultimately, boosts your sales.

Patients are no longer content to rely on a recommendation from their treating physician alone. They intensively research potential causes and treatment methods, including available medicine, on their own. This change in customer behavior is the product of increased health consciousness among the general public and the greater availability of accessible information online. Digitalization allows patients to satisfy their desire for greater involvement in their own healthcare concerns, rather than relying solely on the knowledge of their treating physician.

Life sciences and healthcare must respond to these developments by giving patients and their relatives the information they need and helping them make informed decisions. Some companies in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries have recognized this demand and set out to establish additional, digital touchpoints for their products.

Patients | Digital information and decision support - Digital Boost for Life Sciences

 

Digital patient support — Stages of the information and decision-making process

Our experience has shown that industry players often struggle to meet their patients’ needs at the individual stages of the information and decision-making process and realize its full potential. Companies that wish to recognize and leverage these touchpoints fully must know and understand the process from the patients’ point of view. This process can be subdivided into four essential stages:

Recognition of the problem: The patient notices a discrepancy between their actual state of health and their desired state of health. At the recognition stage, there are various ways in which companies can support their patients digitally: websites detailing conditions and their symptoms, digital blogs for exchanging information, an in-depth telemedical analysis with a qualified physician, introductory measures (online campaigns, search engine marketing, etc.) or online counselling tools.

Patients | Digital information and decision support

 

Information-gathering: The patient researches their condition using information that is publicly available or provided to them by specialists. While the previous phase focused primarily on obtaining general insights and narrowing down options, the second phase brings about a desire for specific information about the patient’s preferred therapy options. Besides experience reports, digital seminars and public lectures can be helpful. The latter, in particular, offers genuine value to both the patient and their relatives.

Assessment and decision-making: The patient selects a treatment method that will have the best possible impact on their health in their and their physician’s view, having considered all risks involved. In most cases, this decision is still made in close consultation with the treating physician. Patients should be given an effortless way to contact relevant experts during the information-gathering phase, so that they can be consulted for a second opinion during the decision-making phase.

Usage: The patient completes the selected course of treatment, and it becomes clear whether or not it has been successful. During this stage, companies can remain in contact with the patient and collect data about the success of the treatment. Useful tools include mobile applications that allow the patient to record current information and changes about the state of their health and share them with their physician or the manufacturer. This stage also brings opportunities to deepen customer loyalty. The manufacturer can express empathy with the patient’s condition, send congratulations for successes and important milestones, or involve the patient in the development of experience reports.

Making digital package inserts available to patients is another option. Besides conventional success stories in a written format, industry players could set up a video platform to show other affected patients and their relatives how to live a fulfilling life despite their condition. These videos could contain recommendations or ‘insider tips’ from real-life patients on improving one’s well-being. Any such measure requires a detailed analysis of and compliance with national regulations.


Patient Journey Milestones

Digital patient support - Practical implementation

How can these phases be implemented in a way that offers patients the best possible customer journey? Past project experience has shown that patients must be able to switch between digital and non-digital touchpoints smoothly at any stage of the information and decision-making process.

The following steps have proven effective in developing and implementing the customer journey during past Projects:

  1. An analysis of the target group ‘patient’ to obtain clear insight into their needs and the ways in which they use the products in question
  2. Planning of digital touchpoints based on the patient Analysis:
    a. Possibilities of horizontal and vertical changes in marketing channel should be taken into consideration during the planning stage.
    b. Changes between online and offline channels should be possible without barriers.
  3. Establishment of goals and corresponding indicators for each touchpoint
  4. Implementation

Companies need to understand their target group in great depth to develop and implement a needs-based, digital customer journey. Our experience has taught us that this inevitably requires developing personas. Personas are representational models of the members of a target group. With extensive descriptions of the target group’s characteristics, they can help companies step into their potential customers’ shoes and identify measures that will generate value for them.

Analyzing the online behavior of the target group is an important aspect of this process. Which terms to patients enter into search engines when looking for relevant information about specific conditions? Which websites do they normally use for research, which do they browse in everyday life? Of course, this is just a small selection of possible digital questions that should be asked during the patient analysis.

Once you have identified the digital habits of your target groups and the needs they seek to address online, you can determine relevant digital touchpoints. As a next step, define measurable goals for these touchpoints.

This important measure allows you to assess the usefulness of the digital measures and optimize them accordingly. To carry out an assessment, relevant indicators must be determined in advance. This provides an insight into the degree to which the corresponding goals have been achieved. The following example illustrates this more accessibly: A patient reaches a website that describes a specific health condition. This website could have the specific goal of persuading 5 per cent of visitors to book a consultation with a specialist. In this case, the number of website visitors compared to the number of inquiries sent to a specialist would be a suitable indicator.

Patients | Digital information and decision support - Patient Journey Steps

Companies in the life sciences and healthcare industry have no choice but to regard patients as a relevant target group if they want to reach general business targets, such as increased customer loyalty, conveyance of brand values and higher revenue. ARCONDIS has long-standing industry experience and the necessary digital expertise to help you develop an needs-based customer journey for patients or other target groups.

Do not hesitate to get in touch!

Patrick Stallmach


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