Are you giving patients what they want?

Today, more than ever before, patients are informed and driven consumers. Their involvement with their health has never been greater and so are their expectations. Sure, the most fundamental aspect of a pharma brand is providing a safe and reliable treatment. But what else are you doing to keep your customers satisfied?

A recent study by Accenture of 2,000 US patients had some remarkable findings:

  • 76% of patients expressed that pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to provide information and support that will enable them to better manage their health.
  • The vast majority of patients surveyed (74%) acknowledged that this type of support should be initiated when they are about to start a treatment
  • 64% of patients reported that they would be willing to provide information on their own health in order to qualify for support services.

The demand for information and support is real. It’s not only about meeting patient expectations, but it can be an essential factor in making sure your brand is competitive.

The types of support that you can bolster your brand with are vast. From disease and product information, to adherence tools, to phone, online or in-home access to practitioners, to lifestyle coaching, to financial assistance and rewards programs, the ways of supporting patients and their families are seemingly endless.

With so many options, and often, limited budget, where is the best way to start? In addition to surveying the competitive landscape, it is essential to go to the source. Ask patients, family members and their practitioners what types of assistance they need the most. Understand their perspective and why they value the types of support they desire.

Once you understand the patient and practitioner perspective, take a look at your brand. What makes the most sense to offer? What is most likely to drive compliance and build brand loyalty? What makes the most sense for both your customers and the long-term success of your brand?

When you offer information and support, it is imperative to package it within your brand (product, service or corporate). It should be clear to the customer that the support you are providing is from you and not one of your competitors or a third party. Also be sensitive to what the right channels are to convey information. For example, older patient populations may not be as plugged in to technology as younger audiences. Frequency of communication is also something that should be weighed. Too frequent and you run the risk of being an irritant. Too seldom and you don’t command the attention you are looking for. The right balance? Best to ask your audience.

When building out information and support programs, not everything needs to be launched simultaneously. It’s beneficial to have enough resources that the support seems comprehensive. Establish a platform that you can continually add to.

Patient information and support, especially for chronic diseases and treatments, is a long-term commitment. Your support program should be durable and be able to encompass what you want to offer today and what you might like to offer tomorrow. Consistency is key. In order to get the value from your support program and reinforce brand loyalty, you must demonstrate value on an ongoing basis. Formats and channels can change, but the customer must feel the brand’s presence in their life in a positive manner.

One of the best ways to keep things fresh is by seeking customer input and feedback. Be sure to take a temperature check on an annual basis. See what patients are responding to. What’s working well? What’s not? What should evolve? What opportunities could be acted upon? Whether through an advisory board or even a simple online survey, keep brand champions close to the process and use their guidance as an overlay to your overall brand plan.

The opportunity is for pharmaceutical and medical device companies to lead the way when it comes to patient support. As the healthcare market continues to shift and evolve, one thing remains clear. Patients are empowered customers with lots of options. It’s time to support your brand with branded support for your customers.

by Jonathan D. Katz