Driving Change: Engaging Customers To Improve Healthcare Outcomes

Creating change, some would argue, is the essence of marketing. And in the Health and Wellness category, the role of marketing in affecting change goes well beyond a discussion of product differentiation. Healthcare marketing codifies how outcomes can be affected. Efficacy belongs to products but outcomes belong to patients.

Decision-making and decision makers
Communicating benefits with an outcome-oriented mindset is essential to changing the behavior of the healthcare customer -- whether we're talking about a patient, a physician or a payer. How long should someone with diabetes or high cholesterol wait before getting on therapy? Should the physician initiate therapy with the most efficacious drug on the market or the most benign? When is the cost of extending life by four months too much? While there might be evidence to help make these decisions, the answers can be quite subjective. Whether or not pharma companies have the appetite and the risk tolerance required to directly address these questions, they certainly need to engage with and understand the factors that affect these decisions.

Turf wars
If we take a look at a typical journey for a consumer/patient, we see many opportunities to come in contact with a brand and change behavior. The question is when and how. Today customers are in the driver's seat. This means a brand needs to be ready to connect with customers on their turf and be able to drive not only brand preference but behavior change as well. This doesn't change when you're dealing with a patient. In fact, you have even more competition for their time. So how can we insert ourselves organically into a patient's life to fulfill their health and wellness needs and improve outcomes? One way to do this is to create portable branded assets and disseminate them through various points of engagement. The key is to push out content at very critical points that best effect health decisions.

Points of engagement: timing is everything
The first critical point of engagement is Point of Education. This multichannel touch point includes online, on mobile, on air, in print, etc. Content here fosters education and drives consumers/patients to go to their doctor and ask about their health issue. This educational stage can actually begin to turn people from consumers into patients.

Next on the journey is Point of Care: the doctor's office. The idea is to help facilitate the dialogue between the patient and their doctor and ensure they are having the most productive conversation. There are a lot of opportunities to communicate branded and unbranded content with portable assets in the waiting rooms as well as examining rooms. There are also ways to help the doctor's practice, including the nursing and office staff.

Point of Counsel is at the pharmacy. Branded experiences can live throughout the pharmacy in all kinds of channels: displays, kiosks, shelf-talkers, at the register, as well as attached to the prescriptions themselves. There are many ways to reach customers -- even while they are shopping for other goods.

And just as crucial is Point of Compliance: at home. Once patients are diagnosed the job becomes helping them adhere to their treatments. Brands can create value-added support through multiple channels to help ensure that patients are staying on track with their prescribed medicine. In some cases a brand can even provide in-depth behavior modification programs that drive compliance with a daily plan of action.

Not the destination, but the journey
All of these points of engagement are required not only for a brand's success, but also for the most positive outcome for the patient. Done well, each point should drive to the next one. In other words, influencing the next stage in a patient's health journey.

"Market shaping" and "unmet need" are myopic, product-centric terms that misrepresent, if not malign, the task of creating real change. Instead, companies and healthcare brands need to develop clear, usable, and portable communications assets that contextualize outcomes and can be served up to patients and physicians alike at these critical points of engagement in their decision-making journey.

Tags: health
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2 comments about "Driving Change: Engaging Customers To Improve Healthcare Outcomes ".
  1. Kevin K from Anonymous , June 17, 2011 at 1:36 p.m.

    Great article. Puts the "health outcome journey" into perfect perspective. Now if brand marketers would just adhere to the advice.

  2. Cynthia Osborn from Observatory Group , January 22, 2013 at 10:18 p.m.
    I couldn't agree more. My work is at the nexus of the value of information, technology and creating new delivery models for care. We look at what you are describing- the continuum of care, as a service brand made up of the total patient or well person's experience. In wellness for aftercare, patient education, ongoing support and behavioral change is paramount for our healthy well-being. The more we can support these new models, the better off we will be, in my opinion.