What is a stakeholder? It’s not someone who eats beef sans utensils. Stakeholders are simply people with a vested interest in a particular outcome. A stakeholder could be a basketball coach who has an interest in making it to the Final Four, or the owner of a local coffee shop who hopes that Starbucks doesn’t take over that empty store across the street.
The healthcare space has many stakeholders as well. They include patients, doctors, nurses, caregivers, and payers. All of them are out “in the field,” and hold a stake in how medicine is practiced. Further participants in the marketplace are pharmaceutical sales representatives and account managers, who visit the other stakeholders as their customers.
All healthcare stakeholders have one thing in common.
All these healthcare stakeholders are, in the end, consumers—they just consume information differently from one another. Any of these stakeholders might shop at Whole Foods, bank at Citi, drive an Audi, or buy books from Barnes & Noble.
Outside of healthcare, there can be similarity in brand affinity and in media and content consumed. But within healthcare, a person’s role can dictate the way they consume information.
Patients, for example, consume user-friendly content in many formats, including mobile, online, in-office, outdoor, and so on. But more important than the media channel is the style of the content. When a message is more colloquial and conversational, it’s more likely to be consumed. Patients begin as general consumers of content, but as their condition or disease progresses, they become specialists in medicine. They need to know everything they can about their health so they can make educated decisions about their treatment options. Patients also seek others who are experiencing the same kind of pain. Virtual and real-world communities have been truly supportive and meaningful to patients.
Doctors, interestingly, are closer to typical consumers when they aren’t on call. But when they are practicing medicine, they consume highly scientific and data-driven information—in other words, content that they have been trained to understand and that deems them worthy of making a diagnosis as well as a treatment plan.
They also tend to be channel-agnostic. They like mobile devices, iPads, the Internet, and medical journals, and are even open to content that is presented to them via the sales rep. What’s fascinating is the sharing of content via physician social networks and through KOLs (key opinion leaders) in their respective specialties. They use these networking opportunities as a way to vet their hypotheses and diagnoses. They also seek to legitimize their points of view with their peers.
Nurses, like doctors, have off-duty consumption habits similar to the average person. However, when they are taking care of a patient, their content habits are a hybrid of high science and patient-friendly bedside manner. Nurses consume a great deal of content online (such as e-patient records) and in-office, especially when they are on call. The challenge is that nursing is a true blend of rational and emotional care, which places not one emphasis on content but two—science and care.
Caregivers are just like patients, except they aren’t suffering from an illness—they’re living with it. When they consume information, they consume it with empathy and in search of other folks who can help them better understand the living and coping with disease aspect. They like the support of both online and in-person communities. As time progresses, they also begin to consume more scientific information that is typically written in layman’s terms so that they can help their loved ones make more educated health choices.
Payers are consuming pricing strategies and understanding how and where they can pay for the drugs that patients need. Their consumption habits are incredibly data-driven and analytical. They spend significant time online and, like physicians, are often visited by sales reps who sell them access strategies with the increasing use of iPads.
Sales representatives are a different breed. They consume content like a consumer but sell content as a business. They find ways to present content to help make their business or brand grow. Their content is tailored for not only a sales call but for the customer at the end of the call.
In a world where content is king, we need to ensure that it’s emotionally charged so that it grabs people’s attention, is relevant, and educates as well as drives action, because content is meant to drive behavior change.
So, how do we grab the attention of so many stakeholders?
First, we must walk in the shoes of our customer—whether they are a doctor, a patient, a nurse, a caregiver, a payer, or a sales rep—to better understand their daily journey and how our content and brand can fit into it. This window of empathy helps us understand our targets and their inflection points, and it also helps to create engaging and meaningful content that connects with each of them as consumers.
Content and channel need to converge at the right inflection points.
Say you have compelling information to share about the launch of a new pharmaceutical drug, and it must be distributed across all of the stakeholders we have mentioned. Our philosophy is to think of three components:
Assets may include clinical trial results, efficacy charts, mechanism-of-action videos, timelines of patient responses, patient types, and the prescribing information. Other assets are non-clinical: information about formulary status, or a co-pay card offer. These assets then need to be allocated across the channels that reach each of the stakeholders.
Making sure your assets reach your stakeholders.
Sources like Kantar Health provide surveys across physician specialties of the information channels that doctors find most valuable. Professional associations, peer interactions, and journals (print and online) rate near the top. For patients and caregivers, trusted consumer-friendly medical portals are highly valuable, as are online communities where one can connect with other consumers suffering from a similar condition. Interestingly, as the therapeutic category gets more chronic and serious, the channels may change. In oncology, there are patient advocacy groups that are channels for relaying news, and patients and caregivers may search among online medical journals as well in their search for the latest information.
Sales representatives and account managers need to stay aware of the conferences and the clinical reprints, in addition to the iPad-based detailing materials their company provides.
Finally, do not forget the drivers that get all of these stakeholders to the appropriate message. This is where walking in the customer’s shoes is essential. Is it with search engines like Google? Portals like Medscape? From a professional website like ASCO? Or social communities like iVillage or Sermo? Reaching the proper audience at the start of their information search will ensure that each stakeholder is directed to the right place.