Digital “touch points” have quickly become an inherent part of how consumers engage with brands. In the last 10 years alone, industries such as retail and entertainment have rapidly evolved the online experience by not only showing consumers what they want or need, but highlighting “recommendations” based on previous searches and even friends’ behavior – be it a book in the same genre or a scarf someone in your network looked at purchasing. The idea of leveraging data to better meet customer needs has paid off in a big way in many industries. So what does this movement mean for healthcare and life sciences, which has historically been constrained from creating similar consumer experiences?
First, because it’s probably on your mind, let’s hit on electronic medical records (EMR) quickly -- there is a lot of talk about EMRs and for good reason. With the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in March 2010, the drive toward digitizing data in healthcare was given a big push. In its early stages, this new law created a boost of momentum for healthcare providers (HCPs) to adopt and implement EMR or electronic health records (EHR). With EMR/EHR, and the government’s support, health information technology practices are becoming standardized to reduce errors and lower costs by decreasing paperwork and administrative redundancies. The payoff of compiling patient data across networks, plans and HCPs offers many advantages to improving patient care by making it easier to have access to important patient information and insight on treatment history in a collaborative, secure and confidential way.
But how does this significant step translate throughout the ecosystem of HCP’s, patients and healthcare brands? As the momentum continues to build in digitizing health information, there are even greater opportunities to improve the healthcare industry by creating efficiencies and more transparency at every step. Without stepping too far into the complex healthcare manufacturing chain, let’s look at how consumers and HCPs are staying informed of the treatment options available to them today and how the digital medium fits into the equation.
Today, customers are more informed, and far more empowered than they used to be, requiring healthcare brands to be far more relevant when messaging about treatment options. For example, when was the last time you “called the doctor” before searching online? These days, it’s common for someone to first go to Google or WebMD to search for content relating to a symptom before picking up the phone to talk to a doctor or nurse practitioner. In fact, 80% of U.S. Internet users claim to have used the web to search for health-related content, 63% of which were doing so to look up a specific disease or medical problem. This behavior has prompted healthcare product manufacturers (i.e., the pharmaceutical industry) to create branded and unbranded online experiences, social media channels and create more digital dialogue with consumers to make their products known.
The power of digital technology goes far beyond electronic health records to evolve the industry to create a new standard in marketing in order to keep HCPs informed of the latest treatment options. With the limited access healthcare brands have to HCPs today, marketers across the pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology spectrum are clamoring for a way to deliver treatment options to improve patient outcomes. It’s simple: the more an HCP is educated about a brand, the more knowledge they have to make educated decisions about what to prescribe, when to prescribe it and for which patients.
Over the last few years, technology providers have begun to offer solutions that leverage data to improve the way drug companies communicate with HCPs and encourage transparency through to consumers. Technology has a significant role to play in helping marketers and their service providers collaborate to make informed decisions.
Digital technology offers a realm of possibilities to improve the quality of care available. Ultimately, when EMR / EHR solutions are more widespread, we will certainly see efficiencies. But, that is only the beginning of the benefits insightful electronic data can offer – especially when you consider what is being done today. I predict leapfrog innovation in how HCPs, consumers and brands all engage several times over the next 10 years. As a healthcare or life science brand, it’s not a question of if you interject yourself in this new consumer-centric healthcare ecosystem but rather how you define and implement your digital strategy to keep up in this wake of change.