At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Accenture released a report about engaging the digital health consumer. The report specifically noted that many of the health-related devices such as activity trackers are great for early adopters and innovators but not ready for the population at large because they're hard to use, hard to set up and hard to read. Eighty-three percent of consumers report they have difficulty using their wearable health devices.
This report taps into the fact that we are at an early stage with this technology and the next phase must be focused on the question of how we make these devices user-friendly and simple, drop dead simple and easy to implement into our daily lives, and meaningful.
helpful paradigm for pharma?
All of this makes me wonder whether this is a helpful paradigm for pharma's next move as they think beyond their product manufacturing roots and consider becoming solutions-based health companies.
Traditionally, pharma's role has been that of B2B product manufacturers. But market dynamics are changing, and adapting to new consumer expectations means reframing pharma as a consumer goods industry, specifically focusing on customer experience.
It's a mindset change, really. Pharma doesn't necessarily need to change its supply and demand chain, because most consumer goods companies work through distribution channels anyhow. But the most successful consumer goods companies are those that develop direct relationships with both their channel partners and their end consumers. They do that by rethinking how consumers use their product - they think about the consumer experience.
Creating a map of the patient journey
A consumer-centric approach starts by looking for experience gaps in the patient journey. Where are the points at which patients wind up doing their own workarounds, or where they ultimately give up on a product? Many people have abandoned their activity trackers after a few months because the devices just didn't work the way they expected. They might have counted steps, but they didn't interpret the data in any meaningful way.
Patients do the same thing when a drug doesn’t work the way they anticipate it to, or if there are unexpected side effects. They give up on it and stop refilling the prescription.
Crossing the gap
These expectation and experience gaps lead to fear and uncertainty in patients and frustration for physicians. The gap begins when a patient gets a new script and doesn’t quite know everything they need to know about it, or they haven't been given the proper expectations.
For example, there could be confusion about a therapy regimen: How often should the product be taken, how many pills, with or without a meal? Questions like these introduce anxiety in patients and the caregivers trying to help them stay on their programs. The combination of these factors increases the potential for a poor patient outcome.
Role of technology
Technology can help fill the experience gaps in a way that's scalable for everyone involved. Technology can provide personal, customized experiences for patients, but designing that technology requires an upfront investment in understanding better the patient experience.
Leaders in creating effective consumer experiences always start by observing, listening and engaging with their customers to discover their unmet needs, then building new processes and technologies to meet those needs and fulfill expectations. For pharma and the healthcare industry, the process is no different.
Pharma companies looking to shift to providing a better consumer (patient) experience must first start with understanding the consumer and patient journey. And that requires building a different set of marketing muscles and engaging with a different type of agency partner than the industry is accustomed.