Let’s say that your company provides innovative medicines or medical devices to patients. Maybe you work for a biotech, a medical device company, or big pharma. You know you could be making better use of information technology to engage patients. But, where should you start? What should you consider?
Start by answering the most fundamental question: “Why are we trying to engage patients? What is the need I am trying to serve?” For example, is your most fundamental objective to
- Help patients persist on therapy and ensure proper adoption of your medicine or medical device?
- Solicit patient feedback about your products or services?
- Build an emotional connection to your brand and cultivate loyalty?
- Conduct informal patient research to learn more about the disease state and how patients are impacted by the condition or the therapy?
Make sure you’ve identified a long-term, strategic need that will be the foundation of your relationship. Over time your offerings to the patient can expand, but you have to start with an enduring reason for patients to invest their scarce time and emotional connection with you.
Next, you need to think about how you will engage with patients. Surprisingly, the most critical aspects are not related to the technology. Here are a few areas where you need strategic clarity before you start developing technology.
- Your digital persona needs to be consistent with your overall brand and strategy. Too often, external agencies over-engineer the digital interface, with little regard for what will truly resonate positively with patient preferences. Engaging and understanding your audience, and gathering impactful data that represents your patient base is critical to building a user experience that resonates with your patients and reinforces your overall brand.
- Engagement requires two-way interaction. Patients want rapid response and lag time is unacceptable. You will need to respond quickly to content, and have a steady stream of new content available – whether created by you or your patient community. This also means resourcing your digital engagement strategy with moderators – these can be people from within your company, from your agency, or part-timers that you hire from within your patient community.
- When, where and how will your patients engage with you? Whenever, wherever, and however they want! This means that you need a multi-channel engagement model, including web, mobile, and physical (e.g., mailings or magazine placements, customer contact center, etc.) Fortunately, the technology to do this is widely available.
- Do you even need to “own” the digital engagement channel? There are many patient advocacy groups, disease state web sites, and other thriving digital communities that may already engage your patients. Can you achieve your long-term strategic objectives by leveraging pre-existing digital channels and patient habits? Perhaps you can immediately access a critical mass of patients engaging on the channel, however you may not have the same level of control over your content & digital persona. Clarity about your fundamental objectives will help you evaluate the importance of owning the digital engagement channel.
Engaging patients in the 21st century can make a meaningful impact on patient health, on the understanding of disease, and on patient affinity with your product or brand. With strategic clarity about the needs of your patients and your objective for digital engagement, the technology can stay in its rightful place, as an enabler of your business.
Chas Hartwig | Strategic Account Executive | TayganPoint Consulting Group | firstname.lastname@example.org | @chashartwig
Robert Masnik | Senior Consultant | | TayganPoint Consulting Group | email@example.com