Healthcare brand marketers today receive the charge to be mindful of the “patient journey.” Like “patient centricity,” “patient journey” is at risk of becoming another meaningless buzz word, bandied about in the hopes of establishing credibility.
But savvy marketers know that the patient journey is real and is a legitimate, compelling concern for healthcare professionals (HCPs) whose work is now heavily scrutinized for processes and results. And because of this emphasis, the patient journey should be an integral part of the healthcare exhibit.
What constitutes the patient journey?
Like any other construct that overlaps science and marketing, the patient journey is open to a variety of mappings. A conventional approach is the linear one:
- The patient becomes aware of and recognizes symptoms.
- The patient seeks medical attention and receives a diagnosis.
- The HCP reviews treatment options with the patient.
- Together the patient and the HCP review brand selection and brand accessibility.
- The patient and the HCP arrive at a program of adherence, awareness of therapeutic conditions, and new options for treatment.
Bringing the patient journey to the healthcare exhibit
Assuming that this linear model is accepted by most HCPs attending medical meetings and is at least as valid as other interpretations of the journey, healthcare marketers charged with trade show exhibit programs must find ways to bring this progression into the experience provided for HCPs. Here are some effective ways to do this:
- Data has always played an important role in the healthcare exhibit, but how often has the data been connected to patients and the way they behave? Within the exhibit, marketers have a chance to go beyond data and make it personal and relevant.
- New therapies and new mechanisms of action (MOAs) are critical to outlining treatment options to HCPs. Whether the exhibit is non-promotional and/or focused on the therapeutic area or is a promotional, product-specific, exhibit staff should include scientists who can explain to HCPs the way new therapies work and how to build compliance within the patient population.
- The reasons patients make decisions about their health should be clearly explored in the exhibit. Programs supporting the therapies and materials that help patients make choices should be accessible to HCPs visiting the exhibit.
Involving the patient in the process
As patients become increasingly involved in their own treatment, the educational level of materials needs to be assessed. There is a wide gap between educated, collaborative patients and those who lack medical and scientific literacy.
According to the JAMA Internal Medicine [May, 2013], “Despite good intentions many patient educational materials are too difficult for patients and their families to grasp. The average reading level of groups ranging from the American Society of Anesthesiologists to the American Psychiatric Association fell anywhere from 9th grade to the sophomore year of college.” That’s far above the 4th to 6th grade level recommended by the AMA and by several U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services.
Adherence demands patient centricity
JAMA includes several perspectives on the doctor-informed patient dynamic that provide broad talking points. These perspectives show that context beyond statistics is necessary if the healthcare industry is going to be able to make sense of what constitutes valuable care, how much of a long view is necessary to assess value, and where the patient stands in what is purportedly a dynamic in which patient say-so is a given part of medical care.
Adherence demands patient-accessible materials, and exhibits need to be patient centered rather than product centered. There is a direct correlation between the length of content and users disconnecting from the content. Images and call-outs strategically placed bring people into the content and invite them on the journey.
In the words of the late C. Everett Koop, M.D., “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.”
Connecting HCPs to the patient journey helps brand preference and in the end, is a major contribution to increased revenue.