Nowadays with increasing penetration of the internet in the day to day life patients have access to more information than ever before. Patients rely more on the information provided over the internet. As soon as the first symptom of sickness appears most of the people start searching “Dr Google”. The usual workflow of visiting a doctor when you are sick is interrupted by searching the symptoms on the internet and self-diagnosing the illness.
Let's take an example, A 30-year-old female had a complaint of a headache for the last 7 days. She ignored the symptom initially, start looking for the symptoms online and self-diagnosed her condition as a migraine. She went to the doctor after two weeks and start explaining her diagnosis without listening to the doctor. She even asked for prednisone, dexamethasone medication. As it goes in most of the cases the medical diagnosis by the doctor was a stress headache and medication was prescribed as per the diagnosis. The patient is now fully recovered and is leading a healthy life.
The above example is faced by most of the practising physicians when the patients visit the doctor’s clinic with self-diagnosis of their sign and symptoms.
“According to official Google blog, one in 20 Google searches are for health-related information.”
Today's patients are better informed and more involved in their care plan. They are constantly looking for information via online and offline media. Keeping these information-seeking patients within their care plan is a challenge not only for the medical staff but also for the pharmaceutical companies. The traditional approach of marketing and sales with the use of mass media driven huge salesforce is falling short to achieve the desired goal for the pharma business.
A patient-centric approach to pharma marketing is the need of an hour:
The traditional approach of marketing by pharma companies is linear starting with market research for understanding the consumer base to develop sales funnel. These sales funnel acts as a guiding path for the sales team to achieve the sales target. The sales funnel starts with creating product awareness to the final purchase of the product. The approach looks pretty simple, RIGHT?
It might have been true before the internet boom but in the present scenario, the sales funnel is influenced by the Consumer Buyer's Journey or in this case Patient Buyer's Journey.
The goal of all sales and marketing activities is to reach to the consumers and influence their buying decision in favour of one's product. The touch points are defined as where the consumers are interacting with your company and its products. The consumer touch points were easy to depict by sales funnel in earlier times but with a plethora of easily accessible information and a wide variety of choices available to the consumers, the decision-making process has become much more complicated and complexed. The Consumer decision journey plays an important role in influencing the final decision of purchase. Pharma companies can get better insight into patients buying behaviour by leveraging patient’s decision journey.
A Mckinsey Report, have identified five stages of patients care journey namely, 1) Pre-diagnosis information gathering, 2) Treatment evaluation, 3) Treatment experience, 4) Seeking a second opinion and 5) Treatment follow-up.
The decision of seeking treatment is a complex process. Patients look out for information online, talk to their family doctor, take the second opinion from multiple sources, talk to their friends and family before coming to a conclusion of starting the treatment.
Even after starting the treatment many studies have identified that medication adherence varies significantly due to various factors. A report states that 1 in 7 people don't fill their prescriptions because they cost too much. Other research published in the Pharmaceutical Journal- “Refill compliance rates: evidence for use as an outcome measure in practice-based research” has identified that medication adherence differs between different classes of medicine. The study highlighted that non- compliance was higher for musculoskeletal and respiratory medication as compared to cardiovascular medicine. The same report also concludes that pharmaceutical intervention shows higher compliance with medication adherence.
It is high time that pharma companies should start connecting with patients at a more individual level by leveraging care flow pathways with the use of healthcare technology.
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