Increasing patient engagement with pharmaceutical marketing

Pharmaceutical advertisements often start out the same way. The music starts to play. The person with some condition steps out into the sunlight. He or she may walk through a field. What you most likely won't see is a patient managing his or her disease. Readers and viewers will have to read the fine print and listen to the narrator to fully understand the commercial. However, by taking a patient-centric approach that appeals to these people as consumers as well, pharmaceutical companies can increase patient education and engagement through their marketing.

Ads may help meet meaningful use criteria
Since former United States President George W. Bush initiated the use of health information technology in patient care in 2004, the medical industry has been working toward improving health care services. Along with pushing for the interoperability of electronic health record software, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' meaningful use program encourages patient engagement through the technology. While the process is on-going, meeting the criteria has proven difficult for some health care providers.

"70% of doctors felt that pharmaceutical ads helped with patient education."

In Stage 2 of the program, hospitals and doctors' practices must have 5 percent of their patients use online portals to access their health records and communicate with their primary care physicians. That number jumps to 25 percent with the proposed Stage 3, which may form barriers for some doctors, Fierce Health IT claimed.

However, pharmaceutical companies can help their colleagues reach those numbers. Direct-to-consumer advertising creates a simple way for patients to get involved in their health care. According to a report from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, this marketing strategy helps patients have more thoughtful and informed discussions with their primary care physicians. One-fourth of people sought out more information about medications after seeing ads for them in the media. This may encourage them to interact with their patient portals, either by talking to their doctors or posting on online forums, to gain more knowledge. Approximately 70 percent of health care providers felt that pharmaceutical ads helped with patient education and 67 percent said that because of the ads, they had better conversations with their patients.

Patient-centric approach needed to increase engagement
This opens up new possibilities for both pharmaceutical companies and health care providers to reach their goals. Direct-to-consumer marketing can get people interested in potential treatments, which they will then turn around and ask their doctors about, increasing engagement on all fronts.

However, pharma companies will need to know how to fully reach their audiences. The same strategy won't work for different types of medications. Marketing solutions need to consider who their target patients are and how best to reach them. Patient-centricity is the key to success.

While treatments are designed with patients in mind, they aren't marketed to patients as consumers, PMLive explained. Pharma representatives need to know how people manage their conditions, how they affect their everyday lives and how they would use the medication. Some companies, such as Sanofi, have created positions, like the chief patient officer, to ensure this understanding is gained.

"It is really about understanding how they use products and in what context," Pascale Witz, Sanofi's executive vice president for global divisions and strategic development, told the source. "This is important because you can't understand what is driving adherence and compliance to the treatment if you don't really understand what counts for the person as an individual - and what may work for you may not work for me. Therefore, it's important to see these things through the eyes of the patient, gather all these inputs, but then do something about it by bringing them back into the solutions that we design."

Not all patients are created equal. Pharma companies need ads that appeal to a diverse group.Not all patients are created equal. Pharma companies need a variety of ads that appeal to a diverse group.

Online strategies can help pharmaceutical companies gain insight into how to alter their marketing solutions to better appeal to consumers. Social media and forums allow patients, doctors and pharma representatives to interact with one another in a way that they hadn't been able to in the past, PMLive claimed. People are placed in direct contact with one another and are able to ask whoever they want whatever questions they need the answers to. This allows pharma companies to increase their knowledge about how people handle their health conditions and how they can ease that process.

When pharmaceutical employees and medical professionals work together, they can increase patient engagement in their own health care. Pharma marketing improves health literacy and encourages people to share in the decision-making with their doctors.