Customer Experience: Consistency is key

Recently, I heard a radio ad as I was driving to work about the “spa-like” patient experience of getting a mammogram at my local hospital system. While it sounds like an over-promise, having been a patient there, I can tell you it is not.

My experience at the mammography center started with a warm greeting by a friendly receptionist. I was then whisked away into a spa-like changing room, complete with honey colored wood lockers, thick terry robes and ethereal music floating in the background. The scent of eucalyptus hung in the air. To top it all off, I got a pretty faux-pearl bracelet commemorating breast health awareness month.

But rather than float happily away, I was mad.

My experience with the very same hospital system earlier in the day couldn’t have been more different, in a negative way. I thought, if this hospital system can even make a mammogram pleasant, why was the earlier pediatric appointment for my daughter so maddening? For that appointment, I entered what looked like beige food court in a mall, little booths for each pediatric specialty ringing the room, each manned by a booth lady. Threatening signs dotted the walls cautioning against letting your children bounce on the furniture.

I approached a booth. When I simply inquired whether my daughter’s appointment was for 3 pm or for 2:45 I was told, “I don’t know when your appointment is for, just sit and wait for the doctor.”

Yes, this was the same health system.

The negative pediatric experience overshadowed any good will that surely would have blossomed from the spa-like mammogram. And this is where most patient/consumer experiences fall short: consistency. No one had bothered to think thru the entirety of the journey a patient may have in the health care system. In my case, playing different roles: parent, patient and parental caregiver.

A study by McKinsey & Company of 27,000 American consumers found that consistency is the key to customer satisfaction. The study, which spanned 14 different industries, found that focusing on the entirety of the customer experience rather than isolated events in the journey has the potential to measurably impact customer satisfaction and raise revenues up to 15%.

Given the impressive McKinsey numbers, what is preventing companies from providing a uniformly positive customer experience? In my experience advising companies in health care, it often comes down to one word: silos. Organizational silos prevent a holistic view and tracking of customer interactions across a company. Based on the experience with my local hospital system, it is pretty clear that the Mammography Center and the Pediatric Department do not share much at all.

For Pharma companies, customer experience is increasingly viewed as “the next big thing,” for differentiating products in highly competitive categories like diabetes, hepatitis C and the upcoming battle amongst PSK9 drugs for high cholesterol.

Makes sense. The Accountable Care Act links patient experience to reimbursement, so the traditional pharmaceutical customers­— HCPs, Hospitals and Payers—are now interested in how pharmaceutical companies can help them improve the patient experience. And patients themselves, accustomed to higher service levels in every other aspect of their lives, will begin to expect more from Pharmaceutical companies.

However, Pharmaceutical companies are notoriously siloed. So much so that I even know of one company where two separate customer experience projects were initiated by different departments. So imagine how difficult it will be to get people to line up behind any sort of uniform tracking approach!

Any customer experience or patient centricity effort that does not address the organizational barriers, therefore, is doomed to failure. And as I can tell you based on my experience with my local hospital system, no matter how much you advertise the positives; the inconsistencies will always pull you down.

Dorothy

Purple Cow or Bull in a China Shop?

How to make change stick

A colleague once generously called me a Purple Cow.

I say “generously” because he used the phrase as Seth Godin did, to mean someone/something intrinsically different. As a Pharma marketer, I constantly pushed for new marketing approaches. However, much of the time I tried to drive change, I probably behaved more like a bull in a china shop than a remarkable purple cow.

In fact, the Pfizer Health Literacy principles were launched internally two times because I had not fully involved my marketing colleagues the first time. After the initial launch, less than 25% of the patient literature coming out of my own department adhered to the principles. When even the people you directly supervise refer to a pamphlet written according to health literacy principles as using “dog food language” you know you haven’t done a good job socializing the concept.

As the founding partner of extrovertic, a health care consulting firm focused on delivering innovative marketing solutions, I continue to seek out new marketing approaches. However, I now appreciate the importance of involving others and managing the change process. So extrovertic has enlisted the help of a former colleague of mine, Susan Domotor, an expert in change management, to help extrovertic clients to successfully implement the change they seek to build their businesses.

According to Susan, studies show that business initiatives rolled out with less than adequate focus on the employee aspects of the change have about a 30 – 40% success rate” (Blanchard, IBM). As I found out in rolling out the Health Literacy Principles, this translates into significant amounts of wasted time and money.

Here are Susan’s top three recommendations for getting your colleagues to embrace the change you seek:

1. Create a strong business case – A business case helps people understand the importance of the change, conveys a sense of urgency for what you are trying to achieve, and generates a sense of ownership for a successful transition. A strong business case answers three questions: Why is the change necessary? What is the change? How will we achieve the change?

2. Ensure that Leadership is visibly engaged and is driving the change – Visible leadership support is critical for success and it cannot be delegated because employees will only commit to efforts that are driven by their leaders.

3. Develop a focused Communication Plan – An effective communication plan is critical to influencing employee behavior. The plan must create understanding for the initiative; provide employees opportunities to question, digest, and internalize the change; and as the initiative progresses, celebrate successes, share best practices, and capitalize on opportunities to highlight the performance and behavior that are valued in the new way of doing business. It is important to build the communication plan before kicking off your initiative. You can modify it along the way.

Change is being continually foisted on the pharmaceutical industry. Chances are that no matter what your job function, it now involves change. Whether it is to instill a new patient-centric mindset into your organization or to get your colleagues to embrace multichannel marketing for physician outreach.

Lucky for me (and patients struggling to understand health care information), my colleagues gave me a second chance. After the re-launch, over 95% of the patient pieces produced met the Pfizer Health Literacy Guidelines. But with a strong change management plan, you don’t have to count on being lucky, just being prepared.

Data is king but emotion rules

Seems every other article on marketing I read says data is king, but if you want your brand to be differentiated, you have to get emotional. While the basic tenets of “brand building 101” requires generating both rational and emotional insights, the emotion I am talking about here is different—it is about letting yourself get emotionally involved.

As business people we are taught to prize distance and rational thought. But my experience working on a Hepatitis C brand taught me that allowing yourself to get emotional generates uncommon insights and that these insights are what power brand differentiation.

Here are three ways to start the differentiating sparks flying.

First be willing to explore your hunches. Trust your gut. My client had a hunch that understanding what Hepatitis C patients went through to overcome their addictions would generate uncommon insights. About 50% of Hepatitis C patients have experience with intravenous drug use. So we conducted a deep dive into all sorts of addiction: food, drugs, alcohol and tobacco. We spoke to addiction experts and the addicts themselves. We came away with a paradigm shift in how we viewed our customers, from people with disabilities to people with special abilities. This new perspective colored our entire communication plan.

Second interact with your customers every chance you get. Get uncomfortably close. It is one thing to read that hepatitis C patients often have trouble with basic life skills. It is another to be the recipient of a panicked call at 6:30 am from a patient advocate worried about fronting the expense on an invoice slipped under her hotel door.

By getting close, you experience the patient’s issues on a deeper level. As the saying by Confucius goes, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” Incorporate experiential learning into your research plan along side the traditional A&U studies. You can even contract with one of those researchers that arrange for marketers to spend a loosely structured weekend with patients.
Be forewarned though, you may feel uncomfortable or awkward at times. It was personally painful for me to come face to face with my unenlightened views of addiction and evolve my thinking.

Third, try to empathize with your customers. I still remember the anguish I felt listening to one man I met at a Hepatitis C patient meeting. A former intravenous drug addict, this soft-spoken, dignified man told his story of “falling off the wagon” when his two beloved Chihuahuas died unexpectedly. But he climbed back to sobriety. We heard story after story of patients staying off drugs.

I remember thinking; I can’t even muster the discipline to resist a second helping at dinner, would I ever be able to overcome drug addiction? These people are superhero fighters. It was this insight that led to a very distinctive “boxer” campaign. The power of empathy to generate differentiating insights is abundantly clear when you compare the boxer campaign to that of the product’s main competitor.

As compelling as I hope these examples are, it is not easy to ask for money for activities that don’t have a straight linear path to the bottom line. However, know that if you do the same sort of research as your competitors, then you will end up with the same insights. Having the data on customer habits is necessary but in the end it is the emotional insights that differentiate your brand.

Tom Brady and Atul Gawande: Designing a Different End Game

Tom Brady and Atul Gawande, two Bostonians with wildly divergent careers, both take the same approach to designing a different end game; they flout the conventional wisdom to achieve their objectives. For marketers wanting to change the trajectory of their brand, company, industry or career, these two prominent Bostonians show the power of doing things differently.

Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback, has always been vocal about wanting a different end game, one that would keep him playing high-level football in his 40’s. So according to a recent New York Times Magazine article, Tom defies conventional training practices designed at building strength in favor of those that create more pliable muscles. He credits his unique training practice with sparing him from career ending injuries, ultimately enabling him to win 4 Super Bowls (so far).

Atul Gawande, Boston surgeon and best selling author, challenges the more medicine is better medicine dogma that runs deep in our American cultural veins. Gawande addresses the literal “end game” in his best-selling book Being Mortal, to propose a radical new approach on appropriate care in our last years. Rather than doing everything possible to ensure maximum patient safety and longevity, Gawande contends that instead, a doctor’s role is to ensure that people leave this earth in a way that respects their values and priorities.

To do this, physicians and family members need to understand what constitutes quality of life from the patient’s point of view. In one example, Gawande tells of a daughter’s surprise at her father’s definition of quality of life as “being able to eat chocolate ice cream and watch football.” Her father had been a professor emeritus so she assumed he would not have wanted to live unless it was as a fully functioning intellectual. It was this knowledge that helped her make an entirely different choice for her father when faced with a life and death decision by her father’s surgeons.

I wasn’t so lucky with my father. The idea that more medicine, more effort, is not always appropriate was a totally foreign concept to me for most of his illness (and most of my life). So the poor guy cycled in and out of the hospital to rehab a number of times, getting weaker with every visit. By the time a palliative nurse friend of mine, helped me to see the light, it was too late. Having made the decision to bring him home after our post-dinner talk, I received a call the next morning that he had died in the Rehab institution.

While I can take comfort that my father seemed to enjoy all the attention he received at the Rehab facility, I often wonder if he would preferred a different ending. With my 88-year old mother, I have an opportunity not to make the same mistake.

The lessons of Gawande’s Being Mortal and Tom Brady’s historic Super Bowl victory transcend their individual career choices. Their work is testament to the truth of Einstein’s definition of insanity–doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. These two different men offer the same valuable lesson about the need to challenge the status quo to achieve a different result.

In the pharmaceutical industry where my company, extrovertic, does most of its work, there is a lot of organizational dogma about how to drive sales. It includes “HCPs write prescriptions, not patients,” or the time honored “the sales representative call is the best way to reach physicians.”

I know a lot of talented and progressive marketers who are confronting these doctrines on a daily basis. It’s hard work to be the one constantly going against the grain. But the experiences of Tom Brady and Atul Gawande are proof that a successful end game is worth the fight.

Building Great Brands by Talking Less About Them

You work so hard to achieve so little. Despite the amount of herculean effort involved in launching a pharmaceutical brand website, most patient never visit them. Any way you want to measure—unique visitors, click thrus, time on site— most pharmaceutical sites suffer from lack of significant consumer engagement.

But there is hope. Many brands in CPG have found a promising way to drive consumer engagement on their websites: by talking less about their brands and more about topics of more immediate relevance to their target consumers.

These brands engage in content marketing, which the content marketing institute defines as:

“the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action”

Some of the more notable examples are the Red Bull Media House, Oreo and Coke. An example closer to home is the J&J’s Global Motherhood site, which runs on the Huffington post. Half of the content is written by J&J, the other half by Huffington Post writers. Content marketing can either be developed in-house, by an agency or increasingly, in a partnership with a media company like the Huffington Post.

To me, the key for successful content marketing is that the content be rooted in the brand, but have relevance beyond the brand. On a practical level, it means taking the one word “brand essence” from the positioning document and identifying its application to the larger world.

For example, one pharmaceutical brand extrovertic did some spec work for had the brand essence of “security.” The brand at its core offered a sense of security in treating a disease with a very unpredictable course of progression.

It is easy to see that “security” has strong relevance in the wider highly unpredictable world. So a broader but very relevant communications platform for this brand would be: How to function in an unpredictable world. This content area is what I call a shared agenda, because it is both interesting to the reader and relevant to the brand.

This communication platform could spawn a wealth of interesting articles such as:

“How to tackle financial planning in uncertain times”

“5 keys to why some people handle uncertainty better than others”

“White Noise: Don Delillo’s fictional look at living with unpredictability”

“How to feel more secure in a large crowd”

Sadly the one thing that is predictable is the amount of resistance any new marketing approach will meet with in a pharmaceutical company. The direct brand building approach is so engrained. However, the results from the less direct, more content rich approach are compelling reasons to change. Content marketing can drive millions of viewers to your site. Consider J&J’s Global Motherhood campaign, which according to an article in Digiday, generated “4.3 million unique visitors and more than 570,000 social interactions on Facebook and Twitter” in its first three months.

In the digital age, great brands talk about something more than themselves if they want to be heard. So if you are unhappy with amount of patient engagement in your websites, think about using content marketing. It’s better than having to explain year after year why your numbers are so low!

Three Prescriptions for Patient Centricity

Patient Focused. Patient Centric. Patient First. There are lots of buzzwords companies use to describe their aspirations for a renewed focus on patients. But as my 8th grade Latin teacher once told me,

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Whatever phrase your company uses, here are three prescriptions on how to “walk the talk” of patient centricity in 2015 (and avoid a dance with the devil)

1. Fully infuse the voice of the patient into drug development. Historically, patient marketers are among the last to join pre-commercial or even launch teams. To be more patient focused, teams need to be staffed with patient experts early in the game.

And once in the game, patient marketers should make development of customer service and adherence programs the first order of business. As payers and patients have to increasingly make cost/quality trade-offs, it is critical that marketers can prove that their patient services actually make a difference in adherence rates, patient experience and clinical outcomes.

In fact, patient services already a factor into 3rd party purchase decisions. For example, according to a Duke physician I heard speak at a conference, Eliquis, a medication in the very crowded stroke prevention category, was chosen over competitors because the brand had the strongest co-pay assistance program.

Or just listen. Patients in clinical trials are already shaping opinions of the drug through their online conversations. An extrovertic social media analysis found an average of 30,000 patient conversations taking a place every month by patients involved a clinical trial.

2. Partner with providers and payers to meaningfully improve the patient experience at the point of care. HCPs, Integrated Delivery Systems and Payers are going to be judged on outcomes and patient experience. Pharmaceutical companies have the know-how and resources to help their customers meet the triple aim of improving patient experience, lowering costs and driving better outcomes. Take a look at all the governmental metrics requirements and pick a few to partner on.

It will also be important to have an expansive definition of point-of-care, both in terms of place where care happens and the people who provide the care. Care is now being highly distributed, it’s happening at home, at the retail pharmacy, at work, at Costco and at urgent care centers. And with the looming primary care physician shortage, care will be increasingly be delivered by nurses, physician assistants and even lay health workers.

And let’s not forget the increasing role patients are playing in their own health with the explosion of wearable technology and the whole quantified-self movement. The point of care is now everywhere and the smart pharmaceutical marketers will be conducting pilots to figure out how they can add to the patient experience.

3. Adopt a cross-channel patient experience framework to conduct marketing activities. A good patient experience is one that is consistent throughout every interaction, whether it be through a website, a phone call or in person meeting. Many of these touchpoints are managed by different functions in a pharmaceutical company, yet to the consumer it all comes from the same company. So the company has got to start acting like one company.

And this one organization needs to be reoriented towards driving patient satisfaction rather than driving sales. Driving satisfaction doesn’t mean revenue generation takes a back seat. There is a whole body of literature that proves that higher customer satisfaction scores result in higher sales and profits, in industry after industry.

But first the voice of the patient needs to be heard. This will require an integrated system of collecting patient feedback in a way it can be acted upon. For example, how well is the medical information call center doing in meeting patient needs? I would guess most marketers don’t know.

So take these 3 Rx’s and make 2015 the year that pharma companies turn patient centric talk into action. (And to my eighth grade latin teacher, Mr. Riggs, I really did “disce diligentius.”)

The Orphan Impact: Small drugs drive big changes

Seems everybody’s talking orphan drugs these days. No wonder, according to EvaluatePharma’s 2013 Orphan Drug Report, orphan drugs are estimated to reach 15.9% of total worldwide prescription sales by 2018. But the orphan drug impact goes beyond sales numbers. I believe that the patient centricity blossoming in the rare disease divisions will eventually spill over into the primary care divisions of pharmaceutical companies.

With the big blockbuster primary care drugs, development success lay primarily with company research departments. The halls of Pharma echo with stories of researcher heroics—how the lone scientist kept a molecule from hitting the drug dustbin only to become the next blockbuster.

But in orphan drugs, the heroes are as likely to be individual patient family members as researchers. In some cases the drug literally starts with patient families. Thanks to advances in digital technology and social media, orphan drug patient families play a major role in every aspect of bringing a drug to market, going far beyond traditional advocacy roles. Now individuals are able to leap tall barriers with a click of a mouse to accomplish superhero feats formerly reserved for massive organizations like the NIH and pharmaceutical companies.

Consider the role of patients, families and organizations in:

Disease discovery: Matt Might, a father whose son had a disease entirely unknown to science, leapt over barriers of scientific self-interest to find other patients and give his son’s illness a name.

A well-known blogger in his field, Matt’s post about his quest helped identify patients like his son across the globe. In the New Yorker article, which describes Matt’s disease naming odyssey, a Duke geneticist, who worked with Matt, sums up the new patient paradigm with this quote:

“It’s kind of a shift in the scientific world that we have to recognize—that, in this day of social media, dedicated, educated, and well-informed families have the ability to make a huge impact…Gone are the days when we could just say, ‘We’re a cloistered community of researchers, and we alone know how to do this.’ ”

Research direction: John Crowley funded individual scientists to fill the treatment void when he learned his daughter had Pompe disease. Ultimately John ended up partnering with one scientist to form a company that eventually was folded into Genzyme. And while his story is certainly one of the most dramatic (to the point of being the subject of a major motion picture starring Harrison Ford), John’s ability to drive the course of scientific discovery is becoming more commonplace in the rare disease space.

Product approval parameters: In June 2014, the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD) patient group, submitted the first ever-patient advocacy-initiated draft guidance for a rare disease to the FDA for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Patients, through organizations like the PPMD, are now directly driving how Pharma should be conducting their research.
Because of the outsized role patients and their families play in bringing a drug to market, building strong patient relationships is a key marketing investment for orphan drug marketers. For example, Biogen Idec, deployed over 15 community managers to support people with living with hemophilia even before they had an approved product.
There are already signs of an “orphan drug spillover effect” on primary care marketing. Consider Sanofi’s community manager position in their Diabetes franchise. Or more recently, that Sanofi appointed a Chief Patient Officer. And this I believe, is just the start of the orphan drug effect.

Soon the patient centric tactics of Rare Disease marketers will be highlighted in “marketing excellence” meetings all over Pharma. Then questions will come during marketing plan presentations about “why can’t primary care teams start building patient relationships like their rare disease counter parts?” And before you know it, the small seeds of patient centricity will finally blossom throughout Pharma.

Patient Shopping in Our Lifetime?

This was the one of the final questions asked at a recent Elsevier conference where I was a speaker. The panel charged with answering this question was largely pessimistic. Panelists felt that the byzantine system of setting prices for both medical procedures and pharmaceuticals made it unlikely that consumers would ever get the cost data required for effective shopping behavior. They couldn’t imagine that anyone in the industry would step up to the challenge of making prices more transparent.

There is certainly reason for their negative outlook. For example, a recent study by Verilogue and Duke Medical Center found that when oncologists discussed  breast cancer treatment options with patients, costs were only discussed in 20% of the cases. If patients can’t get information on the costs and outcomes of various medical and drug treatments, then they can’t make the appropriate trade-offs.

In my opinion, the Elsevier panel was right and wrong.

Right because strides towards increased pricing transparency won’t come from within the industry. But wrong because change will be instigated from outside the industry—by government, non-profit organizations and entrepreneurs unencumbered by the war wounds of fighting vested health care interests.

Here are a couple of examples that provide me with hope:

  • On the non-profit side, there is the Minnesota Community Measure Up coalition. They created the Minnesota D5 program, which provides effectiveness scores for treating diabetes by individual clinics/HCP offices.
  • Newer health care services like Counsyl, a genetic testing company, have actually built cost transparency into their business model. Counsyl has developed a proprietary tool that allows patients to calculate their exact costs once their particular insurance policy is factored in before they sign up for the service.
  • Iodine, a newcomer in the cost and rating business for drugs, has developed a very easy interface to help consumers start evaluating the cost/quality trade-offs for different medications.

Information will drive true shopper behavior.  Contrary to popular belief, patients can make educated choices. Patients don’t reflexively opt for latest and the greatest medical solution. As reported in the New York Times, a recent study in the Annals of Surgery, found that parents actually made the cost effective choice regarding appendectomies for their children.

When parents were told that both conventional and laparoscopic surgery yielded the same results, but that conventional surgery was far less expensive, two-thirds of parents chose the less expensive conventional surgery. 31% said that the information they received was the primary driver in their decision and 90% liked having a choice.

Pharma companies are going to have to learn how to market to health care shoppers rather than patients. This means that not only will pharmaceutical companies have to include cost in their outcomes studies with payers, they will also have to convince health care shoppers that their drugs represent a good value for the money.

And much like restaurants and hotels, Pharma companies will have to regularly monitor the various patient quality and cost rating systems to make sure their medications are fairly portrayed. A bad rating will have a direct impact on revenues, as consumers fail to start or stop using a medication, based on a rating they saw.

Pharma companies will need to include these products ratings from patient sites in their analyses of sales results. I predict that these analyses will show a direct correlation between consumer ratings and revenue. And when that happens, it will be the dawn of the era of the true health care shopper!

Follow the Money to Patient Engagement

4 Reasons why Pharma will finally become patient-centric

Pharma Financial Stars Lie with Patient-Centricity

Pharmaceutical marketers have been talking about Empowered Patients ever since I joined Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in the mid-90’s as one of their first consumer marketing hires. But despite all the talk, most pharmaceutical companies are nowhere near being patient-focused.

Pharma marketers know things are changing but are holding onto the HCP-focused status quo for as long as possible. In fact, I was recently asked by a Pharma Exec charged with driving patient engagement, “When do we really have to get serious about patients?” They felt that their primary customer was still the physician.

But ever the optimist, I believe that the next 2-5 years will represent a seismic shift in pharmaceutical marketing. Away from a singular focus on the physician towards a more patient-centric way of being. And that’s because patient-centricity is increasingly critical to a pharmaceutical company’s growth and financial health. As Watergate’s Deep Throat said, “Follow the Money.”

To my mind, there are four market trends that are helping to realign Pharma’s financial stars towards patient-centricity:

1. The Dawn of Health Care Shoppers-Historically, consumers exhibited very little true shopping behavior, even as they became increasingly responsible for their health care costs. This lack of true shopping behavior was largely because consumers had little visibility into costs and quality data and therefore couldn’t make the necessary trade-offs.

But that is changing.

Health care reform, combined with private sector efforts, are increasing transparency around both costs and quality, allowing consumers to start making trade-offs with their health care expenditures, including medications. Patients will move from merely asking a physician for a particular drug they saw advertised on television to making a highly considered decision to pay for drug A or drug B.

With this true decision-making, patients will be able to move markets. As this market moving ability starts to show up in pharma company regression analyses, Pharma companies will be stumbling over each other to be the most patient-centric.

2. The shifting economics of their customers-HCPs, Hospitals and Integrated Delivery Systems won’t be rewarded on the quantity of services they deliver anymore, but rather on the quality of those services and the patient experience. The smart pharmaceutical companies are going to look for ways to help their customers deliver better patient outcomes and experiences. And that is going to require additional investment to prove their patient interventions actually deliver.

3. The exploding orphan drug opportunity-Specialty and orphan drugs now represent the path to financial growth for many Pharma companies. And along with the orphan drug opportunity comes the empowered patient. These patients play a significant role in which drugs get into clinical trials, get approved by the FDA and reimbursed by insurers. If a company is in the Orphan Drug space, then by default they have to be patient centric. I predict that this “patient centricity” will eventually work its way into larger, primary care marketing practices.

4. Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs) in clinical trials will increasingly become commercial differentiators-In many categories, pharmaceutical researchers have already captured patient-reported outcomes, particularly on quality of life. However, these metrics have had little true commercial value since the FDA has been leery of approving claims based on patient reported outcomes. I believe that the FDA’s new focus on patient centricity, as witnessed by their “Patient Focused Drug Development” initiative may signal a growing acceptance of PRO claims. And as PROs become more important to the commercial success of a medication, so will the patients.

It is this alignment of Pharma’s financial stars around patient-centricity, that makes me believe that pharmaceutical companies will finally begin to truly embrace the empowered patient. Just follow the money. It never lies.

How design thinking can elevate the patient experience

Finding purpose in the mundane

What could be more boring than the traditional patient pamphlet?

Many times patient pamphlets are created without the most important ingredient, the patient. The traditional pamphlet is generally a collection of information that the health care marketer wants to impart to the patient. Little thought is put into what the patient wants to know. And even less thought is put into how the patient wants to physically interact with the pamphlet.

A little design thinking could change all that. One of the key principles of design thinking is purpose. Every element should have a customer-focused reason for existing. This requires a deeply rooted understanding of customers and how they interact with a particular object. It is this understanding that can transform the mundane into the marvelous.

One of the best examples I have ever seen is the in-room collateral for the Wanderlust Hotel in Singapore that I stumbled upon at an American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) exhibit. The design team from Foreign Policy Design had a profound understanding of the prototypical Wanderlust guest. The type of guest who checks into the Wanderlust hotel is “curious and interested in discovering, engaging and immersing in new experiences.” They have a desire for personal growth through exploration.

Based on this understanding, the designers reinvented the “almost-useless conventional in-room directory” into a more useful travel tool. The in-room directory was morphed into an itinerary, full of useful local information including “area maps, train and bus maps, local shops and restaurants as well as thoughtful blank pages for notes and sketches.”

The reimagined in-room directory led to a redesigned check-in procedure. As the AIGA exhibit notes detailed, the itinerary “improved the check-in workflow, converting a laborious and dreaded check-in process into something fun, a talking point.”

This proves that one small design element can trigger a cascade of changes that lead to an improved overall brand experience. And the business results? The hotel has been featured in core travel publications including Travel & Leisure, has appeared on almost 500 blogs, and its room occupancy rates have risen.

And no wonder, “Creating a unique customer experience is one of the best ways to achieve sustainable growth, particularly in industries that are stagnating,” according to the consulting firm ATKearny. In industry after industry, higher customer satisfaction has been shown to drive sales and profits.

So back to the patient pamphlet. What is its core purpose? What is the problem that the pamphlet (or for that matter, the website, app or DTC ad) is trying to solve? What other problems does the patient have? Is there a role it can play there? How should it be redesigned?

What happens if the patient pamphlet is reimagined as an itinerary for better health, rather than merely a way to convey basic product information? Could infusing a higher-order purpose into a pamphlet set off a cascade of changes in all marketing activities?