Pharma needs to be patient centric but not treat patients as customers

The global Pharma industry is under serious pressure from a large number of innovator molecules facing patent expiration, a thin pipeline of new drugs, regulatory challenges and pricing pressures. As a result organizations are focusing on newer commercial models, adjusting cost base, strengthening value of medicine, adopting patient centric approach and paying greater emphasis on Pharmerging markets for future growth.  Some of these shifts are new and radical to Pharma industry and Pharma is looking towards other industries for guidance and ideas. Adopting Patient centric approach/philosophy falls under such category of change.

Over the last few years, there have been discussions and few initiatives by Pharma towards patient centricity. The good part is that some of these initiatives have worked well and have helped organizations to take the overall patient experience to the next level. Use of digital channels to reach out to patients, platforms facilitating interactions between patients and physicians and patient’s targeted programs are some broad areas under which all the initiatives can be grouped. Let us look at some of the initiatives:

Pharmaceutical companies have experience with physician-centric models where they can be said to have physician market knowledge. Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) usually fulfill the role of championing the voice of physicians within Pharma. Unfortunately, however, Pharma is lacking when it comes to Patient-centric champions who understand what consumers think and want. Eyeforpharma.com

  • Didget from Bayer: The new Didget bllod glucose monitoring system rewards kids for consistent testing with fun games they can play online or through their Nintendo DS.  The bottom line is “Test, Play and Win”, because being rewarded for testing is a simple win
  • Paitentslikeme.com: PatientsLikeMe is committed to putting patients first. They do this by providing a better, more effective way for patients to share their real-world health experiences in order to help themselves, other patients like them and organizations that focus on their conditions. Companies like Biogen, Merck, and Novartis etc are partners to this initiative
  • J&J Health Channel: A YouTube channel by J&J focusing more on sharing patient experiences and helping in advancing health and well being of others around the world. They have weekly focus areas and range from obesity to serious conditions like leukemia etc
  • Myalli.com: GSK’s Alli is a FDA approved weight loss aid. GSK has brought concepts of compliance, affordability, patient experience, discussions and education under one initiative called as MyAlli.

If we review all the above initiatives closely, the common themes are around compliance and persistency along with defining results in patient terms. We will witness more innovations in this area in the coming years as more and more Pharma companies adopt this approach. But with this enthusiasm comes a word of caution for Pharma Organizations.

Pharma should not treat patients as customers. There is a very fine line dividing a patient from customer as we understand. There are some inherent difference between a customer and a patient:

Patient

Customer

Does not undergo the complete purchasing cycle. i.e. traditional   marketing concepts and theory does not work Undergoes the complete purchasing cycle. i.e. Traditional marketing   concepts and theory works
Does not enjoy his/her current status i.e.  People don’t seek out medication without a   reason. Something is wrong and patients want to solve it and get back to normal.   It’s not an enjoyable state Enjoys his/her current status to a large extent i.e. likes to be   pampered
Collects information, but cannot take decision i.e. The patient   cannot make decisions, there are external factors ( HCP, Insurance etc) that   make decisions Collects information to make a decision i.e. this is called informed   decision making

Pharma Co. needs to appreciate the fact that the fundamental premise to their business does not mandate patients to be drivers of sales. Some examples in the market by Pharma Co. do indicate dilution of this premise.

In response to a generic competition; one large Pharma in one of the APAC markets ran a campaign focused towards patients, asking them to question physician on prescribing generics.  Termed as an awareness campaign, this surely seems to miss this objective by miles. It can be debated that the above example also falls under the ambit of patient centricity, but that can only be for the sake of argument and nothing beyond that.

The “empowered and informed patient” movement encourages patients to become informed and to take greater control over their medical care; but providing information, access and independence — so often successful in other consumer settings — do not necessarily drive better care or experience for patients. Walking this tight rope and creating patient centric programs and initiatives is surely a challenge that Pharma organizations are facing.

Four Steps to Social Nirvana

Last night I was on Twitter and read this fantastic blog from Social Media Today http://goo.gl/fb/VbAtm  A very good step by step guide to create a successful social media strategy and put that into action. I have my own three steps towards social Nirvana.

Step 1: It’s important to be present on this Media: Is there a choice? Forrester considers “Social CRM” as one of the Top 10 trends for 2011. Organizations need to plan, evaluate and implement these channels as a part of the overall CRM strategy. Organizations need to be serious about this initiative and be responsive to the typical demands of these new channels. There are three types of Organizations in the Social Space:

  1. Organizations actively involved and using Social Media to support multiple customer engagement objectives (Listening, Talking, Energizing, Supporting and Embracing).
  2. Organizations just using the medium for a subset of the above objectives
  3. Organizations have joined the bandwagon without much thought and are now either Dormant or Dead

Organizations need to aim to support multiple customer engagement objectives after doing a due diligence of their typical Business ecosystem.

Step 2: Get used to the chaos of the social media: The space is Messy. There is no Order. At present there is lot of churning and eventually there will be Order as an output. Organizations need to be aware of this fact and plan their move accordingly. There cannot be a strategy cutting across multiple years, without any mechanism to evaluate and provide input based on the changes in the environment. What organizations can do is to create a strategy that is evolving with tollgate criteria to evaluate the strategy on a regular basis.

Step 3: Imbibe the culture across your Organization: The concept should be all pervasive. Organizations need to adopt this as a habit and should make this as a DNA. Do not expect to climb the maturity curve without internal adoption of the concept. This will also help organizations gather internal feedback where by refining the strategy further.  

Step 4: Look for an Elastic Platform: Expect the unexpected is somewhat normal in the social space. Organizations should therefore look for a platform that can scale up and down based on the need. The idea is to implement the strategy on such a platform that can provide the length and breadth of services across various social channels and help to collaborate effectively.

Add to this list and let me know what you think it takes to get this right.

Pharma’s Adoption of Social Channel: Caution and a Sense of Hesitation

Lot is being said about the efficiency and effectiveness of the Social channels (twitter and Facebook) and why organization should define strategies to leverage this “Free Channel”. I would like to discuss the reason why Pharma as an industry is cautious in adopting this channel. I can think of the following reasons:

  1. Can I use this channel? FDA laid out the regulations…but then sporadic incidents like what happened with Novartis sharing widget on Facebook confuses the marketers. They seem to be interested, but reticent in using this channel and defining the optimum channel mix leveraging these social channels. My understanding is that there is still lot of work that regulators have to do to define and answer basic questions around what and how? Some Product companies have come to the rescue of Pharma organizations by providing a sharing widget that can comply with the norms (Read the blog to know more http://social.eyeforpharma.com/blogs/wendyb/new-option-pharma-social-sharing)…. But is that sufficient? I believe NO. Proper operating processes (internal and external) need to be laid out to clear this confusion.

 

  • What should I use this for? Channels are used by marketers primarily to create awareness, Influence and engage customers. With the profusion of channels marketers perform a juggling act of defining the right channel mix to achieve one or more of the objectives. Traditional channels like F2F, Contact Center, Email, D2C etc have had their share of success and failures over the past years. Marketers are still pondering over the use of the social channel as a medium and what services to be provided over this channel. Should we use this as an extension to the Contact Center? Or can this be used as a detailing medium? Or should this be used to launch campaigns? Or can this be used to provide education and wellness programs for patients and HCPs? I see a lot of Ifs and buts around this. @Novartis twitter account is primarily being used for creating awareness around disease area and to promote wellness programs. @AstraZenecaUS and @Boehringer use their Twitter account to promote videos and drugs along with providing awareness and education.So will we see migration of S&M Read more of this post

The Chaos in the Digital Space

A lot is happening in the digital space…I find it tough to follow and keep pace. Having said that I also believe that we are right now living in very interesting times and witnessing the change that will define the future. So does this mean that that what we are experiencing now is far from the future? I think no…The future is already there; it’s just not logically arranged.

So what is the future? Is “Cloud Computing” the future, is “Virtualization” the next big thing or is “empower with simple ideas” the way to go? There is no one concept that will win this race hands down. All these concepts have carved the present and have defined the way we behave, interact and collaborate today.

Cloud computing as defined by Wikipedia is “Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, like the electricity grid”. My experience with my clients has given enough evidence to believe that the adoption of this concept in on a rise, but still I feel that this space is a bit “cloudy”. There are issues with data security, scalability and performance that needs to be sorted before organizations will go full guns in adopting this as the next platform to support their business.

Virtualization as a concept was always there with us. I think the complete support system for the human clan is virtualized (Religion). So the human community has always understood this concept much better that the concept of “Cloud”. We stay in an almost virtual world of our own; we look alone but we are never alone, we always have resources at our disposal. This has made this world one common meeting place cutting across religions and geographical boundaries. I believe Virtualization will surely accompany us in the future.

Empowerment has been one of the most used/misused terms in the recent past. This term is in the agenda of every top executive and politician; how this gets delivered is a totally different discussion. What I see today is that this plain and simple word has revolutionized the way services/products are delivered. The concept is to create simple ideas and execute them quickly to solve needs (irrespective of the size of the need; big or small). The overall timeframe from idea to execution needs to be relatively small to derive maximum benefits. It’s a dynamic market place so we are pegged against a shifting goal. Look at the mobile applications store from Blackberry or the Apple Apps Store, these stores give you simple but effective applications for your needs… use them and move on…

I cannot predict the future, but what I can do is lay down some clear trends that will impact our lives to a great extend:

  • We will have more virtualization… Getting things done will matter… Who and from where will not be something that we will be bothered about. We will know our neighbors through blogs and chatsJ

 

  • The future is for unwinding and becoming creative at what we do. Break those conventional ways of doing things and come up with simple ideas to uncomplicated matters. Should one talk while driving? Conventional thinking created the Bluetooth enabled hands free…this did solve the need, but can’t we have a small application that sends an SMS to the caller “I cannot take your call as I am driving”. Simple, effective and responsible idea!!!

 

  • Cloud or No Cloud – the writing on the wall is clear: People/Organizations will stick to their core competencies and will demand highest level of commitments and availability from support processes/systems/people. As  a Pharma company, I should focus on my R&D and product development and not on IT systems and its corresponding infrastructure

 

Let’s keep our fingers crossed

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