If you have been involved in healthcare advertising, promotion or education in the last five years, you’ll certainly have heard about a ‘patient-centric approach’. The phrase now litters communications from pharmaceutical companies and initiatives launched by healthcare providers.
The approach is clearly well regarded by patients, since it acknowledges that they are the focus of initiatives and that they can take control of their own healthcare.
There is also a realization developing within the industry itself that focusing on the needs of patients is a successful strategy for driving overall sales, regardless of whether the short-term goal is adherence, brand recognition, or switching.
So how can pharmaceutical companies ensure that patients be placed at the center of healthcare?
The number one rule is: don’t assume you know what patients want. Involve patients at the start, not as consumer-testers at the end of the process. Their feedback will provide useful insight into both the educational needs of patients and the way in which they want the information presented.
Patients don’t only want to know what their condition is and how to treat it, but also what they can expect when they start to take a drug. How will their symptoms change and how quickly, which side effects really occur and how frequently? A truly patient centric approach will focus on what the patient can expect. Patient stories and case studies may be a way to illustrate this. Hearing first-hand accounts of other sufferers’ experiences allows patients to make comparisons with their own situation and can help them to put their own concerns into perspective. Personal stories can also inform patients of how others cope with the condition on a day-to-day basis.
How it’s said, is also important. All too frequently patient education materials use technical and scientific language, possibly because they are written by writers or healthcare professionals who are accustomed to writing for a scientific audience. There is also a concern that if you ‘dumb down’ the materials too much, you risk offending some readers. However, when preparing healthcare information, these fears are largely unfounded.
According to JAMA, 46% of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine and the average reading age of adults in the US is approximately 13 years. This means that if educational material is pitched at a 16-year-old reading age or higher, you may be excluding a large perecentage of your target audience.
Educational messages are often seen as the single most important aspect of healthcare education. But in building a lasting relationship with patient groups, you need to build trust and give them information that allows them to take control of their own health, rather than simply educating on the product.
Providing patients with tools such as lifestyle action plans, adherence reminders or symptom trackers can empower patients to manage their condition more effectively and make any behavioral changes needed. This approach helps to build trust among patients and assures them that you are working in their best interests, rather than simply promoting a product. Providing patient support and tools that are not directly product-related is also in the interest of the healthcare professionals who prescribe the products and are well aware of the problems of non-adherence to medication. Since adherence influences product effectiveness in the clinical setting, healthcare professionals are more likely to prescribe a medication if there are support materials available for patients.
Healthcare education is not simply about educational messages; it is about empowering patients to make improvements in their health. Contact SRxA to learn more about how we can help you build programs that are relevant and engaging.
Indeed. A great way to test how you are doing is to ask the patient to teach back the information you have presented, in his or her own words. This can be quite an eye-opener! And it lets you know right away what was misunderstood, so you can correct it early.