Patient engagement.  It’s not a new concept; however, with the advances in digital technologies and the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, services focused on increasing patient engagement have propelled into the market.    

A rather broad term encompassing various types of patient-centered services, a 2013 Health Affairs brief defines patient engagement as a concept that combines a patient’s knowledge, skills, ability and willingness to manage his own health and care with interventions designed to increase activation and promote positive patient behaviors.

Patient engagement is a hot topic in today’s healthcare environment.  Due to mounting evidence that patients actively involved in their health care experience better outcomes and incur lower costs, providers are using patient-centered services as a strategy to accomplish these initiatives.

Everyone from providers to payers to marketers are vying to get on the patient engagement bandwagon.  According to MarketandMarkets, “the patient engagement solutions market is projected to reach USD 16.39 Billion by 2020 from USD 6.68 Billion in 2015, at a CAGR of 19.7% from 2015 to 2020.” 

  

Opportunities in Patient Engagement

Patient engagement is no doubt on the radar of the Pharma Industry.  A recent Accenture survey discovered that almost 91% of pharma companies plan to provide six or more patient-centered services in the next 2 years.   

Well-executed patient-centered services provide several opportunities for pharmaceutical companies:

  1. Improve patient compliance.  An ongoing challenge within this industry, Capgemini Consulting and HealthPrize Technologies reported that non-adherence costs Pharma an estimated $188 Billion in lost revenue per year in the U.S. alone.  Pharmaceutical companies have the opportunity to provide services that reinforce adherence to medications.    
  2. Address “consumerization” of healthcare.  There has been a shift in power toward the patient.    Patients now view themselves as consumers of healthcare.  As such, they expect to take part in treatment decisions with their providers.  Pharma has the opportunity to have a direct, personal relationship with these consumers by providing services to educate them on treatment options – information they can share with their physicians.
  3. Be a partner in healthcare. Today, it is critical for Pharma to be in partnership with providers, patients and payers.  A 2015 WEGO Health study on patient engagement in the pharmaceutical industry revealed a majority of the participants surveyed did not believe the industry works collaboratively with patients and less than 10% felt that the pharmaceutical industry understands and addresses their needs.  Pharma has the opportunity to change these perceptions by providing tools to bring providers and patients together.      

Platforms for Patient Engagement

  1. Mobile Health Technologies, or mHealth, refers to the use of mobile devices to deliver or receive healthcare and preventive health services.  Pharmaceutical companies can offer interactive mHealth Apps and wearable devices to provide tools for patients to track their own health, adhere to medication schedules, and learn about medical conditions and available treatments.
  2. Patient Portals refer to secured websites patients use to access their electronic health records and related services to their care.  Frost & Sullivan reported that the U.S. patient portal market is expected to reach $898.4 million by 2017.  Patient portals are evolving rapidly to adjust to the needs of patients, becoming available on mobile devices as well.  Pharma can use patient portals to promote specific products, encourage medication adherence, and cultivate a relationship with patients.
  3. Online Patient Engagement Platforms, such as online communities and social media networks, offer pharmaceutical companies an opportunity to engage directly with patients and create the dialogue today’s patients expect.    

Execution of Patient Engagement Solutions

Successful implementation of patient-centric solutions requires a shift in traditional Pharma marketing strategies and a deep understanding of the changing healthcare environment. 

Accenture recently surveyed 10,000 patients from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Brazil regarding their needs and experiences with patient services.  There were 5 key findings:

  1. Patients want more help before they are being treated
  2. Patients are generally not aware of services available to them
  3. When patients are aware of services, they use them
  4. Patients value services across all disease states
  5. Patients want healthcare providers to be primary source of information on services available.  Of note, digital channels ranked highly as well. 

To be successful, Pharma needs to address these findings when developing patient services.  It is not enough to just develop a patient service and make it available.  Patients need to know the services exist.  A well-executed patient engagement solution needs to address the right needs, be available at the right time and communicate through the right channels.

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5 thoughts on “Patient Engagement: A Key Element in Pharmaceutical Marketing Strategy

  1. I am sure that in some years the pacient wil be most important each time por the Dr. or application of drugs. Sincerely yours, Francisco Ferrandiz

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  2. Definitely pharma need to develop patient engagement solutions and to do so, fully understand patient needs but also co create solutions with the patients, not forgetting about the providers neither the payers. This way pharma will engage in true partnerships and based on their quality be recognized as trusted partner in healthcare.

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  3. In today’s evolving healthcare landscape, patients seek information and wish to be involved in decisions about their health. With this shift toward greater influence, Patient Engagement and Support activities can allow companies to stand out and achieve the best business results. This is part of the ‘consumerization’ of healthcare, and as Luca Dezzani mentioned, addressing this ‘consumerization’ is a great opportunity for Patient Engagement and something pharma companies should take on.
    Pharma companies should capitalize on this trend by adopting support and engagement programs where the patient remains central to success. According to a study by Best Practices, LLC, “Patient-Focused Marketing: Engagement Milestones Along the Patient Journey,” companies have addressed this consumerization in several ways— especially by investing in Patient Marketing during the stages of the Patient Journey. Marketers must now engage with patients along the entire Patient Journey, which consists of six stages. The percentages next to the stages represent the percentage of total Patient Marketing spend for each stage.

    1. Awareness & Screening— 20%
    2. Diagnosis of Condition— 10%
    3. Consideration of Therapeutic Options— 23%
    4. Treatment (within HCP office)— 17%
    5. Disease Management— 17%
    6. Patient Empowerment— 14%

    As seen above, the most money is spent in the Consideration of Therapeutic Options stage (Stage III). A majority of companies plan on further increasing Patient Marketing spend in Stage III Consideration of Therapeutic Options.
    There are also other means by which pharma can better engage with patients. Nearly all companies in the study reported providing physician education and starting advocacy partnerships. In fact, 89% of U.S. companies in the study said that HCP education and tools in support of patients were their main Patient-Focused activities. The second most common activity was partnerships with patient advocacy groups and associations. As Dezzani points out, partnerships with advocacy groups also plays a critical role. In crowded markets, factors besides efficacy and safety influence patient preferences. Patient-focused programs and support increasingly serve as a differentiation point. Lastly, Patient Support and Engagement programs may benefit pharma companies and their patients because of the nature of some chronic care conditions, which usually prolong the Patient Journey making it last for years. Pharma companies can become the best providers for Patient Support and Engagement by reaching beyond their traditional product-orientation, conducting more patient marketing education and by providing support across a multi-period lifecycle. Support across a multi-period lifecycle may be one of those differentiators that appeals to today’s patients, especially those with chronic care conditions.

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