A New Pharma Marketing Combo Places Patients At The Center Of Business

As discussed in several of my previous articles, most pharma players need to walk the talk on ‘patient-centricity’, coming out of prevailing high decibel lip-service. This is not an easy task, and far from being every company’s cup of tea.

Effective implementation of patient-centricity by an organization, entails understanding of behavioral science by today’s pharma marketers. Many of them, I am sure, have already studied it in Business Schools. Be that as it may, by harnessing this scientific knowledge, the insights that they will acquire on primary and secondary pharma customers, will be unique. The important cues that will come out of the insights, will help them create well- targeted strategic marketing game plans having a cutting-edge. When implemented on an ongoing basis, this will help catalyze a win-win business environment, for reaping a rich harvest over a long period of time.

In today’s article, I shall dwell on the increasing relevance of an interesting combo of behavioral science – predictive analytics and patient-centricity, for a sustainable business performance. This is especially for the millennial pharma marketers to try and implement. With blessings from the top management, this model will help them jettison – the increasingly counterproductive – ‘gratification model’ of pharma business, imbibing ‘patient-centric ones’ – that patients themselves can feel and will appreciate.

The basic requirements to make it happen:

The basic requirements of the pharma companies to make it happen is to gradually move away from its core strategy of ‘buying prescriptions’ that often happens through contentious means. No doubt, it has the power to create a temporary strong brand push. But is definitely not sustainable, as these usually go against patients’ health and economic interest.

For a sustainable demand for a pharma brand, pharma companies would need to design a strong ‘brand pull’ in the new paradigm. This would prompt drug companies acquiring deep insights on how to leave a cherishing treatment experience with the patients for the brand. This would, consequently, have a strong-positive rub-off effect on the corporate image, as well. Likewise, a doctor would also like to know, how to create similar patient-experience with his treatment, to draw more of them in the future. This is diametrically opposite to generation of demand for a brand through ‘payment to doctors for prescriptions.’

Pharma marketer’s understanding of behavioral science is necessary:

This is because, it helps to get targeted deep-stick studies done on the way pharma customers, such as doctors and patients, behave. The span of the behavioral study should commence from the onset of a patient’s search for a disease treatment process, right up to when the individual gets an ‘after treatment experience’ – good, bad or average. It is, therefore, necessary for a drug company, to become more patient-centric, rather than self-serving, for achieving the desired goals of pharma business, consistently.

This wisdom would enable pharma marketers developing the following five broad insights for being ‘patient-centric’:

  • Understanding the process of thinking of a type or a group of patients about making their treatment choices. It could often mean not going for any treatment at all, or not adhering to prescribed treatment.
  • What makes patients behave the way they do, while undergoing a treatment?
  • Understanding both mental and physical feelings of patients while suffering from certain disease conditions, for effective engagement with them.
  • What type of holistic treatment experience the patients would value most to cherish.
  • What type of treatment experience the doctors would value most to provide to patients to enhance their practice and professional reputation.

While doing so, pharma marketers would need to clearly harmonize the two areas – one pertaining to doctors, and the other involving patients. This is important for the purpose of a clear focus on a comprehensive brand strategy formulation, based on well-analyzed data.

The key point to note, however – a creative blend of behavioral science with new-age pharma marketing tools can bring a sea change in the business performance of a company, along with providing a delightful treatment experience to patients with its drugs.

Generation of a huge pool of customer behavioral data is the starting point:

The first step of making a patient-centric organization is the generation of a huge pool of data on customer-behavior dynamics. That said, making predictions on the company’s customer behavior for future outcomes of the brand performance, from this data pool, would involve the use data analytics, which for this purpose will be ‘predictive data analytics.’

The use of ‘predictive analytics’ in pharma marketing:

In my article titled, ‘Data: The New Magic Wand For Pharma Business Excellence’, published in this Blog on October 01, 2018, I discussed the importance of well targeted data-based decision-making process, across the pharma functional areas. Taking this idea forward, let me explain here the critical role that ‘predictive data analytics’ can play in acquiring insights of the trend of behavior of the customers, especially patients and doctors.

Simply put, ‘predictive analytics’ is a type of advanced analytics, which are used to get deep insights and making well-informed predictions, based on both past and current data feeds. In pharma, especially for the subject that I am discussing, it pertains to insights on doctor and patient behavior related predictions, encompassing the entire span of a disease treatment process. Skillfully executed, this will strengthen, at least, two critical success factors in the pharma business:

  • Acquiring predictable insights on the targeted customers’ behavioral trend and pattern any given time-frame.
  • With such customer insights making the organization ‘patient-centric’ for more effective engagement with its customers.

Combining the above two points, I can well say, by analyzing a huge pool of data from behavioral-science-based information – ‘predictive analytics’ helps acquire deep insights on predictable customer behavior, with high precision. These are so useful, not just for better engagement with doctors, patients and other stakeholders, but also in making the organization patient-centric, in true sense. Nevertheless, many still question - Is ‘patients centricity’ really feasible in the pharma industry?

Is ‘patient centricity’ really feasible in the pharma industry?

This question was also raised in the 2017 paper titled, “Patient Centricity and Pharmaceutical Companies: Is It Feasible?” -  published in Vol. 51(4) of the Therapeutic Innovation & Regulatory Science (TIRS). The paper captures patient-centricity as integrated measures for listening to and partnering with patients, and placing patients’ well-being at the core of all business initiatives. It represents a holistic approach to the disease management process.

The concept brand-oriented patient-centricity is not too difficult to understand. But, I reckon, the difficulty lies somewhere else. It is to fathom where and how a pharma player can predictably add differentiating value, for those patients who need a right kind of treatment. That’s why, the question of feasibility of ‘patient-centricity’ is being raised.

There is no doubt that such an effort presupposes considerable insights on patients’ behavior, alongside the requisite expertise to predict these, for different time-frames, with a great degree of precision. This not an insurmountable task, either, particularly in today’s paradigm – with state-of-the-art ‘predictive data analytic’ tools. This prompts me to believe, it is very much possible to make a truly patient centric organization, assuming that there will exist a strong will to survive in the business and prosper!

Are ‘predictive data analytics’ different from other analytics?

Yes, the following two key points make ‘predictive data analytics’ quite different from other data analytics:

  • General data analytics usually help acquire insights on the past and present.
  • Whereas, predictive data analytics help looking at near-mid and long-term future, regarding most probable customer behavior pattern and trend, with great accuracy.

Currently, with the ability to generate relevant and real-time big data pool, together with application of machine learning, data-mining and statistical modelling – predictive analytics have the power to help acquire future insights. This insight is totally data-based, sans any gut-feel. Thus, effective use of this process can enable pharma players effectively predict trends and behaviors of doctors and patients for meaningful engagement with them for their chosen brands.

Has potential to create a win-win outcome: 

To ensure a game-changing payback from this process, crafty dovetailing of the following three steps, complementing each other is critical:

  • Generate a huge pool of real-time data on doctors’ and patients’ behavior pattern, for a pre-selected time-frame.
  • With the knowledge of behavioral science, help analyze them with predictive analytics.
  • Understand from the results, the trend of behavioral dynamics of selected customers from the brand perspective.
  • Frame rewarding business strategies to create a win-win situation, involving both – the pharma players and the patients.

Some pharma players are on the ball:

One of the key reasons for imbibing patient-centricity, is the proliferation of ‘me-too’ types of brands – both patented and generics. It has started happening even in the market of high-priced oncology medicines, with not much difference in price between them.

In this situation, predictive data analytic tools can help understand multi-variable relationship between patient’s needs, their interaction with physicians, the oncologist’s prescriptions to them, type of physician-engagement of drug companies and patients’ experience before, during and after the treatment. This is not an easy task, nor all pharma companies have wherewithal of doing this, to gain brand market share, significantly.

With predictive data analytics, many pharma companies are keeping eyes on the ball, using it in different business areas, such as drug discovery. But not many of them, are using this combo-approach to make a patient-centric pharma organization. It is just a matter of time, I reckon, that global pharma will decide to move in this direction – fortified with deep pockets, but with a battered reputation, and facing a hostile pricing environment, across the world.    

Conclusion:

Customer insights, acquired through the crafty application of behavioral science, have immense potential to make sales and marketing decisions more informed, than what it is today. In tandem, it will help create a ‘worth remembering’ treatment experience for the patients with the brand used.

From this perspective, I reckon, skillful application of behavioral science to generate a huge pool of data, and their analysis with ‘predictive analytics’ will go a long way to create a truly ‘patient-centric’ organization.

When executed by a well-integrated expert team of market research, medical affairs and pharma marketing professionals, this new marketing-combo-approach has the potential to fetch a game-changing performance outcome, placing patients at the center of business. The net gain to the organization will be much more than the sum total of what each of these steps can ensue individually – remarkably enhancing corporate reputation, in tandem.

By: Tapan J. Ray     

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

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