Today, patients with chronic diseases have access to far more information about their condition and treatment options than ever before. But faced with such a glut, they often struggle to access the insights they need when they need them.
At April’s DTC National Conference in Boston, industry leaders discussed that challenge in a session titled, “Cutting through the Clutter: Curating Content in Chronic Conditions.” Tara Sheehy, Director of Client Experience at Phreesia, set the scene.
“Patients are inundated with information, and that leaves them feeling more confused than confident in their ability to manage their healthcare. They’re experiencing this one-size-fits-all message,” Sheehy said. “When we talk about personalization, it’s not just about the messaging, but it’s who they are as a full individual. We have to peel back all the layers and truly make it a tailored experience.”
Here are four ways to achieve that goal.
1. Tailor messaging to where patients are in their journey
Patient populations are highly heterogeneous. While a group of individuals may have the same disease, the tools and information each one of them needs will vary depending on where they are in their treatment journey. “Are they recently diagnosed? Or have they been diagnosed for several years and are looking for new treatment options? You need to be mindful of that,” said Christine Mormile, Director, Media at CMI Media Group.
What patients need at each step of their treatment journey varies by disease. For example, Roz Silbershatz Tomás, who leads the Global Libtayo Core Brand Team at Regeneron, works on a drug with an extremely short timeframe from diagnosis to treatment of only two weeks. That means campaigns have a short window in which to educate patients about their disease and the product and ensure they can advocate for themselves at the doctor’s office.
Terry Voltz, Director, Customer Promotion-Consumer at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, uses IBS-C patient behaviors to help inform the strategy for Linzess. Knowing that many people live with IBS-C symptoms like constipation and abdominal pain for months and years before discussing it with their physicians, there is a need for better symptom identification and open dialogue with healthcare professionals.
“When does it get bad enough to go see a doctor? That turning point is when messaging is key,” Voltz said. “For Linzess, it’s a combination of things like linear and streaming TV and [connected TV], as well as more specific items further down in the funnel that are more personalized and more attached to specific moments in the patient journey.”
By understanding how patients and their caregivers feel and what they may need at each step of the treatment journey, teams can ensure their messaging is appropriate. As Silbershatz Tomás sees things, the goal is to understand trigger points where you “have to speak to them from a supportive place, and where you have to speak to them from an urgent space,” and shape the messaging accordingly.
2. Identify where patients access information
Understanding the patient journey goes hand in hand with determining where patients seek information. Mormile explained that companies, particularly if they’re working with a small budget, sometimes focus their campaigns on search ads, but that approach is more frequently utilized with patients who are likely to research their condition before starting or changing treatments.
For some conditions, a patient may almost simultaneously receive their diagnosis and a prescription at their doctor’s office. If that treatment works, the patient might never seek further information online, and a campaign focused on search will miss them altogether.
As Mormile stressed, “You want to make sure you’re reaching [patients] at the point of care.” The idea is to place materials to ensure your product comes up in conversations between patients and healthcare professionals. That means “not only thinking about before and after the doctor, but physically at the doctor’s office,” she said.
3. Create materials that reflect patients’ experience
For content to truly resonate, it must accurately reflect what patients are feeling at a particular stage of the patient journey, Voltz said. Patients and caregivers need to see their own experience in every communication because “If you’re not relating to the person on a human level, you’re going to lose them, they’re not going to listen to what you have to say,” he counseled.
Silbershatz Tomás expanded on that point, explaining that campaigns can’t just speak to people as patients, as a doctor would. There has to be an emotional connection. Achieving that connection can be challenging when time or space is limited and the benefits of a product need to be explained, but Silbershatz Tomás is clear about what should take priority.
“I think it’s more important to ensure that you are emotionally connecting with them. Once you get that, then you can give them the more detailed messages on your product, on the functional benefits, maybe when they’re further along their journey and ready to digest that information,” she said.
4. Keep it simple
Channel evolution over the past 10 to 15 years has forced messaging to become simpler, Voltz said. For instance, when the medium is a social post or a digital banner, the message has to highlight the most important point—rather than give a comprehensive overview—because that’s all that will fit.
Content can be simplified in other areas, too. Patients are inundated with messaging while they’re at their doctor’s office, Silbershatz Tomás said, and then they then go home and are inundated when they’re searching on Google. When patients face such an information overload, it’s important to equip them with simple, understandable tools so they can start treatment conversations with their doctor.
Silbershatz Tomás’ belief in simplicity extends to the point of care. Although patients may be sitting at their doctor’s office for a long time, it can be unnecessary to communicate all the benefits of a product at that point. “I would urge you, when you’re creating for the point of care, to keep your message simple,” she said.