The Top 4 Prescriptions for Your Ailing Digital Health Strategy

Let’s get right to the point. If your digital health initiatives aren’t building better patient relationships, the problem isn’t defective technology. It’s a defective strategy.

Digital health strategy involves a lot more than technology. The healthcare industry is transforming due to changes in policy, consumer expectations, and non-traditional entrants, all of which are impacting this strategy in addition to technology. The policy shift to a value-based care model places unprecedented importance on improving outcomes and experience at a reasonable cost. Meanwhile, non-traditional players such as Google, Apple, Uber, and Under Armour are all using their access to consumers to stake out their roles in the healthcare ecosystem and are partnering with traditional players, including life sciences firms, to meet shifting expectations and create new value.

In this dynamic landscape, life sciences firms whose sole focus has been on selling medications have realized a need to develop a “beyond the pill” strategy that is insulated from patent cliffs, traditional expenses of drug discovery, and the downward pressure on prices from wholesalers, insurers, and regulators.  

Recognizing that today’s patients (as well as their doctors and care teams) are also consumers who regularly use technology to accomplish a variety of goals, many life sciences firms have tried to deploy companion solutions to their medications through digital channels; however, they have found limited success in their efforts. Patients are just not as engaged with these solutions as hoped.  

So what’s wrong?

The majority of pharma companies have built digital health strategies as companions for their brands, not as companions for the patient’s health challenge. Patients find it more compelling to engage with a solution that appears to care more about their problems than the brand’s promise. Furthermore, patients have come to expect targeted, accessible, responsive experiences from digital channels – just like the others they receive as consumers throughout their day. Most solutions have failed to meet these expectations, giving patients even more motivation to disengage.

So how do you bring a patient’s world view into your digital solution so that it is engaging? Here are four proven best practices that will significantly improve your solution’s impact:

  • Segment users by digital behaviors and expectations:  This is where hyper-personalization comes into play. Leverage tactics including discovery and ideation workshops, as well as the data your solution collects, to understand your segment types. With this insight, you can provide the tailored experiences your users anticipate – serving relevant content or varying preferences around privacy and data sharing, for example. Your users will then view your app as a collaborative solution that understands their specific needs and behaviors, leading to a sustained spike in engagement. 
  • Maximize value by engaging the broader care team:  Look beyond achieving specific outcomes, like driving adherence, to understand the broader context around your patients’ well-being and how your solution could benefit the various stakeholders involved. By engaging everyone from payers and insurers to caregivers, family members, and other patients, your solution acts as an indispensable facilitator of communications for coordinating care, tracking progress, and lending social support. Patients (along with their extended networks) will then have more incentive to use it. 
  • Abandon the “Field of Dreams” go-to-market strategy:  “If you build it, they will come” only works in movies. Just because your solution offers tremendous value, no one will know about it if you don’t have a strategy for driving its awareness and adoption. Consider everything from app store optimization and customer reviews to the KPIs you’ll track for measuring success. While doing so, be sure to address other aspects of the business from training field personnel, clinical staff, and support teams to enlisting feedback and support from thought leaders.
  • Create and act on feedback loops:  The biggest mistake you can make is treating your solution as a one-and-done and not having a life after launch strategy.  A digital solution is a living lab, which gives you the opportunity to have a 2-way exchange of data and conversation with your users so that you can better understand their needs. Establishing a feedback loop is the only way to learn what works and what doesn’t. In addition, you need processes in place to analyze and act on that feedback. The more systematized, the better. Engagement is a 2-way street.

Want to take a deeper dive? Download the eBook “Rewriting the Script for Marketing in the Digital Age” for a closer look at these tips and more.

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