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A Holistic Way to Change Patient Behavior

We are creatures of habit. We buy the same products and follow the same daily routine. Unless compelling information is served to us the moment we’re making a decision, we are reluctant to change.

As the saying goes, old habits die hard.

For healthcare marketers, changing behavior within our industry can seem impossible. Earlier this year in DTC in Focus, I discussed the difficulty in implementing innovation within healthcare marketing. Changing patient behavior can be even harder.

Years ago, we sat on the exam table surrounded by outdated collateral and posters that seemed more decorative than anything else. A clutter of pamphlets about influenza or the dangers of smoking meant nothing if you were visiting the doctor for migraines. These were the early years of point-of-care marketing. With only mass delivery of paper collateral in their toolbox, healthcare marketers lacked the technology and focus to truly target campaigns. The lack of targeted delivery meant that the information being served was actually, by design, misinformation.

Doctor Discussing Records With Senior Female Patient

But the landscape has changed. For the past decade marketers have applied digital innovations to target consumers at high-impact moments. Digital point-of-care marketing makes it possible to address patients with relevant information at a time when their treatment is top of mind. When patients are sitting in the doctor’s office thinking about their condition right before speaking with their doctor the messaging that surrounds them is very powerful. Starting with the waiting room and following the journey through the appointment into the exam room, point-of-care messaging has become an increasingly necessary part of patient education.

As DTC marketers, it is becoming increasingly more important to ensure we target our exact patient. According to a study by ZS Associates, the majority of treatments are now targeted toward less than 1% of the US population. New point-of-care channels allow us to target specific patients – the ones that can benefit from these exact treatments. As a result, point-of-care spend is growing 8x faster than the overall DTC spend, totaling ~$400M in 2014. Point-of-Care marketing is no gamble, but a tried and true solution that consistently delivers ROI.

None of this is news, but it’s an exciting indicator of the road ahead.

While digital marketing is an incredible tool for DTC marketers, actually changing patient behavior the ultimate goal. Fortunately for us, innovation has progressed and we now have more tools to increase the frequency of engaging patients. New innovations like Mobile advertising capabilities are just the beginning of rounding out the patient journey. By taking a comprehensive approach to POC marketing and embracing the tools that are now at our disposal, we can actually achieve the impossible: change patient behavior.

At the same time, we as patients are increasingly incentivized to take advantage of these tools and be hyper-engaged in our treatment. With recent changes to the healthcare landscape, we are now responsible for more out-of-pocket healthcare costs. This means we want and need to know more about our conditions and the treatment options that are at our disposal. Read: we crave the information and consume it, especially when we’re at a doctor’s visit.

Similarly, healthcare providers are taking advantage of improvements in technology to redesign their workflow and create a more efficient practice with better care coordination. EMRs are rapidly improving in quality, which, when integrated with point-of-care messaging, can create a customized, contextual experience for every patient.

Medical tablet

Imagine walking into an office and receiving messaging on your mobile device that is relevant to the specific point in your treatment. Imagine being able to see, in the exam room, visualizations of your past visits, alongside your treatment options. As a patient, you will have more access to information that will better inform your decision-making.

So, remember those behaviors that were so hard to change? It is now easier than ever to understand the impact of changing them. Tech companies have made these technologies a reality, and they will continue to make it easier to guarantee returns for brands.

DTC marketers have built an industry creating hundreds of effective solutions to a singular challenge – how to change patient behavior – and we are at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to address the challenge with unprecedented accuracy, which means we need to approach these new channels intelligently and empathetically, always with the patient in mind. Our goal is to change patient behaviors for the better, and if we embrace and continue to innovate the platforms available, we will make that goal a reality.

There are millions of patients that need to change their behavior to live healthier. Let’s do something about it.

Ashik Desai
EVP of Business Growth & Analytics at ContextMedia:Health
Ashik Desai is the Executive Vice President of Business Growth & Analytics at ContextMedia, a company which owns and operates a suite of digital healthcare networks delivering condition-specific programming at point-of-care in all 50 states. The company focuses on engineering high levels of patient engagement through technological innovation. At ContextMedia, Ashik leads the company’s many growth initiatives with a strong focus on measured, data-supported execution and success. He has a passion for health information and the influence it could have on patients.
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