We’ve talked before about how COVID-19 has upended our personal and business lives, and how the pharma industry was able to – impressively – shift gears to meet the challenges the pandemic brought. But what about patients? And what about the disrupted patient journey? What can our industry do to ensure patients maintain continuity of care at a time when good health is imperative? Here, we offer four ways pharma marketers can help.

Reassess the Patient Journey

In the initial flurry of adapting, brands quickly augmented their plans to drive large-scale messages to patients and prospects: how to access telehealth, insurance coverage, and more. Now, we must go deeper. With the help of good data, social listening and research, we can understand the disrupted path to prescription and, from that, create new patient journeys. Practical solutions include:

  • Mining new data to identify, understand, and respond to new barriers; leverage advanced analytics to garner deeper insights
  • Creating new customer journey maps to identify common pain points and opportunities to improve the patient experience
  • Tailoring your approach to marketing; to be relevant today, organizations must embrace data and agility.

Build a Layman’s Lexicon

Language has always been important to marketers. But now, as patient-to-HCP conversations happen less frequently, especially in-person, words – the right ones – matter more than ever. Creating a layman’s lexicon that speaks to patients plainly, directly, and clearly will bridge the “gap of understanding” between HCP and patient, leading to quicker diagnosis and treatment decisions.

Artificial intelligence can help conduct lexical analyses of literature, search, social, competitors, and advisory board data sources to identify similarities and differences between patient and HCP language. Bonus: Using consistent language enables brands to infuse their positioning, personality, and tone into every message.

Enhance Patient Services Programs

Although the number of in-person patients visits increased across all specialties post-lockdown, in May 2020, they were still down by 20% compared with pre-COVID-19 times, and 46% of physicians believed at the time that remote visits would continue in the long term. In fact, in a survey of more than 100 physicians conducted last spring, 76% asked for enhanced PSPs and financial support for their patients, and 46% asked for better adherence programs from pharma. Further, Veeva data from October 2020 showed that NBRxs were significantly lower than 2019 values. This likely is still the case as we move into 2021.

To meet physician needs, and in turn help patients, consider:

  • Refining strategies to ensure broader awareness of available programs, including integrating programs into telehealth workflows
  • Reducing and streamlining steps to enrollment and open new channels, including HCP-initiated emails and text-to-enroll programs
  • Evolving PSPs to be more digital; identify areas where tech can enrich patients’ experiences with pharma, e.g., DocuSign, the digital signature tool, can bypass the need for a face-to-face HCP-patient interaction
  • Providing white-glove PSP services earlier in the journey

Take Inspiration From Other Industries

Customer centricity isn’t a new concept, but few would argue that pharma as a whole is there yet. To meet patients where they are, consider these approaches from other industries for inspiration:

  • Amazon Pharmacy: Prime members receive free, two-day delivery and up to 80% savings when paying without insurance.
  • Chewy.com: Autoship customers have free access to a telehealth veterinarian service
  • Fast food chains such as Wendy’s, Chipotle, and Burger King are doubling down on digital, adjusting quickly to provide new ways to order; streamlining drive-thrus with improved technology; and implementing other innovations to remain relevant.

There’s no denying it; the patient journey has shifted, and many of those changes will likely stick, well past the pandemic. Marketers can review and update their brands’ patient journeys by mining new data to respond to new barriers, mapping the moments that matter the most on the way to prescription, bridging the language gap, ensuring relevancy through data, and looking outside the industry for relevant analogs.

To learn more about what pharma marketers can do NOW to effectively engage their audiences, as well as what they should be thinking of NEXT, download our latest whitepaper, The Now & The Next in Pharma Marketing.