Never forget: we are all patients.

This is a tale about content. And the human heart. Or maybe, in this Age of where we must break-through to grab attention, it is both.  

Having been in CRM for so long, I subscribe to a lot of emails/newsletters.  Some as a professional marketer; just as many as a human being who has seen health care from the patient side at it's best and worst, it's most noble and most craven. 

PatientsLikeMe ( has always been on the forefront of so many groundbreaking patient-centric efforts — you can just feel how hard they work at keeping their focus on helping and supporting through sharing. 

I had to share their most recent eNewsletter.  The content was great, but that's the professional in me. The human Me was moved to no end, read on and on, felt the power of stories shared, fears opened and dealt with, news and patient-centric services intermixed  – even to announcing a new partner who had a passion for helping patients navigate the health care payment system.

It spoke to several attributes that many companies — device, drug, biologic, orphan, EHR, — should pay attention to as the challenge of creating content becomes evident in 2014.

This communication covers so many powerful lessons that should inform and guide patient-centric and Brand-engaging content:



PatientsLikeMe Jan 2014 email

1. Authentic

2. Compassionate

3. Topical (problem-solving, discussing urgent issues)

4. Service-oriented: Value-add (the new partners to help members with paperwork, CoPatient)

5. Dialog (there are feedback mechanisms, even Pharma can manage if the industry tries hard enough)

6. Authored (a human being behind all the content)

 Writing content like they do at PatientsLikeMe demonstrates their commitment and passion for supporting patients; many Brands woulds do well to emulate these human "pillars" of powerful content. 

As a side-note to this, I read a simple 7 step approach to creating content that speaks to some of these attributes,

But what does it al come down to? Corporations opening up to their own, and their customers, humanity.


Meaningful Use…how “meaningful” will it be?

The WSJ reported that EHR expenditures reached $20 billion in 2013. 


So, when one considers the evolution of the digital world and patient empowerment, they seem to feed off each other. The rise of EHR's and Meaningful Use is a forced behavior change for all stakeholders in the health care eco-system; and while the business side of health care is adopting, the vision of a patients' inevitable self-empowerment through EHR use may be capricious.  Let's look at Meaningful Use and some of the challenges for patients. 

Let's start with the definition on Meaningful Use from the government IT site:

The benefits of the meaningful use of EHRs include:

  • Complete and accurate information. With electronic health records, providers have the information they need to provide the best possible care. Providers will know more about their patients and their health history before they walk into the examination room.
  • Better access to information. Electronic health records facilitate greater access to the information providers need to diagnose health problems earlier and improve the health outcomes of their patients. Electronic health records also allow information to be shared more easily among doctors' offices, hospitals, and across health systems, leading to better coordination of care.
  • Patient empowerment. Electronic health records will help empower patients to take a more active role in their health and in the health of their families. Patients can receive electronic copies of their medical records and share their health information securely over the Internet with their families.

Of the three bullets, the first two seem to get the big nod..yeah, that makes sense. Seems almost like a big "DUH"…who wouldn't want that?

But then there is that third bullet and the pesky, unpredictable patient wrapped inside it. Two assumptions are made that should be on the minds of all marketers, HC IT folks and others and challenged:

1. If you build it, they will come (and be empowered!): This is a broad promise that has no place in reality. The complexity of a person's relationship with their health is not addressed.

Let's look at segmentation. Simple truth is that people/patients are complex and can be segmented in a dozen ways; look at the natural segments that range from "Active Health Managers" who will engage with EHR and make decisions…but they may be 20-25% of the population; at the other end of the segmentation scale are those who refuse to engage, whether it is because they have an External Locus of Control and give themselves up to Fate, or perhaps because they are so trusting in their doctor's, they might view a report or be exposed to content but not do anything until they are face-to-face with their HCP. 

2. It will be easy to use. With the shake-out among EHR's as well as their evolution to include paid messaging, the usability of the software they have created can stil be an issue. Interaction Design and outcomes-focused content are the best  answer and the only potential insight into how a variety of people can find their way to utilize and find value…meaningful value…with their EHR as they come on-line.

We all need to realize that patients are consumers and a bad experience with an EHR will damage adoption. We are an impatient society. The content/User Experience will need to address the caution of the elderly as well as a mother who is on the run. The first and most important 'outcome' is engaging someone's attention. 

So, between addressing behavioral segments, the new EHR systems need to acknowledge demographic factors. For example, my mother told me recently her doctors at the hospital system her GP is attached to, sent her an email with a link to Register and gain access to her records. She told me she loved it. Yet, when I asked her a few weeks later how she was using it, she said she had lost her password and did not understand how to get a new one; her doctor had called her about an upcoming test because they said she had not responded to an auto-generated appointment email. 

All this touches on what I consider — besides Adherence and outcomes — a core issue and opportunity for marketers, Brands, companies, etc: the patient/doctor dialogue. How do hospitals and ACO's take advantage of the relationship of trust and the tools of empowerment? 

Here is an infographic from the Gov't showing the impact of EHR:

Onc_consumer_task-6.3_infographic_final 1.3.14

So, to wrap it all together: Meaningful Use 2 cannot be the same experience as the "forced adoption" of EHR's (companies and practices got a lot more $$ incentives than any patient will see). Patients are consumers. Any patient adoption of EHR has to be viewed as the art and science of marketing: Persona and stage driven content, EHR-relevant tools and even App gamification. All will have an enormous influence patient adoption. Of course, you need the means the to measure the impact on outcomes.  If anything, the "outcomes" are a series of progressive metrics — outcomes starts with engagement with content and ends with less hospitalizations, etc. This kind of thinknig requires a twist of the old Sales Funnel — namely, an Outcomes Funnel. 

Adopt they must, right? No. Once again, if a hospital applied its magic of building trust and relationships online as it does every moment of every day, Meaningful Use 2 adoption would be a non-issue. Intercepting an ICD-9 (or 10) Code is not being relevant. Knowing what the emotional/rational needs of a person at the stage the Code infers and delivering helpful, relevant content with ease, that is the Holy Grail. 

Continue reading “Meaningful Use…how “meaningful” will it be?”

Pandoras Box: The Genie Economy, BDSaaS and Life Science Transformation Challenge

When it comes to Customer-centric marketing, many nettlesome challenges remain for our industry. Two business terms I encountered recently seem to demonstrate the complexity of the Transformation Challenge for Life Science companies.

The Challenge? Connecting, collecting and executing on that connection with all your customers. (Or is that just the functional Transformation? Perhaps there is something much more fundamental going on. More on that later.)

First, "The Genie Economy", an expression gleaned from a Webinar on Social Media Today (great content there:

Basically, the Genie Economy premise is: with the classic sales funnel broken, each sale is a new act of loyalty. But in a world of customer-centricity each sale must be earned. The funnel has now become a loop. The potential solution?  Using Social Media and other channels to listen, address complaints, suggestions, servicing your customers with great speed and even use feedback for developing new services. Your company needs to think and build itself as a "Genie" in servicing your customers — nimble and using data that is honed into insight and content (whether for patient or HCP.)

Second was "BDSaaS": Big Data Software as a Service. Personally, I thought SaaS had Big Data built in, but you how jargon crazy we are as a society. Coincidentally enough, I heard the term and then saw in it in an article worth sharing, called  "Analytics 3.0."  The big promise is that finally, companies and staff will have the tools to gather all the data they need (and then some!) to create and manage many customer relationships – the tools for connection and execution.  

Big Data with the proper dashboard and processes behind it have the potential to move the Life Science industry closer to the “Genie” of truly servicing customer needs and creating loyalty. 

And to make these data challenges visually more fun, a Big Data infographic:

  Big data 12.19.13

These two business terms open Pandora’s Box of the Transformation going on in most of Big Pharma; challenges do not end with a good implementation of CRM/DB/MCM tools. If anything, it uncovers the biggest challenge and opportunity: your employees. Service and BDSaaS may be the infrastructure you need, but organizational change needs equal focus.

To get to any solution, we all have to ask the hard questions about company employees:

Have you changed your MLR processes? Are you handcuffing your employees with no operational change to speed up MLR?

Are you empowering your partners and agencies to create content rapidly and optimize it?

Are Life Science companies hiring and training for this future-state Transformation?

How do your employees get empowered?

How does your company allow its marketing and sales staff to work closer, in lock-step with their new tools? 

Will Transformation give your employees a Maserati but tell them to drive in the sl0w lane? 

As always, a Beta approach should be used. Free one Brand. Hire, staff, inspire and train one Brand team to serve as a Beta for true customer connection and the developing and nurturing of relationships. Life Science companies already have islands of innovation, pockets of staff that are hungry and ready for this Transformation. From my experience, Change (yes with a Capital C) comes when a core group of individuals are given the freedom to do what their instincts say is right. 

Getting back to the end-state of what this all may mean. Pandora’s Box held many surprises. With BDSaaS and the intent to connect/service with all customers coming to fruition, maybe we need to re-frame the entire conversation. Having the BDSaaS infrastructure in place makes the “Genie” possible. But once possible, what then? Can you achieve that goal of being a “Genie” to your customers? And does it perhaps open the possibility of a new Vision of customer-centric marketing? 

Going back to the broken sales funnel, more and more professionals now get that the experience people have with your Brand(s) needs to be about user-needs and satisfaction. But it seems to me although Pharma marketers are embracing UX — how fast a task can be accomplished, or how easy a Reg. page is to navigate, or completing a customizable doctor discussion guide — we are heading way past this. UX and all its iterations are Stage 1 of a more evolved marketing reality. The real end-game is Human-to-Human marketing. HumanX as I call it: wrestling with all the variables — emotions, needs, opinions, advocates, detractors, action or inaction, while riding the forces of change around us — and still doing marketing. It is letting the “Genie” out of the bottle. 

HumanX is the equivalent of understanding the Human Genome of Omni-channel Communications.

What would that potential end-state look like? Your customers won't be patients or doctors, they will be people.  And to your customers, your employees will not be behind a wall but have names and faces, lives and opinions, stories to share and collect.

The conclusion has to be not to focus on the shiny objects of “Genie Economy” and “BDSaaS.” Technology doesn’t create Transformation, it enables it. People create Transformation.  Do you have the right people? Is the right roll-out plan supported by the C-suite?

To demonstrate the complexity of UX to HumanX, I found on Google Images 45 infographics on UX alone. The one below demonstrates the “why” and when you cross-over this with the previous Big Data infographic, a more complex and Visionary opportunity emerges (Thank you, Zendesk.)


UX graphic of why

 Are you read for the challenges of HumanX? Are you preparing to let the "Genie" out with empowered employees?

Tough but incredbily exciting questions for 2014. 

P.S. For all those who really enjoy UX reading at its best, Steve Krug, one of the true giants of UX, is publishing a new addition of his groundbreaking book, "Don't Make Me Think." Keep an eye out and grab it. I am sure it will be full of noteworthy thought and actionable approaches.

Here is his site: