The ROI of patient empathy

empathyKEY TAKEAWAY: DTC is meant, at its basic objective, to get patients to ask for and fill a prescription for your product but today that’s not enough. Pharma needs to think beyond “marketing” and be more empathetic to patients who become lost in a world where healthcare is in transition.

I read some very interesting articles via my Apple News Feed on MS over the last week.  Having been involved in research with MS patients I am always interested to learn about the needs of MS patients.  The articles range from new potential treatments to living with MS and how it affects your daily life. [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]Unfortunately, not one player in the MS market owns the space for MS news and information even though the research I was involved in clearly showed a strong need for this type of information.[/inlinetweet]  Instead, most Biopharma company’s online presence revolves around the needs and wants of patients.  Instead, their websites contain the basics and sales copy.


Now think for a moment if you were suddenly diagnosed with MS, God forbid.  What would you want to know and what emotional support would you want and need?  This is the way that DTC marketers need to think, but it usually involves weeks or months of meetings and Power Point presentations with some MBA wide ass asking “what’s the ROI?”. [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]What is the ROI of helping patients live with chronic conditions and helping one another with insights and advice?[/inlinetweet]

Novartis recently launched a DTC site around heart failure that has doctors crying foul, but can anyone honestly say that patients are going to run to their doctor to say “I have heart failure and want this drug”?  Today’s primary doctor visits are commonly scheduled at 15-minute intervals, and some physicians who work at hospitals are asked to see a new patient every 11 minutes, according to a 2014 article from Kaiser Health News. Even in that short time frame, doctors probably aren’t listening attentively to their patients. A 1999 study of family doctor practices found doctors let patients speak for only 23 seconds before redirecting them, and only 25% of patients got to finish their statement. Another study, this one out of the University of South Carolina in 2001, found primary care patients were interrupted after just 12 seconds, either by the health provider or a knock at the door. Obviously that’s not enough time to ask about health problems in depth.  The Novartis site aims to help patients and caregivers understand that being diagnosed with heart failure is not a death sentence.


[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”null”]DTC, today, in an era when pharma is in the crosshairs of everyone on the Internet needs to go beyond “selling”[/inlinetweet].  It has to involve the whole patient experience from diagnosis to management.  It has to provide real answers on how to have a normal life and what to expect when on therapy.  It can’t be med talk it has to be a human conversation, not a used car sales pitch.

There is a reason why online ad blockers have surpassed more than 200 million users and why people are time shifting live TV.  They don’t have the time to be interrupted with advertising because ads today, for the most part, stink. They are irrelevant, boring and intrusive.  DTC can’t fall into this trap.  I know that most pharma people don’t get a cup of coffee without thinking about ROI, but today that’s not your job. Today your job is to convince management that we can enhance our brand and company by helping people not selling them.