Telling patients to get better is easier than listening to what they think

The current (and sadly most used) approach to communications is to push information at us — e.g., TV advertising, PR campaigns, and pharmacy refill reminders.

It reminds me of the cartoon (below), which unfortunately epitomizes this approach (my apologies to the cartoonist, as I don’t know where I got it).

You can easily imagine the scenario – The patient has just been told that she has a life-changing disease that requires a life-changing treatment. So, the doctor advises the patient “stop working long hours, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, caring for your parents, your kids, volunteering, worrying–and call me in the morning”!

Unfortunately, that is the approach that is typical. A pharmaceutical marketing executive (who will remain nameless) said to me that they had their patient adherence in order (I won’t quote to maintain anonymity). I said great, because doing so means that the company has figured out how to make sure its patients are taking their medications as the doctor prescribed.

So, like a secret shopper, I signed up on the product website, and since then I have been receiving by mail information and details about its product.

Two immediate disconnects in this product’s marketing tactics:

  1. I signed up online, gave my email and address, and am getting the information by mail. Not once was I asked how I wanted to receive the information. My preference — email. Would it have been too difficult to ask how I wanted to receive information or, better yet, engage in a dialogue?
  2. I was never asked what information I wanted to receive. What happened if I had a question about dosing, side effects, or patient support in my area? And believe me patients taking this drug will most certainly be asking all of these questions and more! One simple question would have helped – what concerns you most about your condition or treatment?

Pushing information is easy – just say what you think needs to be done and don’t ask for a response. Regrettably, that pharmaceutical will likely lose sales of the product because I the patient decide not to take it or to a competitor better at dialoging with its customers.

So, why is so hard to put patients first? Old habits, preference for TV ads, “got the best product why care”, “revenues are a billion so what’s a few hundred thousand lost” … would love to hear your opinion.

Boxcutters Gem #659 – Place patients at the heart of the discussion, and not just as the subject matter of the discussion.

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