Patient Engagement: A Key Element in Pharmaceutical Marketing Strategy

Igea Luca Dezzani

Patient engagement.  It’s not a new concept; however, with the advances in digital technologies and the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, services focused on increasing patient engagement have propelled into the market.    

A rather broad term encompassing various types of patient-centered services, a 2013 Health Affairs brief defines patient engagement as a concept that combines a patient’s knowledge, skills, ability and willingness to manage his own health and care with interventions designed to increase activation and promote positive patient behaviors.

Patient engagement is a hot topic in today’s healthcare environment.  Due to mounting evidence that patients actively involved in their health care experience better outcomes and incur lower costs, providers are using patient-centered services as a strategy to accomplish these initiatives.

Everyone from providers to payers to marketers are vying to get on the patient engagement bandwagon.  According to MarketandMarkets, “the patient engagement solutions market is projected to reach USD 16.39 Billion by 2020 from USD 6.68 Billion in 2015, at a CAGR of 19.7% from 2015 to 2020.” 


Opportunities in Patient Engagement

Patient engagement is no doubt on the radar of the Pharma Industry.  A recent Accenture survey discovered that almost 91% of pharma companies plan to provide six or more patient-centered services in the next 2 years.   

Well-executed patient-centered services provide several opportunities for pharmaceutical companies:

  1. Improve patient compliance.  An ongoing challenge within this industry, Capgemini Consulting and HealthPrize Technologies reported that non-adherence costs Pharma an estimated $188 Billion in lost revenue per year in the U.S. alone.  Pharmaceutical companies have the opportunity to provide services that reinforce adherence to medications.    
  2. Address “consumerization” of healthcare.  There has been a shift in power toward the patient.    Patients now view themselves as consumers of healthcare.  As such, they expect to take part in treatment decisions with their providers.  Pharma has the opportunity to have a direct, personal relationship with these consumers by providing services to educate them on treatment options – information they can share with their physicians.
  3. Be a partner in healthcare. Today, it is critical for Pharma to be in partnership with providers, patients and payers.  A 2015 WEGO Health study on patient engagement in the pharmaceutical industry revealed a majority of the participants surveyed did not believe the industry works collaboratively with patients and less than 10% felt that the pharmaceutical industry understands and addresses their needs.  Pharma has the opportunity to change these perceptions by providing tools to bring providers and patients together.      

Platforms for Patient Engagement

  1. Mobile Health Technologies, or mHealth, refers to the use of mobile devices to deliver or receive healthcare and preventive health services.  Pharmaceutical companies can offer interactive mHealth Apps and wearable devices to provide tools for patients to track their own health, adhere to medication schedules, and learn about medical conditions and available treatments.
  2. Patient Portals refer to secured websites patients use to access their electronic health records and related services to their care.  Frost & Sullivan reported that the U.S. patient portal market is expected to reach $898.4 million by 2017.  Patient portals are evolving rapidly to adjust to the needs of patients, becoming available on mobile devices as well.  Pharma can use patient portals to promote specific products, encourage medication adherence, and cultivate a relationship with patients.
  3. Online Patient Engagement Platforms, such as online communities and social media networks, offer pharmaceutical companies an opportunity to engage directly with patients and create the dialogue today’s patients expect.    

Execution of Patient Engagement Solutions

Successful implementation of patient-centric solutions requires a shift in traditional Pharma marketing strategies and a deep understanding of the changing healthcare environment. 

Accenture recently surveyed 10,000 patients from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Brazil regarding their needs and experiences with patient services.  There were 5 key findings:

  1. Patients want more help before they are being treated
  2. Patients are generally not aware of services available to them
  3. When patients are aware of services, they use them
  4. Patients value services across all disease states
  5. Patients want healthcare providers to be primary source of information on services available.  Of note, digital channels ranked highly as well. 

To be successful, Pharma needs to address these findings when developing patient services.  It is not enough to just develop a patient service and make it available.  Patients need to know the services exist.  A well-executed patient engagement solution needs to address the right needs, be available at the right time and communicate through the right channels.


Hi-Tech Medicine: How Google and Apple Will Take Care of Our Health

More than 50 million of people die each year according to the World Health Organization. While majority of these people die due to old age, some die due to preventable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and infectious diseases. This is why many agencies, both government and non-government, are finding ways on how to stop preventable diseases from claiming more lives. One of the recent trends in technology nowadays is in health care. According to the NHS (UK), technology can help lessen thousands of preventable deaths in the UK each year and can save many lives.

One way of preventing deaths is to track diseases digitally. Many people monitor their blood pressure and blood sugar levels at home, so their data can be automatically synced in their smartphones and to doctors’ computers in clinics. There are also some apps that can change lifestyle behaviours such as sleep trackers and weight trackers. Wearable devices are also now available which can easily capture data about a person’s activity levels and what is happening in his or her body. Recently, big companies such as Google, Apple and Samsung are developing new resources in collaboration with top health companies such as pharmaceuticals. Here are some examples of how digital medicine is evolving on these top companies.



The Samsung Gear smartwatch 

Samsung has recently become more ambitious in health care because it has developed wearable health tracking devices such as the Gear smartwatch and the Gear Fit wristband. They have also developed an app called S health which serves as a mobile personal fitness coach. Samsung has recently released medical devices in the field of diagnostic imaging. It has collaborated with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).



Google-Novartis Contact Lens

Google has a Life Science unit that develops products for diabetics. They are now developing a contact lens that can measure blood sugar levels in collaboration with Swiss pharmaceutical Novartis. Google glass, its internet-connected headgear shows promise in the field of surgery.

Google has also founded Calico (California Life Company) which specializes in age-related diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases. It has partnered with a pharmaceutical company, AbbVie in this endeavour.



Apple ResearchKit

Apple has recently expressed interest in health care. Their Apple watch serves as a heart rate tracker and a steps tracker. ReasearchKit is a big help to researchers who want to use iPhones. Apple also signified plans to focus more on diabetes care.



Intel has recently acquired Basis, a watch that serves as a health tracker. The company is also focusing on health systems that utilize big data.



IBM has a Watson Division that utilizes big data in health start-ups. It now focuses on health research that uses pattern recognition, data analysis, image interpretation and algorithms used to analyze patient records. Last year, IBM has partnered with Apple and medical device manufacturers Medtonic and Johnson and Johnson.



Qualcomm Life captures and delivers data from medical devices using its 2net platform. This platform collects data from connected devices during clinical trials. It is currently collaborating with Novartis for its “Trials of The Future” program.



Microsoft has a “Connected Health Platform”, which contains tools, solutions, prescription architecture, designs, accelerators, and deployments for its digital health partners. It is built on the principles of “Microsoft Connected Health Framework Architecture and Design Blueprint”. Microsoft Lync is now being used at Dallas Neurosurgical & Spine to review images and other health data. Microsoft Kinect allows a doctor to swipe patient records during surgery while remaining sterile. KInect also has potential in physical therapy or autism therapy to allow movement without using a controller.



Philips eCareCompanion

This company is involved in medical technology and clinical informatics. Its projects include “Philips eCareCoordinator”, “Philips eCareCompanion”, “Philips IntelliVue”, HealthSuite Digital Platform, and Philips My Heart Project. The platforms allowed doctors to monitor their patients at home.