As pharma and healthcare companies become more sophisticated with their digital offerings, it starts to become much simpler to provide individualized content. Before there was digital, printing a thousand versions of the same educational brochure simply wasn’t a practical option. Now, digital technologies make the task of providing customized materials simple (and no printing required). The wild card in all this is that you have to have quality content that’s also the right content for your audience. Let’s assume for now the content out there is quality. I’d like to address the second part: figuring out if it’s the right content for your many different audiences. At the end of this post, you’ll find six tips for using digital to influence caregivers.
Every healthcare company knows that patients and healthcare professionals (like physicians, nurses, and pharmacists) are important audiences, but who else? Sure, you can add in managed care, government agencies, and even employers (who pay for a lot of that insurance). A few companies with certain products add in one more important audience: the caregiver. It’s a pretty broad term, but for the purposes of this post, I’m talking about anyone who has an interest in a patient’s treatment. This could be a spouse, friend, child, parent, sister, cousin…well, you get the idea. It’s all the people in life who make sure that we actually go to the doctor when we’re sick and that we take our medications when we’re supposed to (at least they try). The level of care they actually provide varies a great degree.
You might be a caregiver right now. It doesn’t mean that you’re with the person you care for 24/7 or that you prepare their meals or change bandages. If you have someone in your life with whom you take an active role in their medical care, then you’re a caregiver.
As I mentioned, some companies already recognize the important role of the caregiver. For example, J&J created an iPhone app that’s completely designed to help caregivers called Care Connector. It’s designed to help caregivers to keep track of appointments, prescriptions, and to connect with other caregivers.
Other companies have placed the caregiver in the center of their promotional efforts. Consider the case of the Exelon Patch from Novartis for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Their entire campaign is built around what the caregiver of an Alzheimer’s patient goes through each day. It’s fitting since the caregiver might be the one who ensures that the patient first gets treatment based on the nature of the disease. In addition, Novartis created a support program specifically for caregivers called My Caregivers Connection.
As an aside, someone recommended I take a look at the Exelon Patch site a couple weeks ago. I must say it has some very striking visuals. It’s a well done campaign in my opinion.
Today’s post isn’t about reviewing caregiver programs, but rather to get you to take a different look at how you target the messages for your products and to consider who the critical targets really are. Yes, they’re doctors and patients, but caregivers can play a major role in helping to choose a patient’s initial treatment and also influence whether or not they stay on treatment. When we talk about a product for children, it’s a no-brainer that the parent should be the main focus of communication. Where might this also make sense? Alzheimer’s, as Novartis did, seems like a pretty good fit.
But it doesn’t have to be either patient or caregiver, there’s a balance. This gets to why digital is so important. You can’t afford two TV campaigns, two print campaigns, two websites, and two iMedia plans. Digital technology makes this much simpler. First, by really understanding where your patient’s and their caregivers spend time online, you can focus your message. By using some simple segmentation features, you can individualize content depending on whether they are a caregiver or patient. You can even customize your website based on the search terms that got the person to your site. If they searched for “caring for Alzheimer’s patient,” then you can probably assume they are a caregiver and your site should automatically reflect that. If you’re not using customized landing pages like this, you’re missing something. People expect that when they click on a search result that the page they land on is relevant to their search. If it’s not, they’re gone for good.
One other critical aspect I just mentioned involves understanding your targets’ digital behavior. This is partly driven by age as it relates to whether they are a digital “native” or “immigrant.” Consider the case of Gardasil, the HPV vaccine from Merck. The patient for this treatment are teenage girls. Where better to have a presence than Facebook? So, that’s what they did and created the Take a Stand Against Cervical Cancer page on Facebook. Some look at this page (including me) and say that it’s not a great use of social media since there is no commenting or discussions on the page. On the other hand, I say, “so what?” All this page serves to do is bring your content to where the brand’s target spends a lot of time. It’s essentially a portable version of the drug’s main website. Put the content where your customers are. Makes perfect sense.
So, if caregivers are your customers, you have to tailor your approach. We were asked to come up with a digital strategy for a chronic pain treatment as part of a pitch a few months ago. The key target was older women (55+) with arthritis. Along with a few other demographic details, we were told that the target had children (either teenagers living at home or who just left home). We came up with some solid ideas and a simple strategy. The plan was to communicate with the patients, but to use the caregivers to help drive additional awareness and compliance once the patient started the treatment. Since most of the caregivers were in their late teens or early twenties according to their research, we proposed building a caregiver educational page on Facebook along with many other tactics. In the end, we didn’t win the pitch and the feedback we got was that we didn’t consider the target audience with our tactics particularly when we suggested the use of Facebook. They told us that old women didn’t use Facebook. Clearly, they didn’t listen (or we didn’t explain it clearly enough). It’s not all about the patient, but also the caregiver. You’ve got to tailor your communication plan to the caregiver with as much thought as you put into the patient.
Assuming caregivers are a critical piece of your communication strategy, then here’s how you should be using digital to ensure that you’re giving them the right information, in the right venue, at the right time.
- Create custom content. Just don’t copy and paste the same content you have for patients and put it in a “Caregiver” tab. Caregivers have unique needs that are completely different than those of patients. If you don’t want to go through the expense of creating content yourself, look for some that you can license or that is available for syndication.
- Buy caregiver search terms. Don’t just focus on what patients search for and buy those keywords. Think about (or do some research) about how caregivers search when they are looking for information they need to take care of someone else. Maybe “caring for <plus condition>” or “administering <plus treatment>.”
- Develop custom landing pages. If a caregiver comes to your site from a source that you know makes it highly likely that they are a caregiver (e.g., one of your caregiver targeted paid search ads), then make sure they land on a page that has caregiver specific information. Don’t just dump them on your homepage.
- Reach them where they are. Chances are that caregivers will be found on completely different sites compared to your target patients. Remember my Facebook example above.
- Choose the right technology. Caregivers might be comfortable with different digital technologies versus your patients. Your caregivers might prefer to get new information via RSS, while your patients might have no idea what RSS even is.
- Consider connecting caregivers with other caregivers. Facilitating the conversation between caregivers would be a useful service. You can only learn so much about caring for a person with Alzheimer’s by reading about it online. You learn the little details that make all the difference from talking with others in your situation. One of the features of the iPhone app that J&J created is a way for caregivers to connect to one another and share what they’ve learned. Nervous about social media and open discussions? Consider how the Connect to Conquer Epilepsy program is set up. Instead of allowing discussions on a company-sponsored site, the program instead matches people with similar situations (like a dating service). Once you are matched up, you share your personal contact information with your match and then you talk off the website via email, phone, or whatever you feel comfortable with.
Caregivers can be an important influencer not just on which treatment a patient chooses, but also on whether or not they continue the treatment. There are plenty of opportunities to use digital to reach this important group in a simple and cost-effective manner. If you aren’t using them, count on your competitor to do it.