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Patients Should Educate Themselves! Except When They Shouldn’t?

Posted by | Patient Education | No Comments

Would anyone in the healthcare industry disagree that it is incredibly important, literally a matter of life or death, that patients take responsibility for their health, and actively participate in their treatment? Countless studies have shown that educated, engaged patients have better outcomes.

And then we have a physician such as this one banning her patients from googling health information: http://dotcomplicated.co/content/2013/06/dont-google-symptoms-before-heading-to-the-doctor/. Here’s the summary of this doctor’s advice to patients:

photo credit: Gallery-hip.com

photo credit: Gallery-hip.com

Don’t Google symptoms. You will likely be lead astray because you are not a doctor yourself. You will ask for unnecessary tests and your doctor will have to spend a lot of time talking you out of them. Or conversely, you will unwisely decide not to bother going to the doctor. Instead of Googling symptoms, if you really want to be proactive, you should wait until you visit your doctor and then ask her to give you resources to study.

“While I am a strong believer in patient education and involvement, this trend is actually making it more difficult for physicians to guide their patients appropriately.”

Her heart is surely in the right place … she’s had patients show up shaking with distress and wrongly convinced they’re going to die from some obscure disease. But this entire article not only displays a startling naiveté on current consumer information consumption, but it is also terribly misguided, bordering on dangerous.

We need patients to seek to educate themselves. We need patients to understand their disease well enough to adhere to their therapy. We need patients to understand what constitutes an alarming adverse event or recognize they are having a heart attack. We need patients to take control of their health.

Why is it dangerous to forbid our patients to search The Google for symptoms?

1) It’s dangerous because it firewalls patients from their own medical diagnosis. I have a personal problem with this one. My mother, who is not a medical professional, diagnosed me with a very serious medical condition after no fewer than 5 doctors had failed to do so. I had doctors tell me my symptoms were caused by everything from “getting old,” to “not remembering when you wake up in the middle of the night and run into things on your way to the bathroom.” Doctors are certainly trained professionals, but not supreme beings. And patients are not idiots.

Eric Topol, Chief Medical Officer of Scripps said at NYeC in November that in the future, patients will and should become much more involved in their own diagnoses. Wearables give patients access to vast personal health data; apps and software increasingly offer the computing power to process that data. More and more, patients will have the power to diagnose themselves and understand how their lifestyle decisions help or exacerbate their condition. And that is a very good thing, according to Dr. Topol.

2) It’s dangerous because it encourages patients to be good little sheep: not to trouble their simple little minds and to wait patiently for the opportunity to do as they’re told. Patients should look up to the big smart doctor in her white coat and let her take charge of our health. This doctor sets herself up as not a healthcare partner to her patients, but as the one in charge of the operation. And we all know this is not a plan for success. Do a search for “patient centricity” and you will find 294,000 articles about the importance of patients assuming responsibility and accountability for their health.

3) It’s dangerous because it is not realistic. People use the internet. Countless times a day. People demand, and receive, instantaneous access to information. WebMD doesn’t get millions of hits a month because patients are naughty, naughty little mischief makers. WebMD gets millions of hits a month because patients are internet savvy consumers doing what internet savvy consumers do.

Instead of chastising her patients for symptom searching, perhaps this healthcare provider could consider improving her patients’ poor Google skills by:

1) Coaching patients on how to use the internet to effectively find and use healthcare information.

This could make a fantastic group office visit or a class at a local community center.

(To confront the flip side of this for a moment, patients also need to level up. Part of being accountable for their health means not showing up for doctor visits with stacks of pages printed from some sensationalistic tabloid. “Cyber-condriacs” aren’t helping anyone, least of all themselves.)

2) Offering web links to trusted information sources for the most common patient questions. Encourage patients to begin their symptom hunt on your website, because it shows your recommended sites to answer their FAQs.

3) Giving patients a list of 24/7 information sources like local urgent care facilities, nurse hotlines, etc.

4) Proactively educating patients about their disease or condition. Informed patients shouldn’t need to frantically search for information about a symptom that those with their condition frequently experience.

Like it or not, educating patients is part of all of our jobs from now on. Just like with any initiative, there will be areas of particular difficulty that we’ll need to figure out how to deal with. But we can’t all sit around and agree that educated patients predicate better outcomes, and then refuse to help patients learn to educate themselves.

 

What do Payer Marketing and Drinking Clubs have in Common?

Posted by | New Ways of Pharma Marketing | No Comments

Given our upcoming meeting with the client brand team who doesn’t believe in payer or organizational customer marketing, I’m working on a story to explain our managed markets strategy and why it works.

Franklyn’s Organizational Customer Marketing Strategy a Raging Success for Drinking Club

My drinking club

I’m the current President of a cultural club in NYC. And when I say “cultural club” I really mean “drinking club.” When I first took over, the group was fragmented and dysfunctional. We would host events and no one showed up. It was embarrassing standing there with a fake smile in an empty room.  And attendance was a leaky bucket. When people came, they didn’t come back.

Obviously I had a fixer-upper on my hands. My first priority was to plug the attrition hole. At the time, I thought it was because event participants didn’t have much fun. Conversations didn’t get far beyond, “Hello, my name is…” So forlorn.

My first solution was straight out of event planning 101. Throw down an ice-breaker, play a little game. And just like they are at POA meetings, it was a little awkward and contrived. The needle didn’t move much.

I had another idea, which I thought at the time was revolutionary except it wasn’t in hindsight. It occurred to me that people didn’t come to our events simply have fun, really. You can have a lot of fun in NYC at any time of the day or night on any street corner. My members longed for connection. For a community. For relationships. And the basis of any relationship is collaboration toward a common aim, whatever that aim might be.

So I put my members to work. I appointed a venue selection committee, I told a few people they were on the welcome wagon. We formed a beer committee. I advised each committee to get together on their own and plan how they were going to proceed.

Today we have over 600  members and our events always have waiting lists.

One afternoon not so long ago, I had a moment of clarity. It occurred to me that my club strategy wasn’t some great epiphany. It worked because it was actually borne out of our payer marketing strategy. I’m very consistent, it seems.

Franklyn’s Managed Market Strategy Closes the Loop

It is fairly inarguable at this point that collaboration toward a common aim leads to trusted relationships. And trusted relationships lead to tighter collaboration.

Everybody has a vested interest in the outcome, and the outcome is mutually beneficial. It’s a cycle; and pharmaceutical or device sales numbers sit in the middle of that cycle. When the cycle picks up speed, it becomes the wind beneath the wings of brand growth.

Formulary access, year after year, at a value-based price, doesn’t happen for account managers who simply show up every now and then with a sales pitch and a good rebate. Continued access and pull-through happen for account managers who can be counted on to collaboratively solve problems.

Where Does our Story Go from Here?

Assuming that our prospective client is not aghast at the idea of alcoholic beverage consumption, we could talk about two things:

  • Why payers or the c-suite of healthcare organizations matter.
  • Or, how we operationalize our “Solve not Sell” strategy.

Hopefully, the client team will see that pulling off said strategy takes extreme cunning.

So what do you think? A good start?

If it walks like a Lunch & Learn…

Posted by | New Ways of Pharma Marketing | No Comments
photo credit: www.employees-lawyer.com

photo credit: www.employees-lawyer.com

An old client with a new job at a new company asked me to come in to run a lunch & learn. Or, what I’m calling a lunch & learn. Officially, the meeting invite says “Capabilities Presentation.” And maybe it is.

The problem, from our biased perspective anyway, is that this group sees little value in a payer managed markets agency. They feel their brand AOR is more than up to any payer-directed projects. I’ve heard this before from specialized pharma, meaning brands that are included in DRG payments or medical reimbursements. Because providers are commonly seen as the primary decision-makers for these types of products, IDN & Payer decision-makers are viewed as influencers of mild importance. In other words, not worth a separate agency.

The prime directive of a normal capabilities presentation is, “Sell Franklyn, the Best IDN & Payer Marketing Agency Ever.” But in this case, we might be looking at a mission more like, “Sell the Value of Having an IDN & Payer Agency in the First Place.”

Is this a waste of our time?

Fifteen years ago, back when we worked with smaller businesses not necessarily in the healthcare space, I made a solemn vow. I had wasted massive amounts of time effectively offering free Entrepreneur 101 classes to unappreciative business owners. I swore that I would never take another meeting with anyone who did not believe in spending money on marketing in general. My bottom-line saw clearly the folly of needing to justify an entire discipline as a prerequisite to sell my service.

As Ian Altman says, “Those who are not a fit—we’ll call them non-prospects—pose a great danger to your business because they have the potential to suck in your energy and resources like a black hole.”

But maybe, this doesn’t qualify as a black hole…

In this particular case, the group certainly believes in marketing. They might even believe in IDN or payer marketing. They just don’t believe it’s a specialty. If this is true, then my job is not to provide general education, but to show that brand challenges are caused by payers in some way significant enough to warrant extended effort.

Then, I need to gain buy-in for my perspective on how the brand might overcome these challenges. And obviously, my perspective will include strategies that simply can’t be pulled off by an agency who doesn’t understand the our space like we understand our space.

Someone wish us good luck.

Are You Fascinating?

Posted by | Innovation, New Ways of Pharma Marketing | No Comments
image created by: http://www.sfsignal.com /archives/2013/06/ friday-youtube-every- time-spock-says- fascinating/

image created by: http://www.sfsignal.com/ archives/2013/06/ friday-youtube- every-time-spock- says-fascinating/

It all started when I took this crazy test to figure out how I’m fascinating.

Turns out, I’m a Maverick Leader. Basically, that means that when I am asked to do something requiring unflagging attention to painstaking details, my imagination sees me, slowly, sliding under the table and hoping no one notices while I crawl out the door. My special skill is surprising a room full of people with a solution that nobody else thought of.

This likely explains why I’m a long-time entrepreneur. And also why I’ve built a team that includes some of the most passionately detail-oriented people in this industry. They adore superscripts, they go in for 6-point type and lots of decimal places. They soundly defeat brutally strict Regulatory Review processes. They need me and I sure need them. We work well together.

Here’s the universal rub. Whenever anybody, including you and me, spends too much time doing what we’re not passionate about, our energy drains. We sink into a murky, anxious and frustrating place. Not that I often go around quoting Donald Trump, but I like what he said here:

“If you are interested in balancing work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable.” ~ Donald Trump

Here’s both my point and my epiphany:

  1. Taking this “fascination test” is very gratifying because it gives you permission to be exactly who you are. I recommend it. Find the link [HERE]. At a minimum, use it to better align your energy with your talent.
  2. Many brand teams hire consultants to handle their strategic thinking or higher-level work because they’re too busy keeping up with other tasks.

    Get ready for some of my innovative thinking on display: Hire us to “block and tackle” so you can do what you love and why you took your job in the first place. (You knew it would come back to Franklyn eventually, admit it.) Let us manage the tasks that destroy your ability to concentrate on what you’re really good at. And that’s a problem because these activities– the ones you can barely find time for — are the activities that will, for real, move the needle for your brand.

Some of the largest companies in the world work with Franklyn and have the results to show for it. It’s clear that a team that spends the most time on the most productive activities is actually the most productive.

I made up a simple chart that shows what we have done for others to overcome this “no time” problem from an editorial perspective. If you work for a pharma company, payer, medical device company or established technology firm, [CLICK  HERE] and I’d be happy to send it to you.

Find the Why to Lift Your Share

Posted by | Health Information Technology | No Comments
Same Side Selling - the book

Same Side Selling – the book

I was reading Same Side Selling by Ian Altman the other day. Ian says that he did a study of CEOs and found that there are three questions a CEO asks before making a purchase. She doesn’t ask, “What is this thing?” or “How does it work.”

 

CEOs ask:

  • Why do we need this? What problem do we have that this product will fill?
  • If we move forward, what results are we likely to get?
  • Why should we buy it from this company?

“As one CEO explained, ‘If I know the problem it solves and my likely outcome, I don’t really care what you are doing or how you do it.’ In other words, why bumps what off the list.”

Let’s consider this lesson relative to pharma sales. Do we know why prescribers write our brand? Do we know why practices or larger provider organizations might encourage or discourage their prescribers to write our brand?

In order to overcome the “I can only write Generics now” objection, we pharma marketers really need to figure out our Why. No longer do we have the luxury of sloppily defining our target patient populations as ‘anybody with skin,’ or ‘anybody with high blood pressure.’

“If a company defines their offering too broadly, it is less likely that [their brand] can help us. We’re not looking for generalists. We want to hire specific fixers for specific problems.”
— Jack Quarles, long-time Fortune 500 Buyer

“It is more profitable to be a big fish in a small pond than a small undefined fish in a big pond.”
– Tim Ferriss, Author, 4-Hour Work Week

What’s a frequent “Why?” for practices? The demands of payers. Payers offer pay-for-performance objectives and providers do what they get reimbursed to do. One reason Franklyn has been so successful pulling brand sales through IDNs is that we have been able to integrate a managed markets “Why” into our clients’ sales approach.

Managed Markets is just one avenue to get to “Why.” To bend the sales curve these days, brands need to find more of them.