This article was originally published on December 2, 2019 by DTC Perspectives. Read it here

 

Your parents are the ones who always take care of you. Mom kissed your knee when you fell on the playground and Dad drove you to the hospital when you needed to get your tonsils out. Your parents kept you healthy and safe – they were your rock and knew all the answers and just what to do.  Time passes. You are in your thirties and somehow in an instant the role of caregiver has swapped. This was the case for me. Nothing could prepare me for the moment when I learned my mom, my rock, was diagnosed with a form of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. I recall googling “NHL” only to be served hockey statistics… I was frustrated and scared. Every time we went to see her oncologist or when I accompanied her to chemo I would get hit with a wall of anxiety. Each time we stepped into the hospital, what my mom and I truly needed was support.  

As a caregiver and patient, I understand the emotional moments that can happen at the point of care. As a healthcare marketer, I also understand the value of this space as a channel and I’ve been fortunate to see it evolve over the tenure of my career. Today, pharmaceutical brands and healthcare and lifestyle advocacy groups push messages at these point of care (POC) settings hoping to educate patients about therapy options. Point of care marketing needs to be treated both similarly and differently from other strategies if a marketer wants to appear relevant and connect in a meaningful and useful way. The reality of distracted, concerned patients and worried caregivers means that if brands want to engage with patients at the POC, they need to approach them with greater empathy and understanding, with content that resonates emotionally and rationally with this audience. But what makes POC unique anyway? 

The point of care channel supports the patient at critical moments of their health journey. 

From acute illness to more chronic or prolonged conditions, important milestones of the health journey happen at the point of care. Through a recent survey collaboration between Outcome Health and Nielsen, we learned that the wait times within the rooms of point of care are substantial, with patients waiting on average up to 38 minutes in the waiting room and then another 36 minutes in the exam room. These wait times at the point of care represent a huge opportunity to communicate with and impact patients, caregivers and physicians all at the same time – essentially turning a “captive” audience into a “captivated” – and educated one.

Inventory is finite if point of care content is done right. 

POC differs from other digital healthcare ad channels because inventory is specific, targeted, and limited. Think about it: there are only so many rheumatologists in the United States and there are only so many brands that treat or support patients who see a rheumatologist. Factor in the attention span of the average person today, including the other places they can get content in the doctor’s office (like magazines, posters, pamphlets), as well as the fact that we are all walking around with smart devices that can deliver content that we ask it anytime, anywhere and you realize how critical it is to provide content that is aligned with why a patient may be in that rheumatologist’s office in the first place. This content (continuing with the Rheumatology example) could include anything from signs and symptoms of lupus, to managing rheumatoid arthritis through diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices, to understanding how to best support a loved one who has osteoporosis – this is just the short list of potential content that may be pertinent to patients or caregivers seeing rheumatologists. The funnel of dependencies leading to the opportunity to message a patient who is seeing their provider for an ailment and being able to support that patient on their journey means that there are finite opportunities like this, which makes point of care marketing more sophisticated and challenging in the same breath.

The point of care is the final touchpoint of the marketing message. 

On many occasions, I’ve heard pharma marketers muse, “what if we could hold hands with patients when they have those important conversations with their provider?” In the POC channel, you can. Unlike TV, print and digital which serve to create awareness for new therapies or reach patients before they reach the office, POC holds their hand in the office, moments before and during time with their physician. 

The point of care drives patients to take action. 

Messaging at the POC has been proven to impact and shift patient behaviors. In a study by ZS Associates, patient behavior was measured after being exposed to digital signage at their provider’s office. Of those exposed, 84% were more likely to ask their doctor about an ad they saw, 68% asked their doctor for a specific medication, 31% were more likely to fill their prescription, and 34% were more likely to take their medication as prescribed. 

Where does point of care marketing fit in alongside DTC and traditional channels? The point of care should serve as a complement to your brand’s other marketing and sales efforts, with specificity and context for patients waiting to see their doctors, moving them forward towards treatment. POC marketing can be leveraged as a digital tool, as a TV alternative, and even as a patient engagement solution to share benefits like co-pay assistance programs. Because your ad is now in the room with patients and their physician, messaging must be tailored for this space – simply dropping your TV spot onto an exam room screen isn’t likely to cut it with patients who are waiting to see their doctor. Advertisers should welcome the opportunity to become more deeply integrated into the patient-doctor experience and develop content that can be integrated into the clinical setting. 

Because there’s such a range of experiences (and emotions) that happen at POC, it’s important that any content (sponsored or not) intended for this space is sensitive to that. You can’t create effective content without considering the patient’s mindset. Content must be curated and contextualized for each touchpoint of the point of care experience. Videos should be relevant for that clinic’s specialty and help to facilitate physician-patient conversations. When you’re at the doctor’s office, sitting in a gown (or in the passenger seat supporting an ill parent), wouldn’t you prefer fact-based, custom information that’s helpful and supportive of the conversation you’re about to have with your physician? 

On the other hand, there are also moments of the health journey when patients don’t want to dig further into their treatment plan or condition and prefer access to content that simply entertains or distracts them. We as marketers need to take into account the range of experiences that happen within the point of care and provide content that aligns with and supports these unique moments. 

The most important thing to remember is that patient needs vary within the POC environment and that you can’t take a “one size fits all” approach with your messages within each channel. The diversity of needs and experiences is prompting the space to evolve beyond just awareness. New trends within the space include patient education, adherence, support group registration and more. The channel is poised for continued growth and we, as healthcare marketers, need to continue to innovate so that everyone entering the POC space can feel informed, inspired, entertained and renewed during the most critical moments of care.

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Matt McNally is the CEO of Outcome Health. 

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