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Why Patient Experience is Different in Healthcare & Pharma

Thu, May 16, 2019.

Murray Izenwasser

VP Consulting | Design Thinking
OZ | Digital Consulting Wizards

As marketers, technologists and innovation professionals, we frequently hear how valuable exceptional customer experience is for any business. The business world inundates us with compelling stats, such as:

  • 55% of consumers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience (Salesforce)
  • 84% of organizations working to improve customer experience report an increase in revenue (Dimension Data)
  • 87% of consumers think brands need to do more to provide a seamless experience (Zendesk)
  • 79% of consumers want brands to demonstrate they care before considering a purchase (Wunderman)

The healthcare and life science industries are not immune to this shift toward customer experience. According to Ernst & Young, customer experience will be the next battleground for even the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical customers are “becoming resistant to push sales and marketing, and are instead preferring to relate to the overall experience provided in their pull interactions with the company.”

Patient Experience Isn’t Customer Experience
It’s interesting that Ernst & Young chose to use the word “customer” when referring to pharmaceutical patients. In healthcare and pharma, while it’s true patients might be customers, they are not “customers” in the same way we define a “customer” in other industries. In most industries, the goal of creating a great customer experience is to make it so easy and pleasurable to do business with your company that your customers can’t imagine doing business with anybody else. By providing this elevated experience, the company has done something to make the lives of their customers better. Impressed customers tell all their friends about their experience and share it on social media.

However, in healthcare, pharma, and life sciences, the “customer” most likely does not want to be doing business with you. The “customer” is in a situation where they have to do business with you. One rarely hears at dinner parties “That was the best gallbladder operation I’ve ever had. You should go get one yourself.”

What we are trying to do is simple and straightforward: get patients back to the status quo of their lives, or as close to it as we can. It’s not about creating memorable experiences. That’s a fundamental difference between customer experience in almost all other industries and healthcare. We’re not trying to give people great experiences. Again, let me emphasize – we’re trying to get people back to health, or as close to health as we can.

Understanding the Kind of Experiences Patients Want
“You have cancer.”

With those three words, a “customer” journey has accelerated in earnest, most likely the result of months of symptoms and diagnostic tests. As healthcare and pharma professionals, we have to be very careful about what we mean by “customer experience” and what kind of relationship we are going to have with patients. Whatever a doctor says to the patient in the next hour won’t be heard. Moreover, the next few minutes, hours, days, weeks and potentially months of that person’s life will probably be a brutal experience. No one is thinking about this moment in a patient’s journey, about the path the patient took to get here, or the perspective of that individual patient. The irony is that this painful moment is actually the time our patient needs an excellent customer experience, and possibly represents a huge opportunity.

However, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies can’t simply look at other industries for inspiration on how to provide that experience. The end goals, as we’ve established, are too different. At OZ, our perspective is that excellent patient experience is helping patients get back to the status quo of their lives by using technology to ensure the processes and inefficiencies of the healthcare, life sciences, and pharmaceutical industries don’t get in the way of that happening.

The Role of Tech in the Patient Experience

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”
– Steve Jobs

In the past few years, there’s been an explosion of new customer experience technology. However, just as in other industries, starting with the technology to build great patient experiences doesn’t work. While AI, chatbots and virtual assistants are incredible tools, we need to start with the patient need, then work backward.

According to a 2017 Dutch study, only 20 percent of patients seeking care for stubborn high blood pressure take all the medicine they’re supposed to (2017, University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands). As customer experience practitioners, our goal should be to create an experience for that patient at that moment in time to help them understand their diagnosis, convey why it’s so important to take the high blood pressure medication and show them why it’s so critical to continue to go back to the cardiologist for checkups. By providing an experience that helps patients remember to take their prescribed products and go to their providers on an on-going and consistent basis, we first and foremost create better patient health outcomes, but we also possibly sell more product due to more consistent usage.

Pharma companies can’t use the same customer journey models – discover, inform, activate, start, support, nurture – used by other industries to create optimal patient experiences. Those linear methodologies are useless when our customers have seen their worlds suddenly and dramatically altered for the worse. Our job is not about improving NPS scores. It’s about getting patients back their regular, pre-diagnosis lives.

Why OZ for Patient Experience
At OZ, we immerse ourselves in understanding the customer/patient need and then determine what technology will best help us develop an ideal customer/patient experience that solves that need. Our solutions span many parts of the healthcare world.

  • We’ve created virtual digital voice assistants and platforms to help improve pharma sales rep training and knowledge by making learning more interactive and realistic compared to traditional approaches.
  • We’re working with our healthcare clients to develop at-home Alexa apps that help consumers determine when it’s time to take their child to the doctor and expedite appointment scheduling.
  • Moreover, we’ve created mixed reality tools to better engage HCPs and take Pharma education (for both providers and patients) to a new level, going way beyond the typical static iPad sales pitch or take home brochure.

Want to learn more about what we’ve done for our clients? Send us a note.