Follow the Patients

Follow the Patients

Dirk Otto, Head, Marketing, Boehringer Ingelheim, Spain

Dirk Otto, Head, Marketing, Boehringer Ingelheim, Spain

We often hear that, in the past, life was simple in pharma sales and marketing. The brand with the highest “share of voice” won - the one with the biggest stake in the mind of the prescriber. End of story. While this may never have been 100% correct, one thing is true. One group of customers received our overwhelming attention: medical doctors.

Things have changed. Nowadays, we are much more aware of other customer and stakeholder groups. For prescription drugs, think of regulatory agencies, health technology assessment bodies, pricing commissions, pharmacists in hospitals and in the community, nurses, physiotherapists, wholesalers, carers, spouses, children, parents, and of course, the patients themselves.

This can be overwhelming. How can we possibly make sense of this? How not to lose ourselves in this complex jungle of people, institutions, and organisations? How can we draw a map to help us navigate?

“Follow patients on their “journey” dealing with their disease. Draw a “Patient Journey Map” which represents the experiences of a particular group of patients.”

There is only one way: Follow patients on their “journey” dealing with their disease. Draw a “Patient Journey Map” which represents the experiences of a particular group of patients. Ask patients how they found out about their condition, how they felt before and after diagnosis, how they received care, from whom. What they want to get out of their therapy.

Humans are not perfect; healthcare systems neither. The patient journey map makes clear where the barriers to treatment are, which obstacles appear on the patient’s journey. Is it easy to get the correct diagnosis quickly? Are there problems handling the medication? How do family members and carers feel about a particular treatment option? And unfortunately for some diseases: What about the end of life care?

When you then step back and look at your map from the helicopter perspective, the multitude of stakeholder and customer groups fall into place – neatly arranged around the patients in the middle of the map (where they should be). Can we interact with all of them? Probably not. As always, it is important to prioritise. This patient-centric map now helps us to make good decisions about where to concentrate our work. The aim: Remove barriers so that the maximum number of appropriate patients receive the correct care quickly.

Each disease presents patients with a different journey. Paths differ from country to country. When we localise global strategies, we have to see how they fit with the journeys of the patients in our country. And things change. It makes sense to review the patient's journey regularly. To discuss the map with customers. To constantly update it.

Keeping this in mind, even today, life can still be quite simple in pharma sales and marketing. Our Patient Journey Map not only makes sure we don’t lose ourselves in the multi-stakeholder environments we have to navigate. It also never lets us lose sight of the ultimate customers.

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