Karen Winterhalter
Karen Winterhalter, Onyx Health, Managing Director

Top five digital design tips for healthcare companies

By Karen Winterhalter, Managing Director, Onyx Health

It is true to say healthcare professionals prefer face-to-face interaction with the pharma and med-tech industry. However, with access to GPs and busy hospital teams being restricted, many successful companies are now using multichannel communications to reach their target customers.

For many SME companies running a multichannel communications programme may seem a daunting and expensive prospect. In the digital space, this may mean creating a website, running some social media, sending out target e-mails with some thread of continuity running through them.

The pharma and med-tech industry have been highly criticised by the pundits, who claim we are slow to adapt to digital and that the quality of the content is good, but not great, and too focussed on product messages.

Many companies learn quickly that simply pushing out product messages grabs short term sales from the early adopters, but things soon slow-down. This is known as “the chasm”. The point between the early adopter and breaking into the mainstream market. It is the point that can make or break the success of a product.

The mainstream market is harder to convince about a product; they have higher expectations, need more information and want to see the value of the product. This is where a company needs to think more about what they are saying, how they are engaging with their customers and the channels they are using to do this.

In light of this, here are my top five digital design tips healthcare and pharma companies should consider to “bridge the chasm”.

1- Put strategy first

Every campaign must start with a strategy – the reason why you are doing what you are doing. Wanting an app is not a strategy, an app is a communication channel. Knowing who and what influences your market, what changes you need to make to allow your product to be used, and what your outcome needs to be, all form part of your strategy.

Once we have our strategy in place, then we need to think about the implementation process, this is known as design thinking and forms part of your strategy. Too much digital content is broadcasting on a single digital channel that abandons the user halfway through their adoption journey. To overcome this, we use design thinking which is a principled approach to solving problems by putting customers’ needs at the heart of everything.

2 - Don’t forget the touchpoint journey

We need to think about all the touchpoints we will have with individual customers. Successful interaction involves anticipating the healthcare professionals needs and helping them get what they want.

After that, we need to think about the journey we want to take them on. Interactions do not happen in isolation; they need to be planned much in the same way we plan a travel journey. For example, they have received a disease awareness direct marketing e-mail and they click through to your website to learn more, do they stay or switch to another source of information? There can be multiple journeys, but each interaction and journey need to be carefully thought through and planned.

3 - Remember the impact of ecosystems

Patient care is delivered by a complex, interdependent network of users, prescribers, providers, purchasers, and other stakeholders known as an ecosystem. We need to look at the way ecosystems impact on our customers’ journey and decision-making process. A healthcare professional rarely decides to introduce a new product into their clinical practice in isolation. They reach out to others seeking their opinions, as well as the buy-in and funding for what they are looking to achieve. Healthcare companies need to include this ecosystem into their communications strategy.

4 - Make content king

Once we have our design thinking in place, we need to look at the content we are going to use to move the customer through their journey. We need to step away from purely communicating promotional messages and think about customer needs. For example, a company may want to increase market penetration of their product, while a doctor may want to reduce re-admissions of a patient group into the hospital. The product will help to achieve this, but the messages and type of communication are completely different if we are focusing on the customer’s needs. When we learn what is of interest to clinicians, we can continue to evolve our communications, so they are more likely to respond to our campaigns and include relevant content.

5 - Don’t forget to evaluate

Multichannel communications are far easier to evaluate than traditional advertising or PR. We can easily track the channel source of a communication and the journey and touchpoint each health professional uses. Whenever we send something out, we can get a signal back to see if it’s been read, whether it’s been understood, and if it has had an impact. These actions can then be clustered so that we can evaluate the trends, impact and relevance of any communication to our customers.

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