In my last blog post I summed up some of the discussion points at the Fleming eMarketing conference in Barcelona.  One of the speakers, Nicolas Pokorny, talked about emotions and behaviours and this really inspired me and resonated with me.  I also believe it is an area that companies, and physicians, often underestimate.

It is well known now that changes in technology have led to changes in behaviour, for all stakeholders, including patients and physicians.  As a marketer and strategist I have long been familiar with the customer journey, a tool used in the FMCG market to get a better understanding of customer behaviours leading up to purchase.  This is a tool that I have also used with digital agencies within healthcare, looking at how the key interaction and health decision points for patients in their journey from being ill to being healthy.  However within pharma companies strategy and marketing is still often based on the traditional customer journeys, for both physicians and patients, not taking into account these new interaction points that now exist thanks to technology.  The reality today is that the customer journey for pharma stakeholders has changed dramatically thanks to new technology.

Patient journey

The other element that has a role to play here is emotions.  As mentioned the impact of emotions on our decision making is huge but rarely mentioned in the far more analytical approaches to marketing and strategy development.  Generally we look at demographics and perhaps some top level behavioural elements but we never really talk about the emotional drivers.  For example if we look at a patient’s emotional reactions and feelings to a physician interaction we may actually see a number of different behavioural decisions – not necessarily rational and certainly not positive but none-the-less relevant.


Patient emotions


Looking then at behaviours from an emotional point of view we then get a clearer picture of what stakeholders really do and also of how we can influence these behaviours and decisions.  Taking a look at the patient in the example above who had the negative physician interaction, we could see that in today’s patient journey her next step may well be to go online to look for support.  Here is a great opportunity to counteract the emotional negative experience, providing positive emotional stimuli to help her modify her behaviour in the direction it would have gone post a positive physician interaction.

Who provides these positive stimuli depends of course on the situation but there is a role for everyone within healthcare here.  A physician, for example, who comes across our sad patient, may encourage her to go get a second opinion, reassuring her that not all physicians are the same and she just had a bad experience and she should not give up hope.  The physician is not providing any medical advice – purely support and direction to get formal medical advice offline.  In fact this act alone may help re-energise her to behave most positively from a health perspective. A pharmaceutical company could play a role here, for example, by sponsoring a support group who could provide the positive stimuli or directing a KOL or KOI to this discussion – with hopefully an end result of a more compliant patient.

Even if we do not take the final step in proactively engaging, as suggested above, companies and healthcare providers need to be more realistic around today’s reality and the reality of human behaviour.  Decisions need to be based on this understanding, and not on the comfort factor of sticking with the way things always have been done in the past.  By truly understanding the customer emotions, behaviours and the full customer journey, that those of us working in healthcare can bring true value and make a positive impact on our customers, and on patient’s health.

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