Empowerment Marketing: Helping Thomas

Martine Leroy | 2nd October 2014

I recently met Thomas, a man in his early thirties with a debilitating chronic condition. He is poly-medicated, needs weekly kinesitherapy, and knows that at best, his condition is stable. Thomas openly admits that he does not take his medicines as prescribed: “I forget sometimes” or “I can’t be bothered” and even “I don’t want to” are the reasons provided.

Most physicians will know a patient like Thomas. Medicine non-adherence is a common and unruly beast, which can strike anywhere and at any time, irrespective of the patient profile and severity of condition. Empathetic physicians and determined carers are often required to tame the non-adherence beast, for positive therapeutic outcomes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) around 30-50% of patients do not take their medicines as prescribed. In Europe alone, the cost of poor adherence to treatment is estimated at 195,000 lives and €20 billion annually.  

Pharma marketers know all too well how non-adherence can negatively affect their brand image and brand loyalty. Evidence-based tools like the Medication-Related Consultation Framework (MRCF) can assist physicians in this challenge. It is a patient-centric, evidence-based, peer-to-peer framework; developed to help to facilitate effective therapeutic patient and physician relationships for collaborative progress towards positive therapeutic outcomes.

Non-adherence is multi-factorial: practical and perceptual barriers are numerous, and vary across individuals, sometimes across circumstances, for any given individual. Cultural habits and entrenched beliefs also impact behaviours of all involved, including those of healthcare professionals. Pharma marketers are in a privileged place to help to support medicine adherence. They know their products, connect with both customers (physicians) and patients, and work closely with regulators and payers.

Empowerment marketing

Empowerment Marketing (EM) translates customer-centric marketing activities into daily-life tools that allow end-users, healthcare professionals and carers, to steer actions and retain as much control as possible. EM facilitates desired behaviours, including adherence, which supports beliefs shifting.

  • EM is timely, relevant, and necessary and goes beyond the pill into service design.
  • EM is aligned with newer principles of sustainability and responsibility. Unlike ‘compliance’ and ‘concordance’, ‘adherence’ related terminology implies active collaborative action based on sharing, agreement, participation, control.

As Thomas and I talked, we recognised that Thomas the Millennial, his Generation X physician and his late baby boomer family, all share common goals: to be involved, to set the agenda, to feel good, and to win within constraints. EM is trans-generational, though attuned to generational needs. Thomas loves technology and mobility, he is a keen online player of strategic games and likes a helping of Candy Crush on the side and Netflix. His family and friends share some of his hobbies, understand his interests. They can also use technology differently for their own needs. Also, Thomas is not just a patient, he is a person. His friends, family and relatives see ‘him’. Thomas likes to have fun and to laugh.

  • EM is person-centric and draws on intrinsic motivations to engage. It is also multichannel as Thomas, his family, friends, physicians, together are present across quite a few possible touch-points that can be leveraged to support Thomas.
  • EM brings marketers, Thomas, professionals and carers together in the continuous co-development of targeted tools for sustained engagement and commitment.
  • EM stands for strong brands that perform as well as expected in real-life, and which contribute to our newer and necessary principles of sustainable wellness and waste-reduction.

 

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