Pharma: Are Your e-Patients Really Part Of The Team?

Hats off to Kevin Kruse for kicking off an exciting new conference called e-Patient Connections 2009 that will no doubt be the start of a long tradition in e-Patient Marketing and Learning. It was a productive two days marked by a strong range of excellent speakers and content, a well run conference and focused leader, and a broad group of engaged attendees. Read posts by @ericbrody, PharmaExec Blog and Steve Woodruff for other good summaries of the two-day e-Patient Conference (You can also read the Twitter stream: #epatcon)

Why Team e-Patient?

Driving home from the conference, my head swirling with ideas, this is what emerged for me:

“It may take a village to raise a family, but it takes a team to heal a patient.” 

…A team of doctors and nurses, patients and their families, friends and others who share their condition, hospital care, pharma treatments, insurance companies, employers, pharmacists and so on…actively participating and working together.

Reflecting on the presentations, they seem to converge around five essential themes for working towards patient-centered, participative marketing and healthcare…Highlighted below are but a few: 

Trust and Authenticity:

While the Mayo Clinic may be the poster child for building trust in the hospital environment, it continues social media expansion under the leadership of @LeeAase. Slides here. Another example of building and establishing trust, is the partnership of JDRF and Novo Nordisc in the creation of Juvenation, a type-1 diabetes community. There was also Dr. Val Jone’s (@drval) heartfelt limerick: ‘A Tale of Two e-Patients’. Jones used the limerick to raise the issue of what can happen to e-patients who trust the wrong people for the wrong information, which she delivered in 20 slides, each 20 seconds for a total of six minutes and forty seconds via the Pecha Kucha method. (More proof that doctors can also be amazingly creative!)

Dave deBronkart, also known as @epatientdave, gave a tremendous talk on Authentic Value: Being Known in e-Patient Communities, and the importance of being real and contributing value. Following his incredible story of cancer, Dave is now an evangelist for “participatory medicine” and founding director for The Society of Particpatory Medicine dedicated to bringing together e-patients and healthcare professionals. (I urge you to check out their work.)

To sum up trust, Kevin Kruse said it well, “Personality leads to authenticity which leads to TRUST”

Engage and Educate:

Good presentations here: Facebook ADHD Allies by Tricia Geoghegan, McNeil Pediatrics. Her advice: listen to the consumer…let them tell you what’s working (or not). There was also Facebook Strong@Heart Lisa Tate, WomenHeart & Robert Schumm, from Bayer. Their presentation demonstrated the value of using a good mix of traditional and new media, and an interesting offer to both raise awareness and incite action among women for their heart healthMarc Monceau @JNJComm also spoke: To Twitter or Not To Twitter, and shared his tips for organizational success. Key takeaways: take the time to create a personality in social media, and establish ‘guardrails’ of what you can and can not do to help smooth the process internally while you build trust and experience. (More on the concept of guardrails and Marc’s presentation here).

Yet another way to engage e-patients may be in the form of games for health.  Jay Ong of EA Sports presented “Driving the Fitness Revolution: The Development and Launch of EA SPORTS Active.” EA Sports uses a process that focuses on 4 pillars: 1) make them sweat with true exercise and workout, 2) provide a guided experience-make it easy, 3) deliver a personalized experience and 4) incite competition. They also bring in experts to add credibility.

Action: “Before I was an e-patient, I was e-impatient” (@sixuntilme)

Sixuntilme’s Voice of the Patient presentation began, “I’m Kerri Morrone Sparling and I’m not the voice of THE patient.  I’m just the voice of A patient”… “POL’s (patient opinion leaders) like me don’t blog because they have to, but because it helps us heal…Until there’s a cure, there will be a blog…”

Or Joe Shields, Product Director at Pfizer, who spoke about Adherence. “The empowered patient will be a collaborator and an active participator…Adherence is starting to elevate the role of everyone in the community, and like health care, is a team sport.”

Meaning: Adding value beyond the molecule

Branded Tweets for Levemir by Ambre Morley, Novo Nordisk and Charlie Kimball,  showcased how a broader strategy can add meaning to a prescription product.  While there has been much emphasis on the ‘first’ branded tweet, twitter is a small part of how Novo Nordisk is collaborating with Charlie to help educate and engage diabetic patients and their families. The goal moves beyond product to showing diabetic patients that they can continue to live a full and active life. (I also have to say, that  meeting Charlie in person was a real treat–His enthusiasm is infectious, and he came across completely genuine and dedicated.)

There was also Jonathan Richman’s Marketing With Meaning presentation which he delivered Pecha Kucha style, urging Pharma Marketers to ask themselves: “Is your marketing as good as your product?” (You can also read my review of the book here and how current DTC print stacks up)

e-Patient: “We are real people!” (Kerri Marrone Sparling @sixuntilme) and we’re on the Internet (The Social Life of Health Information: PEW presentation by Susannah Fox)

“We need to stop thinking patient and we really need to start thinking people,
” said Urbaniak, vice president of innovation and new customer channels at Sanofi-aventis.

So I end where I started: “It may take a village to raise a family, but it takes a dedicated, collaborative and empowered team to heal a patient.”  Are your e-Patients part of the team? Really?

4 thoughts on “Pharma: Are Your e-Patients Really Part Of The Team?

  1. Really good summary, Ellen! Glad you liked my talk.

    You correctly nailed the participatory medicine concept. The Society has just launched its Journal, which among other things will document the methods that work, as both the burden and the responsibility shift to a more participatory approach.

    We urge people to contribute articles. And volunteer to help with the work. We’re just getting organized, so all hands are welcome.

    Again, very good post.

    • Dave,

      I will look for ways to ‘participate’ in the Society! Look forward to reading the new Journal, and hope to contribute going forward. Thanks for the feedback.


  2. Wasn’t that the conference sponsored by the guy who created fake profiles and a fake drug on twitter simply to do some market research then bragged about the entire thing on his blog? His brand is forever tainted as a result.

    E-patients don’t want to be marketed to or used in the same way by Phrama that doctors have been in the past. We actually want to be full partners in solving problems not simply a source of revenue for marketing.

    • Thank you for your comments. Your desire for epatients to be full partners in solving problems was echoed by the the three e-patients who spoke at the e-patient conference as well: @epatientdave talked about authenticity, being real and adding value, @sixuntilme reminded everyone that ‘we’re people first’. She also made an interesting statement during a panel discussion: @sixuntilme Pharma: My health comes first–then if you want to have a facebook page ok… #epatcon

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