Digital Patient Engagement

Digital patient engagement: Lessons Learned

Bio-Pharma marketers must create purposeful content in order to truly connect with both the HCP and patients if they want to drive behavior change

There is a movement that is slowly gaining traction with bio-pharma marketers. Providing content that imparts value to the healthcare professional is more important than brand literature. Although this seems like such a simple concept but the transition away from brand only materials has taken years.

That’s because not all content is created equally—the “build it and they will use it” approach no longer works. Marketers must create purposeful, health literacy focused content in order to truly connect with a vast majority of patients with chronic disease to drive behavior change.

Here are four ways biopharma marketers can boost engagement via educational content.

1. Content needs be tailored to both the HCP and your target audience

Before creating any piece of content an understanding of the language used by healthcare professionals in the exam room is essential. What does the primary care HCP say versus the specialist?

How does the patient react? Is the patient prepared for deeper engagement or is the reaction
emotional and defensive. The content development process needs to leverage the understanding of both constituencies. For example, discussion subjects like weight control and lifestyle change are often ignored because of both the level of HCP discomfort with a conversation and patient resistance.

Content needs to be uncluttered, well curated and be present in a form that the HCP can easily access, can scan and present to a patient simply and efficiently. Language (copy) needs to be presented with visual graphics and easy to understand plain language that is both literacy and culturally sensitive. Aligning education encounters with expectations can improve health outcomes(1)

2. Patients have high expectations that need to be addressed

Modern day patients present with more complex health needs and increased expectations that they will be engaged as healthcare partners in their care needs and services (2).

Many research studies share that patient expectations closely correlate with patient satisfaction(3). This is more important today with patient ratings having direct impact on financial performance of hospitals and individual doctors. This improves the value proposition of delivering content that make a HCP more efficient and effective.

3. The form of the content can impact patient understanding

We all learn differently. Video education has been shown to be more effective than long form copy education as a means of conveying relevant health and condition information to certain patient populations(4). Video can help improve health education in various cultural and literacy levels to address low health literacy (5,6).

Videos enhance retention up to 50% by using visual and audible media to demonstrate and inform patients and caregivers(4).

4. Content needs to enhance engagement

There is an old saying about pharmaceutical sales to “Be bright, Be Brief, Be Gone.”(7) This holds true for patient educational content. Healthcare consumers are insisting on more time saving and technology-based solutions to help them meet their healthcare needs(8).

Content needs to be digestible, action-oriented information that relates to the needs of the target audience as they travel through their decision journey causes a person to pause, consider their next move, and possible change their behavior. Short (e.g.,1:30 min long) videos, highly visual presentations of information are a requirement today. Our research shows that 9 minute long videos are not effective and are rarely viewed in their entirety.

When the content connects with its target audience, each step of the decision journey can be delivered to change behavior and ultimately improve compliance.


1. Adams, R. J. (2010). Improving health outcomes with better patient understanding and education. Risk Management & Healthcare Policy, 3, 61-72
2. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2007). Improving quality health care: The role of consumer engagemen
3. Jayasankar, S. J. (2009). Patient expectations: How do they matter?
4. Murphy, D. (2013, March 14). Hear, see, do: How videos improve patient education
5. Burger, J. (2014). Four ways hospitals can reduce patient readmissions.
6. Fleming, J. E. (2014). A future for adult educators in patient education. Adult Learning, 25(4), 166-168. doi: 10.1177/10451595145
7. David Currier and Jay Frost Be Bright Be Brief Be Gone Career Essentials for Pharmaceutical and Biotech Sales Representatives 2001
8. Sonnier S. Impacting Successful Outcomes: Optimizing Patient Interactive Education and Engagement