Direct to Consumer: Building the Super Consumer - Pharmaceutical Executive


Direct to Consumer: Building the Super Consumer
Tailored self-management programs turn regular people into ideal healthcare consumers.

Pharmaceutical Executive

A self-management program can get to the root of these issues and offer tailored solutions to overcome specific barriers. For example, Joe could indicate on an online questionnaire that he does not like to go to the doctor because his doctor doesn't listen to him. In response, the program could give him specific questions to ask his physician using language that is likely to get his attention, and simultaneously boosting Joe's knowledge of his ailment or the medication that he is taking.

A Tailored Approach

Some people may think that a self-management approach seems too complex to tackle in the world of pharmaceutical marketing. It might seem easier to get a patient to complete one single behavior or action rather than change her entire approach to healthcare. DTC advertising, for example, increases self-identification and treatment-seeking behaviors, and coupons encourage consumers to fill prescriptions.

But, a self-management approach can cost significantly less than either of those approaches in time and money for both the brand team and the participant. It also can provide consumers with invaluable skills, such as how to communicate with a healthcare provider, and increased product knowledge that they retain over the long-term. The self-management approach also complements and increases the effectiveness of future brand marketing initiatives.

All self-management programs begin with a questionnaire used to gather the information needed to create a custom-made plan for each participant. Costs can be cut dramatically if the surveys are administered online. These online programs can be compiled in a single self-management session, reducing the need for multiple sessions with a physician or health counselor.

By leveraging Web- or print-based tailoring technology, pharma companies also can offer every consumer a customized action plan for addressing his or her unique barriers, cutting costs even further. For example, if a medication takes two weeks to become fully effective, a self-management program created for that medication could provide additional support designed to help each patient address his or her unique concerns during that time. Such programs also can alleviate individual patients' reservations about side effects, thereby improving compliance.

Traditional self-management tools, such as brochures, Web sites, and other typical patient-marketing materials, are generic, meaning they treat everyone with a particular disease or condition the same. Tailored self-management programs, in contrast, start with the premise that Joe, Jane, John, and Patty may all have diabetes, but they experience their illness very differently. Each person's individual information is translated into a program geared to them, complete with customized visuals and videos. The HealthMedia study demonstrated that offering something patients can relate to and see the value in will dramatically increase the likelihood that they will succeed in changing their behavior, taking them one step closer from average Joe to super consumer.

Tailored self-management programs can significantly improve a patient's knowledge, self-efficacy, and use of self-management behaviors by helping them care for their whole selves—body, mind, and soul. Those skills help average Joes become super consumers who are ready, willing, and able to actively participate in every stage of their healthcare. Tailored self-management programs result in tangible brand benefits that can cost-effectively increase the success of pharmaceutical marketing initiatives, from acquisition to retention.

Kristine Nash-Wong is manager of the HealthMedia Consulting Group.She can be reached at


According to a 2003 Harris Interactive survey, a tailored, behaviorally-based patient-support program can help potential super consumers better understand and learn the skills they need for self-management, including:

  • Acknowledging the connection between behaviors and staying well
  • Putting beliefs into action (e.g. improved exercise, nutrition, smoking cessation, stress management)
  • Becoming a good patient (e.g. monitoring symptoms, preparing questions for doctors, demanding answers)
  • Maintaining a proactive attitude
  • Viewing their condition as long-term rather than chronic.

A self-management program can also help patients overcome personal barriers such as:

  • Lack of acceptance of the condition
  • Lack of ability to properly communicate with healthcare providers and pharmacists
  • Lack of medication compliance
  • Lack of knowledge about symptom management and lifestyle behaviors and issues (weight, smoking, etc.)
  • Inability to manage associated issues, such as sleep, pain, stress, depression, and fatigue
  • Inability to seek out social support
  • Lack of appropriate goal setting and planning skills.


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