We all have different preferred learning methods and ways we like to access information. Even those who haven’t given the issue much thought will, if we think about it, realise we either like to see pharma content and instructions in written format, or we prefer pictorial diagrams to indicate a course of action. Most of us like a mixture of the two.There are other aspects that either promote or hamper learning too, and these revolve around how information is presented — its format. Enough research evidence exists to make some features accepted practise when formatting printed or web-based info:
- Font sizes and typeface.
- Use of headings.
- Bold or italic text to highlight salient points.
- Plenty of white space.
- Judicious use of bullet points.
These physical aspects exist because we understand human behaviour when reading: how we skim text, how we dismiss text that seems hard to read or dense, jargon-filled or complex, for instance.
One aspect of human nature that’s often overlooked, however, is the tendency to ask questions and make up our own solutions if the answers aren’t clear. This human behavioural trait is of particular relevance to pharma in all marketing stages, but can especially help with the creation of patient information leaflets (PILs).
Patients read PILs like they read anything else. A quick skim down for the bits that apply to their personal situation, then backtrack to the parts that stand out. Any information that appears unclear, ambiguous, or doesn’t answer the question ‘why’ is likely to be passed over or ignored.
Examples include such instructions as ‘do not take with alcohol’ or ‘always take with food’. Why? What will happen otherwise? If patients don’t see the need to follow directions, they’re far more likely to disregard them, which can exacerbate the non-adherence problem and lead to ineffective medication or worsened side effects.
Clarity, depth, and breadth in scientific patient information
As patients become better informed on their conditions, the need for clear medical communications in PILs, grows. A recent survey conducted among cancer patients and care groups across 39 countries revealed a significant 60% of respondents complained that the science behind treatment innovations was not clearly explained. While the patients they are intended to support are aware of scientific advances, the majority of patients felt left out of the communication loop.
They wanted to know more about how offered treatments worked, why they worked, and how they affected personal outcomes. Almost 55% of respondents to the survey agreed that an improved understanding of the scientific concept behind a new treatment improved a patient’s quality of life and their clinical outcome.
One of the biggest barriers to patient understanding was a lack of familiarity with scientific concepts and language. Simple, clear, jargon-free scientific information that patients could access easily, such as online or through social media for example, would reach more patients.
Providing better information through content marketing
The survey demonstrates the clear need for pharma to simultaneously simplify and extend the information made available to patients. But before pharma can produce the kind of content patients or their HCPs need, there has to be an understanding of the questions, doubts, and concerns clamouring for answers. A sound way of digging into the most pressing issues is by creating personas. The insights gleaned can then be used to build content marketing strategies that engage, educate, and inform.
It is not, of course, a ‘once and done’ strategy. Market segment needs change, ways of accessing information appear and vanish just as quickly, changing people’s behaviour accordingly. So there’s also an ongoing need to measure, evaluate and analyse response in order to gauge content effectiveness.
When the medical communications generated by pharma align with the questions being asked or concerns being raised, the result is always better information.
This is the fifth and final post in the medical communication 2017 series, you can read the rest blog posts in this series here.