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Power to the patient: digital innovation supporting patients with chronic diseases

By Abby Purdy

It’s hard to write a piece about digital innovation in the current climate without making reference to COVID-19 and the developments that the virus has accelerated and enforced.

From virtual consultations, to the NHS track and trace app, to chatbots that provide real-time information specific to patient concerns, the past few months have profiled digital services and tools, and indeed the pharmaceutical industry, as beacons of opportunity and advancement.

While these new and revamped assets are crucial in managing patient care, digital channels have long been utilised to directly engage and support those living with chronic diseases.

Patient engagement websites are often overlooked as ‘tick-box’ exercises, a place to drive traffic and host information in the early stages of a campaign, later to be left languishing, falling down in search rankings and patients’ consciousness.

To ensure these hubs continue to live and breathe we must look to the following: patient feedback (constantly, not at a once a year advisory board), being nimble and receptive to change and demonstrating value.

Digital platforms mean that patients have easier access to not only care, but options. Patients – if we are still using ‘patient’ and haven’t all moved to ‘consumers’ – are not passive.

In an increasingly competitive healthcare space, where we now frequently see products being launched that are third, or even fourth in line, they need to buy-in to their care. As with all other areas of life, if patients are not content (delighted even), supported and ‘optimally’ cared for, they will seek other things and will go elsewhere.

Patients are – and should be – active in the decision-making and in reshaping and establishing their expectations for healthcare companies. As well as the initial insights that shape communications programmes and approaches, we also need to ensure we have tools that perform regular, if not constant, temperate checking.

An example of a company working hard to put this into practice and making digital innovation and evaluation a ‘must’, and not a ‘nice to have’, is AbbVie, which has, with its agencies, developed digital frameworks and campaigns that constantly assess success and pivot accordingly.

Notably, the recent award-winning AbbVie HS Online campaign (developed to support those seeking a diagnosis of, and living with, hidradenitis suppurativa) is an example of this continuous evolution in practice.

Devised and run in partnership with Syneos Health Communications, the HS Online platform was recognised recently by The PM Society in its ‘Still Working’ category of the 2020 Digital Awards as a clear winner, highlighting the strength of the insights the campaign is based upon, continuous listening and evolving, and very strong metrics – and at the grand old age of five, continues to gain industry recognition.

The bespoke, digital dashboard which updates and can be viewed in real time has been central to HS Online’s campaign success, allowing affiliates in over 46 countries to track engagement with the online campaign site and intent beyond.

While key indicators of a campaign’s success often sit in the awareness and engagement metrics of web visits, page dwells and bounce rates, more notable markers of success lie in the signals of intent from patients. In HS Online’s case, this intent is indicated by completion of a symptom checker tool and downloading the results, and where local regulations allow, giving patients direct access to an HS specialist near them.

One of the biggest challenges organisations face is demonstrating value, or return on investment of patient engagement initiatives. A sophisticated, always-on measurement tool, such as a digital dashboard, with core ‘convert’ assets and tools, such as the symptom checker alongside the dermatologist finder, does just that: showing patients active in their care, seeking support and taking decisive action in their treatment journey.

To find out more about the multi-award-winning Syneos Health Communications HS Online campaign for AbbVie,
visit The PM Society’s website.

Abby Purdy is a Director at Syneos Health Communications.

In association with

23rd November 2020

From: Healthcare

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