Consumerism, Privacy and Compliance: Overcoming Obstacles in the Patient Commerce Journey

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Consumerism, Privacy and Compliance: Overcoming Obstacles in the Patient Commerce Journey


By Tina Wilson, Director – Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals, Astound Commerce


Healthcare consumerism is changing the way pharmaceutical, biotech and other medical companies do business. In a healthcare utopia, marketers would create impactful assets and launch powerful campaigns that are immediately adopted and utilized by its sales team. Healthcare providers would repeatedly purchase and prescribe the company’s products, and patients would engage quickly, writing glowing reviews that demonstrate their brand loyalty. They may even become influencers to friends and family about their favorite new products. Unfortunately, ours is not a perfect world.

As healthcare companies increasingly target products towards tech-savvy consumers with the hope of impacting patient engagement and loyalty, they must also expertly navigate legal, compliance and regulatory guidelines for patient privacy. Health-focused companies are trying desperately to adjust to the disruption caused by digital commerce, all while meeting the demands of patients and healthcare providers for quality and convenience.

In 2019, a survey by Helio Health shared responses from 36 small, medium and large-sized companies. Survey results showed that healthcare companies are becoming even more serious about internal legal and compliance oversight and that 60% of the respondents have dedicated resources to address those challenges. Frighteningly, 7% were aware that sales reps had access to patient data. This is a topic for which healthcare companies have been penalized in the recent past. Enter the progressive push of commerce, consumerism and personalization, and the fears of many healthcare companies escalate considerably.

For many health-focused companies, thoughts of personalization and consumerism conjure images of privacy lawsuits, federal investigations, or even multi-million dollar fines. Some have even referred to it as the journey to the wild, wild west. 

Tina Wilson

There are three critical factors to taming fears and successfully navigating this journey. While this is an inclusive list of all factors needed in the digital commerce journey, these three factors are often either overlooked or are difficult to achieve without trusted partners and deep industry expertise.

1) A Comprehensive Digital Roadmap

This roadmap is often a hurdle because many companies and their internal teams have difficulty even deciding where to begin. While a digital roadmap can be overwhelming, it must not be overlooked. This roadmap should include inputs from key stakeholders in each affected area within the organization and milestones for continued success throughout the journey. Celebrating each impactful milestone in ways that match or help shape your company culture will not only help ensure interest in the project but will also increase internal awareness of the compliance guardrails at each stage. Engaging organizational leaders and influencers early and often in this process can mean the difference between strong internal advocacy and reinforced protections or simply another failed project.

2) A Motivated Marketing Team

This team must actively engage with its internal Product and Scientific Review Boards/Committees to produce engaging campaigns and impactful tools and that tell a compelling and compliant story. Consumers love a good story, especially if they feel a connection to the events or the personalities involved. Personalization, while protecting privacy, is critical to ensure loyalty. Marketers who create compelling campaigns only to find that the sales team is not engaged or excited about implementation eventually lose interest in the cause.

3) A Sales Team that Adopts Compliant Marketing Tools, Campaigns and Materials

As we have all experienced in this industry, just because you build it doesn’t mean it will be utilized. The chasm that exists between marketing and sales is real. The relationships between a sales leader and his/her territory healthcare providers are arguably the most critical to the success of a company. However, positive relationships between marketing and sales are critical. Closing that gap while enabling compliant sales engagement is a golden key for ensuring strategic success for companies. The roadmap must include impactful and compliant marketing materials, adoption and scenario sales training and active implementation goals that enable sales leaders to achieve their targets while protecting the company from costly privacy violations, lawsuits and litigation.