Posted by Deb Elitzur on Nov 10, 2017 8:30:00 AM

Patients access digital content from a number of sources every day to learn more about medical conditions and treatment options. Pharmaceutical companies can engage and build trust with patients by meeting their needs for medical content throughout the patient journey. When pharmaceutical and biotech companies get digital right, patients find the information they need to support their medical decision-making.

While many of our research insights are specific to particular medication brands or disease areas, we’ve noted common branded website user experience issues that are transferable across brands and therapeutic areas. These findings are rooted in some commonly held myths about the needs and expectations of patients. It’s time to debunk four of those myths.

Myth #1: Patients trust branded sites

As a marketer, you might think patients regard your site the same as any other source of product information. Our research shows that isn’t the case. Patients are often wary of manufacturers’ branded sites because they feel the information is biased. So it’s important to establish trust from the moment a patient lands on your site. Build trust by providing assurances throughout the site that the content is trustworthy and objective. Use patient-focused features and functionality to enhance the site experience and exceed patient expectations.

Tactics to build trust:

  • Make sure that home page content conveys that the site directly addresses patients’ goals for online research. If you don’t know what those goals are or the language patients use to explain those goals, consider conducting custom research.

  • Use realistic and empathetic imagery.

  • Prioritize providing informational content in videos.
    • Videos that help patients and caregivers better understand their condition or how the drugs work are considered particularly helpful and effective.
    • However, remember not all site visitors will prefer to consume information through videos. Provide alternate ways to access this information, such as using text or images.
  • Provide unique patient tools and resources. Patients especially appreciate the following resources:
    • Lifestyle (non-medical) support resources
    • Tools to manage the condition or medication regimen
    • Doctor-patient discussion guides
    • Tools to understand lab tests
    • Caregiver tips

Myth #2: Visitors will stay a while

It’s a common misconception of marketers that patients spend a great deal of time on branded sites and devote their full attention to the site. In reality, patients lead busy lives and may be distracted due to the stress of having a medical condition.

Tactics to help patients meet goals with limited time: 

  • Use direct, descriptive labeling in the navigation.

  • Allow patients to easily view sub-navigation menus to see what each section contains.

  • Anchor the header and main navigation to the top of the screen, regardless of where the patient scrolls.

  • Prominently display a contact number as a persistent element of the site.

  • Include print and email buttons on key informational pages.

Myth #3: It’s important to follow the latest design trends

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest design trends and to feel pressure to follow them. However, keep in mind that patients are looking to educate themselves when visiting branded sites, and a site’s layout and formatting play a significant role in how the content is consumed. Make sure the layout and formatting do not hinder patients’ ability to obtain information from the site.

Tactics for effective layout and formatting: 

  • Keep pages short and contained to meet patients’ information-seeking preferences. Shorter, contained pages are preferred over long-scroll pages covering multiple topics, especially on mobile.

  • Optimize content readability with text formatting and layout. Break up long blocks of text with bullets and images.

  • Ensure sites are optimized for desktop, mobile, and tablet, to ensure an optimal experience regardless of screen size.

Myth #4: Patients have high medical literacy

When designing a branded site, it is easy to forget that patients have varying degrees of medical literacy. As you write your copy, consider your audience and their medical literacy. Speak to patients at the appropriate level. Language or graphics designed for physicians are not ideal for patients.

Tactics for considering your audience:

  • Use clear, common content and language.

  • Avoid unnecessary clinical jargon, graphics, abbreviations, and complex medical terms.

  • When medical terminology is necessary, provide explanations.

I’d like to challenge you to think about what assumptions you may be taking for granted. Keep these assumptions in mind the next time you update your branded patient site. Have you debunked any patient myths lately? Tell us about it on Twitter.

If you found this article useful, you may also like How Healthy Is Your Pharma Website? 5 HCP Myths That Lead to Ailing Sites.

Topics: Marketing, Pharmaceutical