In order to accurately and effectively empower patients, not only do you need to understand who they are and where they hang out, you need to understand how they navigate through the patient journey. Though they can get complex and involve multiple touch points, it’s crucial to understand what a direct to patient journey model looks like to better understand the different mindsets and searcher intents, depending on what phase of the journey the patient might be in. This helps you craft targeted messaging and content to each particular stage, pushing patients along in their decision process.
Here are 4 basic patient journey stages:
1: In the first phase, patients are typically categorized as “unwell.” It’s here where their patient journey begins. They are aware of their condition, or are currently being treated for a specific condition, and want to know the “facts” pertaining to that condition or are unhappy with their current product or service and are researching alternatives. Trusted content from a reputable source that answers all fundamental questions is what they are hoping to receive from search queries. This is where a solid SEO foundation gives brands the opportunity to distinguish themselves from their competitors. You can own organic search utilizing things like high quality cornerstone content, native ads, and patient testimonials that speak to the most common questions and keywords surrounding their condition and symptoms.
2: The second step can be thought of as the awareness or influence stage. At this point patients have generally become informed about the ins and outs of their condition, or to the alternative products on the market, along with the ways in which their symptoms can be improved or even cured. Branded content needs to lay the foundation for patients to understand that there are steps they can begin to take to help them in their current state. It’s here where patients naturally begin transitioning from a sort of suffering in silence stage, to an actively going out and seeking help or advice stage. Sources could include healthcare provider referrals, online videos, paid search, events, and social and community forums.
3: Starting to feel empowered, patients continue progressing from the awareness stage into the decision stage. Here they have become familiar with procedures, recovery times, and even costs. Thanks to the abundance of resources your brand has distributed, patients will ideally start to feel a sense of reassurance. They have concluded your product or service is something that is going to ultimately help them and they are ready to make a decision. Allow your brand to take charge of the decision stage with social media retargeting, before and after imagery, patient reviews, and video testimonials. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
4: The last phase of their patient journey is the action stage. The action stage can be split up into two categories – the first is where the patient opts to go through with the procedure and use your product, or not. They have reached a point where they feel this is the right decision for them either way. The second part of the action stage is centered on continued action. If the procedure or device was something they decided to go through with, this is a period after that procedure where they are making decisions about their lifestyle and taking the necessary continued steps to improve their longer-term health. Cater to your customers with continued information such as: lifestyle or advice content, monthly emails, and app downloads if it’s applicable.
Ultimately, the goal of any direct to patient (DTP) marketing campaign should be geared toward empowering patients to make the best healthcare decisions for their individual needs. By providing patients with the necessary content and information at all stages of their patient journey, you’re guiding them towards the most positive health outcomes possible.