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Improve your marketing by observing the digital patient experience

With technology and digital information sources advancing rapidly, to be effective marketers, it is important to understand the complete market dynamic a consumer faces when searching for disease or treatment information.  While extensive data about their quest traditionally have been obtained using surveys, the data are recall-based and therefore are subject to the reliability and validity issues inherent in self-reported methods.

Digital tracking technology has advanced beyond cookies to apps that can capture every search term and URL-click a person makes on their devices (PC, laptop, tablet or mobile). This tracking, used for research purposes and with the permission of respondents, enables us to change our measurement strategy. Thereby, we can capture attitudes as well as passively observe behavior as it occurs. Importantly, researchers can link survey data with behavioral data, allowing for a deeper and more robust understanding of the intentions behind individuals’ behavior.

So how can we best exemplify the significance of understanding the patient’s digital experience and then leveraging that knowledge? In this article we will share the methodological details of a GfK study that examines how, in this case, diabetes-focused marketers can be more patient-centric in their digital strategy in the following areas:

  • media planning
  • content strategy
  • optimization of digital assets

The study objective was to use an observational approach to better understand the journey of people with diabetes through evaluating their buying, navigation and search behavior. People with diabetes were recruited from our US panel and downloaded our proprietary tracking app onto their PC or laptop. The app then monitored the respondents’ web use for three weeks, collecting data on all URLs they went to, the duration of their visits, search behavior and other information. Respondents completed a diary survey two times /week for the first two weeks, where they described their online and offline experiences. Certain high-profile websites were pre-programmed with short entry and exit surveys. We assigned a task for week three – half of the respondents were to research blood glucose meters and half were to research weight management.

Data from multiple sources were integrated into this study, including:

  • tracking – over 426,000 URLs and searches
  • diabetes survey – a 45-minute “day in the life” survey of 2,200 diagnosed patients
  • customer profiles from our panel
  • survey data from the three-week study

Combining the behavioral tracking data with the other data streams enriched our understanding of their digital journey, including:

  • where they go to obtain health information
  • what importance they place on online and offline sources
  • how they ultimately made the decision to buy a glucose meter.

The key learnings from the study that comprise the core components to optimizing digital strategy using a data-driven approach included:

  • Media planning: Diet sites generate deeper activity than any other site category, with half of visits leading to an additional drill-down within the site.
  • Content strategy: Diet and recipe sources – sites that fulfill patients’ day-to-day, non-medication oriented needs – track the highest repeat visits across site categories.
  • Optimization of digital assets:

o    Most search topics are centered on managing weight and blood sugar levels; insurance topics are also popular.

o    General health sites generate higher audience reach, more repeat visits and longer visit duration than diabetes-specific sites.

An accurate view that minimizes patients’ recalled experiences is crucial to unlocking the digital experience that so many marketers seek. This view requires an approach that does not solely rely on self-reported methods, which is why the use of an observational approach to evaluate behavior is crucial to answer these questions. This helps us to evaluate the total patient experience.

Of course, validity and reliability are the keystones of observational methodology. In a situation where a patient self-reports, the resulting data is subject to many variables. By using the observational method, the patient’s behavior is an undisputed matter of record.

This article was co-authored by Art Rome of Health.

For further information, contact Natasha Stevens.

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