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Personalization in regulated industries; how to use this powerful tool to build trust

A photo of a health care practitioner using a desktop and mobile phone

Personalization is a powerful tool for companies who want to improve customer experience, engagement, and loyalty. For pharmaceutical companies, personalization can provide significant value to healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients—most often with lifestyle and chronic disease products where a long-term relationship between patient and brand is crucial. 

But in the pharmaceutical industry, there are particular challenges in developing a digital personalization strategy given the fine line between privacy and personalization. How do you know how much data is too much to collect and tailor a patient’s experience? What do HIPAA and other privacy laws allow for ethically storing patient health data?

At Think Company, we regularly work with pharmaceutical companies that face these challenges. While the solutions may initially seem obvious to people new to this industry, our experience has taught us that there are many considerations when balancing personalization and privacy in the healthcare industry. These challenges require an expert’s touch. 

We’ll share some of our best practices here, discussing how pharmaceutical brands can provide the personalized digital experiences that healthcare users—patients and HCPs—expect while working within the constraints of a highly-regulated industry.

Best practices for personalization in healthcare

So you want to provide easily accessible, compliant content when and where your users need it? The best practices we’re sharing are tailored to the healthcare industry but can be applicable across many regulated industries concerned with compliance and personalization. Let’s dig in.

Content tagging

For many healthcare brands, content comes from multiple sources. For a single brand or product, different teams may create content intended for the patient population and for healthcare professionals. There may also be a variety of teams ranging from brand marketers to data scientists generating a range of content, including product overviews, real-world evidence models, and clinical data outcome reports. With content being produced across disciplines and departments, keeping a cohesive content strategy and helping users find the information they need can be complex—but not impossible.

Consistent content tagging is a great way to help ensure your content is searchable and easily consumable. By tagging your content internally, you can more easily group relevant content and appropriate audiences making it easier for users to search on your site or medical portal.

On the legal side of things, tagging makes it easy for compliance folks and legal reviewers to see precisely what will appear if a user does a specific search. This ability is crucial for reducing unintentional claims and related legal issues.

Mastering search

As mentioned above, if your content isn’t tagged correctly, it will be complicated to have an effective search. But there are other issues inherent in search, specific to healthcare companies.

While many teams and less-experienced consultancies would want to implement an algorithmic search (the best-in-class and most common search option), this is a significant issue if you’re in healthcare. Even “fuzzy search” (when content is suggested after an exact match isn’t found for phrases or sentences in a database) can be a compliance minefield.

Because of the regulatory requirements surrounding claims and adverse events, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies must work closely with their legal teams to ensure that searchers are getting the information they need—while the company remains compliant with FDA laws.

Role-based access

In conjunction with tagging, on portal or login-based websites, you can use role-based access to govern the display of secure content and ensure that content is only viewed by certain audiences. Maybe you have secure economic impact data that may only be relevant to formulary decision makers, or mechanism of action overviews that should only be seen by healthcare providers. 

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If those business-to-business customers are already logging-in to a digital portal, you can use a combination of tagging and role-based access permissioning to provide a curated and compliant content experience for those customers.

Sophisticated chat experiences

In healthcare, building and developing an ongoing relationship with the patient or HCP is crucial. Chatbots are an easy frontline way to quickly and efficiently meet the customer where they are. But even better, a chatbot can be a practical way to connect that person to someone at the organization who can field their question or request. 

Getting people in touch with a human as quickly as possible also helps meet requirements for reporting adverse events. It allows for more context and creates an understanding of the true nature of the issue. In the healthcare industry reporting adverse events on time is crucial and chat experiences are often the first point of contact. 

First-party data

There’s a fine line in personalization for applications, portals, and websites. Too much customized information can seem creepy and, ironically, impersonal. But finding the right balance helps to deepen trust with your users and nurture your relationship with them.

By utilizing first-party data, people feel a sense of control about how much information they’re sharing with you—and in regulated environments like healthcare, first-party data helps to sidestep some of the regulatory issues that can come with data collection.

Empowering your field-facing team with the right tools and systems (like CRMs) to understand customer data allows them to leverage that information to deliver relevant content in the future. (Better than scribbles on a sales rep’s legal pad, right?) This centralization of first-party data makes it easier for anyone in an organization to uphold a continued level of service and stay within the legal requirements surrounding data collection. 


Benefits of personalization in healthcare

There are many benefits to personalization in digital healthcare experiences. Ultimately, providing your customers with the most relevant information effectively and efficiently leads to greater customer satisfaction, retention, and potential for improved patient care. 

A few benefits include:

  • In an industry that can be high-stress and seemingly filled to the brim with information, the right healthcare information at the fingertips of your patients and HCPs can help alleviate uncertainty. 
  • Users get important and relevant information they need when and where they need it—increasing customer loyalty.
  • Role-based personalization saves time. Patients aren’t digging too deep into the weeds; healthcare providers don’t have to search through massive amounts of data to find the resources.
  • The communication between healthcare providers and their patients is improved through easy-to-share articles and data, like symptoms to watch out for, side effects to expect, etc. Ideally, leading to improved patient care.
  • Chatbots and features allow users to surpass search and get real-time support when needed.
  • Providing users with customized data or the ability to set up their dashboard to view the information most relevant to them builds confidence and trust and makes for a better overall customer experience (for healthcare providers and patients alike).

Personalization in regulated environments

If your organization wants to improve customer experience, engagement, and loyalty, personalization can be a powerful tool. But the specific challenges of working in regulated environments like healthcare and pharma can discourage many companies from making personalization efforts. There are legal issues to contend with, and any customer can feel uncomfortable if a company seems to know too much about them.

In our experience working with healthcare and pharmaceutical companies that face these challenges, there are several solutions. Content tagging, search optimization, and first-party data are just some of the ways we work with teams in regulated industries to provide personalized experiences while still protecting user privacy.

Is your regulated organization looking to improve personalization for their digital products? Our team of experts can help—let’s talk!

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