Showing posts with label Consumer Engagement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Consumer Engagement. Show all posts

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ambrosia for food, Palm-top engagement, Iterative decision making – A preview into evolving expectations of the healthcare consumer

Understanding consumer preferences has always been of paramount importance in most product segments. Within the pharmaceutical domain however even as there’s a constant ideation, speculation on future of healthcare; outlook on disease incidence, burden and pharmaceutical consumption patterns, this particular aspect has not been focused on, possibly owing to the prescriptive nature of the medicine where decision-making seldom lies with the patient & the power to influence product development lies more with the medical professionals & payers. To an extent this disengagement of consumer does justify the disinterest of Industry to understanding the consumer as against understanding the prescriber & the payer/ insurer.

Having said that, a number of disorders these days are getting close to being categorized as lifestyle-diseases & with early detection, diagnosis and routine monitoring getting simpler, it’s only imminent that the insurer will increasingly resort to rationalizing what treatment-regimens can be covered thus significantly shifting the onus of payment to consumer. Then again, owing to the abundance of open-source information and availability of validated healthcare gamification apps, the consumer is getting more knowledgeable & hence empowered. Seen together, these trends indicate that the average pharmaceutical consumer is well poised to be the key decision-maker on therapeutic choices, particularly on maintenance therapies that form a predominant portion (vis-à-vis’ the curative therapies) of all pharmaceutical revenues.

It also hence would not be overtly speculative to state that the hitherto quintessential practitioner-dependent healthcare consumer is evolving quick & is looking at an iterative role for her/ him-self rather than merely wanting to being ‘prescribed health’, literally & figuratively. Continued negligence of factoring-in consumer behaviour in the product development process can thus be a serious lapse of judgement in an industry that’s been groping around for the next paradigm shift for a few years now.

The Health 2025 survey I floated in early July is a token attempt to gain some basic perspective into the altering behaviour of an ‘aware pharmaceutical consumer’ which I hope either in its promise OR in its inadequacy will instigate more such studies in-depth and at a larger scale. While I can’t claim to have gotten a great number of responses, I fortunately received quality responses (& some incidental endorsement*) as indicated by consistency of the trend that was showing up right from early stages to till plateauing of response flow.

Even as I was compiling the final results I came across this rather well received fund raising pitch of Stefan Broda (Founder/CEO of BeforeWeDo) at the end of which one particular GP lauded the Consumer Iteration built into the business model which is worth emulating by other healthcare start-ups! – If not a sign from the heavens, a sweet coincidence nonetheless.


I chose the sample population of pharmaceutical professionals who I believe are very representative of the above breed of ‘aware pharmaceutical consumers’ & to whom I have ready access through the Pharmaceutical Discussion Group I founded and manage on Linkedin & Groupsite.

Based on a guestimate of ~5million pharmaceutical professionals world-wide, I derived my target sample size as 350, using a Confidence level of 95%, which is the mostly used default level & a Confidence interval of 5, which again is the oft-employed default figure. By the time I chose to start the compilation (the survey is still active) I however had only 159 responses which translated amount to a confidence interval of 7.7 while the confidence level remains at 95% - That, I guess is my cue to you for taking the results with a pinch of salt :-)

Finally, I am neither a professional statistician nor a qualified analyst and it’s likely the design of survey may not fully please many out there. I however did consciously try and keep the questionnaire short, the questions specific & the choice of answers broad in order to minimize any chance of a bias setting-in – the trends indicated by the responses, as I see, justify some if not all questions.


The survey is based on ten questions out of which the first three are essentially filters namely age, sex & nationality that enable some level of demographic segmentation of responses. While the charts of responses to individual questions looked very pretty on Surveymonkey dash-board, I agonized nonetheless quite a bit deciding on an ideal approach to presenting the results on my blog without sounding too pedagogic – I hence chose to weave the details around certain KEY OBSERVATIONS and then go about detailing on those further.

Since it may help put things in perspective, I have uploaded the primary results document* to file cabinet on Pharmaceutical Discussion Group – please note that this link opens the document only when you are logged in, (i.e. if not a member already, you will have to join the group)

**I’ll be happy to share the master data file too with anyone interested.


In hindsight I realize some of the questions are pretty skewed & some fairly meaningful, but overall they seemed to fall in two broad categories, one set wherein the standalone overall response is itself strongly indicative of a trend & a second set wherein an interesting picture emerges only when the responses are separated out and compared across demographics. I however will spare the mundane trends and go straight to top observations based on the percentage response towards a trend-indicating response;

Not just food, Ambrosia is what the consumer wants - a huge thumbs-up for Functional Foods!

Quite ironic that the top trend in a health survey is food & not medicine! - A whopping 87% of the respondents see/ want the food in 2025 to be more than nutrition, out of which 46% see a potential for food being a curative!

Women make up the majority of the ‘food as a curative’ advocates (60% as against 30% among men) – which simultaneously underscores & endorses the greater influence of women in the functional food promise.

More Indians (56%) believe in the promise of curative food than the North Americans (40%) or Europeans (44%) – a possible connection to the expectations influenced by prevailing, predominant ethno-cultural dietary practises?

Consumers want to take things into their hands, literally – Mobile Health Tools all set to Rule

At 68%, a clear majority of the respondents are bullish on the role & significance of personal mobile apps in an individual’s health management. (25%, Indispensable & 43%, Very crucial)

Once again this is a trend driven primarily by women, the percentage of women who chose ‘Indispensable’ (40%) being significantly higher than the men, a majority of whom (67%) chose the mildly-tempered but still bullish, ‘Very crucial’ as their answer. This clearly establishes women as the ‘early adaptors of the health mobile tools & apps’ & possibly that mobile apps are more amenable to woman’s health management and finally that factoring-in gender into the development of a mobile healthcare app can be a key determiner of the success of the same.

When the Geography filter is applied, the trend expectedly peaks in North America with an overall bullish-ness at 76% - within which women once again stand-out strongly with 55% responding ‘Indispensable’. The dominant European response is however ‘Very crucial’ (60%) which probably indicates a currently lower penetration of mobile health apps within this geography – this holds good for India too.


They seem to say, keep the Doctor away – Eating an apple isn't the only way

While the question has some unfortunate bias & choice of ‘You’ sounds like a given…, the responses still indicate an increasing role for non-physician health professionals. If the choice of ‘You’ (53%) is ignored, only 12% see the physician playing the single most crucial role towards an individual’s health much below the diagnostician at 18%.

There’s an interesting contrast in choice of physician v/s diagnostician among the female & male respondents’ viz., Female: 7% (P) v/s 21% (D) & Male: 14% (P) v/s 16% (D) – probably again owing to the essential nature of women’s health issues vis-à-vis’ male issues – nonetheless, a potentially important alert to the healthcare industry.

In-line with the number one trend above, the nutritionist polled 10% of the vote. Quite surprisingly, of all respondents who chose Nutritionist, 70% belong to the age group of 35-44 yrs. This read together with the first trend gives a great demographic insight into who could be the prime target demographic segment for promoting functional foods – Women between the age group of 35-44.


Apart from the above three observations, the rest of the observations though interesting aren’t necessarily great insights into the health consumer psyche - the same are listed below in no specific order;

  • 78% of the respondents feel medicines should target cure as against 22% that are okay with maintenance – expectedly, the 78% group is populated majorly with people under 55 years of age.
  • 87% of the respondents prefer oral medications to parenterals – Interestingly though, there’s a strong geographical variation with NA & EU preferring oral medications at 92%, while the Indian respondents still retain some of the cultural trust of ‘injections’ (26%) 
  • 89% of all respondents still believe the necessity of medicines per se’ in-spite or despite the preference of the ambrosial foods – if anything, this seems to showcase the omnipresence of the pills.

While the results may not qualify as astonishing findings, the unmistakable relevance of the trends thrown up by a mere seven-question survey still underscores the value of understanding the health consumer’s perspective and using the knowledge to build, refine the road-map of pharmaceutical product development.

Functional Food for thought! :-)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Understanding the consumer's perspective on the future of healthcare is the key to envisioning the future of pharma itself!

While there occurs a lot of ideation & speculation within the industry domain on the future of healthcare & an outlook on pharma variously from 2020 through to 2050, I always still felt there is a crying need for pharmaceutical industry to understand the consumer's perspective on what healthcare scenario should be like in future - This is critical considering the hitherto quintessential 'practitioner-dependent' healthcare consumer is changing rapidly & is looking at an 'iterative' role for himself rather than wanting to being 'prescribed' health literally & figuratively.

While not exactly an average consumer, the pharmaceutical professionals themselves represent a sample population of aware individual consumers whose opinion I believe will give me a much valuable insight into what an increasingly knowledgeable healthcare consumer is looking forward to with respect to health & wellness in 2025 & hence I have decided to reach out to them primarily, to start with & pick some brain.

Through the various forums I have access to, I have already sent out multiple requests to multitudes of individuals to spare a a few minutes of their precious time to fill in the HEALTH 2025 survey as a consumer. I of course will be greatly pleased to have an outlook from the 'non-pharma' aware consumers too & invite the same to provide their valuable input.

The outcome of my small effort looks promising with the total initial responses already reaching 100 across the globe even as I type this post - Not bad at all, considering the survey's been open for only 20 hours now. 

Very soon I will be back to share the results of the above survey & postulate, however minimal, on a few useful trends & indicators.

Wish me good luck folks!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

USER TRUST, the dope that can't be ignored in the race to monetizing cyber-social engagement – A commentary in light of the recent revamps to LinkedIn user experience

Okay, here goes…


With a market cap of over US$16 billion & revenues forecast slated at US$1.4 billion and supposedly* out-pacing the original social media biggie Facebook in terms of revenue v/s user base, LinkedIn is surely fanning the flames of market expectation of an aggressive performance coming year (*the revenue per user as of last financial year is ~ US$5, coincidentally for both LinkedIn & FB)

As a part of this expectation frenzy, the analysts have been postulating various acquisition targets based on LinkedIn’s need to grow faster, hence inorganically through acquisitions, though not all necessarily as pricey as Slideshare buyout and generate more revenues & earnings that’d justify its two years into public listing - In a funny kind of way, I feel the financial markets almost want LI to compensate for the laggard performance of Facebook J


As a regular user, I’ve been wearily noticing the rapid dilution of what used to be the core value-add of LinkedIn platform (vis-à-vis’ other social media) – its high quality user-experience!

While a major portion of this dilution happened through the unceremonious withdrawal of various tools & applications, a lot of it is also owing to the subtle or probably not-so subtle attempt to move away from being an egalitarian professional platform to becoming an elite platform where a few celebrities & myriads of followers exist at different levels of social relevance effected through a methodically tempered and manipulated 'visibility engineering' by the overseers……. not sure about what I’m saying?... ponder this;

Unceremonious WITHDRAWAL of apps
  • Just like that, one fine day most used & adored apps such as MY TRAVEL (TRIPIT); EVENTS; READING LIST BY AMAZON (along with all my reviews), BLOG LINK et al are all gone!! - Ironically, the settings still point me to the applications page where all the above application icons still exist, but defunct.
The subtle social DISENGAGEMENT:
  • STATUS UPDATE - No more one can use Twitter to update the LI status, the other way is possible though. Also, the status update is now “just one more activity” on your profile & the moment you post a comment on anything else, your status update goes into hiding below. Furthermore, your comment on a LI article itself is never shown, but a grab of the article on which you commented is displayed on your profile
  • ENGAGEMENT - The LinkedIn Answers is gone…. taking with it the zillions of high quality & ‘free’ opinion and advice
And what features get strengthened? 1) JOBS - with the introduction of talent solutions; Premium job-seeker et al 2) NEWS - with LinkedIn Today, Signal et al 3) TALENT SOLUTIONS – introduction of Skills and Expertise endorsements moving away from the much cumbersome recommendation 4) COMPANIES – with enhanced options for engagement with potential business associates and job aspirants et al and finally 5) PREMIUM USER ACCOUNT and the paying account privileges that come with it.


Reading the trend of vanishing apps & features together with the names of potential acquisitions floating about, it does appear LI could end up acquiring and integrating a few companies such as;
  • VIADEO & ChinaHR  - to ramp up the user-base and thus the revenues
  • QUORA – to compensate for Answers & recreate the lost cause of stimulating user engagement.. and finally,
  • DEMANDBASE – to optimize the momentum of COMPANY pages and create a B2B integrated transaction platform
I don’t believe acquisition of MONSTER is something LinkedIn would/ should bother about?, as LI already enjoys the benefit of a better user perception (real?) of candidate quality plus a greater brand equity, which any association with a hard-core job site like Monster would only dilute.

Essentially, when the analysts out there propose these acquisitions, it’s all about money, valuation, market capitalization & essentially monetizing all the user-base unabashedly quite like what FB is trying to do.


But of course, these are enterprises after all and they’d want to make money & people who invested in those want them to make money. But when the very basis of a business is its user base, their interest and trust in the platform and it’s ethos, I am not sure if the solely revenue-inspired changes LI is affecting make complete sense.

I want to believe when LI web-page redirect I landed on says “We'll be focusing our efforts on the development of new and more engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics across LinkedIn” – I very badly want to……. I love/ loved being on LinkedIn, I want it to sustain my interest, I do want to still confide all my professional details to the platform without having a niggling doubt that LI is only teasing-out information it could use commercially and blocking-out information it can’t monetize – only I don’t see many signs of it. I, an average but avid social media denizen am not surely alone in this feeling of the user getting left high and dry in this chase of valuation.

I hope LinkedIn is listening & FB eavesdropping..... Please don’t do the mistake of taking the user for granted 'cause on a social media user is the primal stakeholder.



Is LinkedIn itself a candidate for take-over? I’d think so - it’d be the right acquisition for any company out there trying to dominate the cloud scene with an integrated gadget to boot. Would one of you gentleman please raise your hand? Tim, Jeff, Larry… anyone….??