One of the most neglected instruments today for shaping a hearing health care approach is the consumer-patient journey. Creating a map of the journey, including its concealed barriers and drivers of care, aids in pinpointing key areas for market growth and go-to-market strategies. Given the shifts in hearing health care – such as the introduction of OTC hearing aid category, the escalating significance of genetic testing for diagnosis, and neonatal testing for gene therapy treatment for a rare form of pediatric deafness – prioritizing strategic objectives is paramount.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
The lack of comprehensive understanding of the consumer-patient journey contributes to meager adoption rates in hearing health care. A mere 15 percent of adults who could benefit from hearing aids use them regularly, while less than 5 percent of adults designated for cochlear implants undergo this procedure. Additionally, a study revealed that less than 20% of children who receive hearing aids or cochlear implants for hearing loss or deafness undergo genetic testing, despite it being part of the standard of care, Sana Charania K. 2022 According to the EHDI poster, Scott Grosse, and Kelly Dundon is titled “Estimating the Prevalence of Genetic Testing Among Deaf or Hard of Hearing Children Using MarketScan Claims Data.”
In 2017, I established a strategy consulting firm dedicated to hearing health care. My livelihood is woven into this work, as I have genetic, progressive hearing loss diagnosed when I was six years old. Robust hearing aids have enabled me to operate my disability-owned company. Furthermore, outside of work, I pursue my passion for classical piano, including performance, relying on special in-ear monitors programmed for my unique hearing loss. My personal experience underscores my conviction that there are substantial opportunities in the industry to enhance access and quality of care for individuals with hearing loss.
I believe that a crucial way to identify and prioritize strategic opportunities is by deeply comprehending the consumer-patient journey. Here are seven optimal practices to be followed:
- Initiate the process with a framework. We propose governing the process of mapping the consumer-patient journey with a comprehensive framework outlining the primary journey stages. For each stage, the framework should encompass behavioral, structural, and psychological dimensions to characterize the consumer-patient experience. For instance, when scrutinizing a patient’s journey with a cochlear implant, we advocate including outcome expectations as one dimension, as adult patients undergo significant variability in hearing outcomes following implantation and rehabilitation. During interviews, probing patients’ expectations about the hearing outcomes at each step of the journey is recommended.
- Directly engage with consumers. In our discussions with companies across the sector, from hearing aids to cochlear implants to gene and drug therapies, we have observed a reliance on physicians, particularly audiologists, to report on the essence of the patients’ journey. While the physicians’ viewpoint is valuable, it typically reveals only part of the narrative. The consumer-patient is a distinct stakeholder in the healthcare market ecosystem with their own unique set of beliefs, convictions, motivators, and constraints. Therefore, direct communication is crucial.
- Emphasize real experiences. The genuine experiences of consumer-patients should be represented at different stages of the journey. The research process must delve into what actually occurred in patients’ lives, even if that journey is intricate and hard to summarize. Understanding patients’ avoidance, misconceptions, and lack of compliance is as significant as comprehending their motivations for treatment. Some executives tend to initiate the strategy development process with the ideal consumer-patient journey, which may seem time-saving initially, but it omits critical insights. Instead, mapping the actual consumer journey and using the findings to develop strategic priorities is recommended.
- Create research for quantification. Structuring the research process by designing an interview guide or survey, recruiting interview subjects, and analyzing the results maximizes the return on project investment. Each interview is coded with numerous variables, creating a database of the visit. This process has enabled us to quantify trends that also emerged from the open-ended, qualitative questions in the interview guide. For example, when analyzing adult journeys with prescription hearing aids, we found that a segment of consumers traversed through multiple ENTs and audiologists, sometimes for years, before receiving a diagnosis.
- Integrate with other market stakeholders. Incorporating the perspectives of other market stakeholders, such as audiologists and ENTs, into journey analysis is particularly valuable when consumer behavior seems intertwined. It is advisable to compare descriptions of consumer-patient experiences with physicians’ assessments of the same interactions. In a recent study, we profiled the genetic testing experiences of caregivers of infants with severe to profound hearing loss. Additionally, we interviewed the physicians – audiologists, neurotologists, genetic counselors, and geneticists – who treated them. We discovered that physicians’ dominant narrative for genetic testing caused caregivers to miss work about half the time and immediately turned down the recommendation. These insights became instrumental in formulating market development strategies for genetic testing.
- Condense the journey into a single document. The presentation summarizing the visit generally encompasses 50 to 100 slides of key findings and strategic implications. One of the pivotal slides in the deck is the “Summary of Truth,” encapsulating the journey across all stages and dimensions. This slide serves as a reference point throughout the company. Teams working on tasks ranging from clinical trial design and new product development to branding strategy and human resources can now infuse the consumer-patient perspective into hundreds of decisions.
- Translate the journey into a market strategy. Translating the journey into market development or go-to-market strategy is a process that is as much art as science. Creating a hierarchy of unmet needs, prioritizing the most prevalent ones, assists in making that translation. It is often observed that analyzing the consumer-patient journey engenders numerous initiatives that an organization can implement within a year or two. In such instances, prioritizing the initiative becomes imperative. Often, a quantitative survey or follow-up discussion with a qualitative sample can aid in setting priorities.
Understanding the consumer-patient journey is crucial for developing strategic priorities for companies in hearing health care, encompassing hearing aids, cochlear implants, gene/drug therapy. Deploying seven best practices summarized herein for actionable marketing strategy.
Photo by Flickr user Katie Tegtmeyer