Behavioral science is becoming a buzzword for pharma.
Why? Because behavior is a barrier to meeting brand objectives. This barrier could be in the form of a patient's adherence, a patient's reluctance to start a new therapy, or even a healthcare provider's clinical inertia.
So, how do you know if you have a real behavior problem?
More importantly, how do you know if you need a behavioral science solution? Consider these 4 questions.
1. Are you trying to get patients or healthcare providers to do something different?
- Is the patient new to injectable treatments? Does a treatment require a change in lifestyle?
- Are you asking providers to prescribe a product that is new or hasn’t been tried by them?
2. How far is the person's current behavior from the desired behavior?
- Unless you have a patient population that is completely adherent all of the time, a behavior change solution is recommended.
- If patients struggle with adherence, behavioral science can help overcome the hurdles that interfere with optimal patient engagement.
3. Are you asking a patient or healthcare provider to do something difficult?
- In some cases, the desired behavior for the patient or provider might involve an easy change and the patient or provider may be receptive to the change. In this case, a simple messaging approach may be effective.
- However, changing behavior requires addressing thoughts, feelings, and motivations before addressing the behavior itself. Furthermore, the behavior may be complex and learning additional skills may be necessary.
- In these cases, a behavior change solution would be much more effective than a traditional messaging approach.
4. Are you not achieving the desired results with traditional marketing or educational approaches?
- Is your brand getting results? If not, it's time to reexamine the strategies you are using to try and change patient or provider behavior.
- Traditional marketing approaches can only take your brand so far. A behavioral science solution includes evidence-based strategies to change behavior.
This last question is often the key. When behavior change is necessary, you won't be able to apply the typical pharma marketing solution to obtain optimal outcomes for your brand.
If you have a solution or are planning a solution, and education and persuasion are the only strategies that you're using, then you're missing something. And what you're missing can make a big difference for patients, healthcare providers, and your brand.
Even if you know that your brand needs a behavioral science solution, it's important to make sure that you're getting the real thing.
What is behavioral science?
Behavioral science is the scientific, systematic, and experimental study of behavior to explain why people behave in certain ways and how their behavior can be changed. Behavioral science encompasses several distinct fields including: public health, social psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, health psychology, communication science, and behavioral economics.
From a scientific perspective, behavioral science follows the same method and approach as any other science. This includes hypothesis generation, study design, data collection and analysis, peer-review publication, and replication and extension of results.
Beware of buzz words.
How can you tell the difference between a strong behavioral science program and "pop psychology"? Here are 3 questions to consider in your evaluation.
- Does the solution sound too good to be true? If it is, it's not going to work. Frankly, anyone who tells you that the key to changing behavior is this "one thing" doesn't understand behavior at all. Behavior change takes time and is complex. That's why you need an expert.
- Where are the data? A behavioral science solution should go beyond one resource. The solution should be based on multiple sources that are validated in the specific disease state.
- Is your solution too formulaic? One size fits all doesn't work when it comes to changing behavior. Ask yourself whether your program makes over-generalizations, or oversimplifies what you're asking of the patient or provider.
Behavioral science is rigorous and complex, but there's also an art to applying it. Behavioral science strategies succeed because they are based on the premise that a single approach doesn't work for every person. Marketing programs applying behavioral science optimally address multiple drivers of behavior using evidence-based strategies. These are all crafted into an experience that your patients and providers will want to engage in.
Behavioral science provides a roadmap to uncover what people are motivated to do, what they are willing to try to build on their strengths, and how they can benefit from learning new techniques within the context of their condition and their life.
It is possible to fully apply behavioral science to get the outcomes that your brand desires. You just need to know where to look.
MicroMass delivers behavior change experiences for our clients by combining proven, evidence-based techniques and compelling creative. See the difference.