The Path to Patient Centricity: Part II

April 19, 2018 Regina Shanklin

There are four key steps to ensuring that your brand is patient centric. If you integrate these four points into your marketing efforts, information about your brand will become more relevant, actionable and drive more patient engagement and thus be more patient centric.

In our last installment, we discussed meeting patients where they were in their treatment journey. The second step to patient centricity is being completely understandable to your audience.

2. Be Understandable:

Often pharma companies struggle with communicating at the appropriate health-literacy level because of Legal, Medical and Regulatory constraints. Brands should strive to stay out of the high school and college literacy levels, aiming for the 6th grade reading level, which the government recommends.

Communicate for the 6th grade reading level, based on government recommendations and industry best practice. Reading level is influenced primarily by two factors:

  • The average length of sentences
  • The number of difficult words

The shorter the sentences and the fewer multisyllabic words, the lower the reading level. Listed below are some guidelines that can help1.


1 Internet Citation: Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, 2nd Edition. Content last reviewed February 2015. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

It should be noted that incorporating these guidelines will make communications longer and possibly more expensive. This should be accounted for in the budgeting process.

Another consideration is to be culturally relevant. If your brand has significant skews to demographics beyond general population, then you need to make materials available that are culturally relevant to improve patient centricity across the patient spectrum. For example, a diabetic patient may be looking for a healthier meal plan, but currently eats high quantities of rice in their daily routine. Although grilled chicken, green beans and a side of carrots is an appropriate meal for a diabetic, telling the patient to completely eliminate a carb like rice from their diet may not be helpful. Your brand should help them understand how to adapt their accustomed diet to their condition. Instead of elimination, tell them how to incorporate rice, count the carbs, and what they will need to reduce or eliminate to maintain their already set diet.  

Although it is a challenge to balance meeting Legal, Medical and Regulatory requirements with providing information that is written for a general audience, making some simple changes such as using shorter sentences and less complex words can be highly effective in making your patient communications more understandable. In addition, providing culturally relevant communications for demographic skews beyond general population is important for driving compliance and persistency across the patient spectrum. Having patient materials that are easy to understand will also be valuable to healthcare professionals and can help your brand differentiate itself as a valuable partner for the HCP.

Keep an eye out for the following parts in this series, and learn more here about relating better to your patients.

About Regina Shanklin: Regina is a marketing strategy consultant specializing in marketing strategy in the Healthcare industry. Her clients range from pharmaceutical/biotech and healthcare non-profits. She has helped clients enhance the strategic skills of their marketing, develop business cases to enter new markets, and develop new synergistic products and services that significantly increased revenues. Prior to becoming an independent consultant, Regina worked for Sanofi as the Senior Director of Marketing for the Plavix, Lantus and Avapro brands. In these leadership roles, her experience spanned consumer/patient marketing and professional marketing. In addition to being a well-rounded marketing leader, Regina has a specialty in patient engagement. Regina has experience spanning marketing, finance, operations and, combined with her engineering background, has helped her bring a fresh perspective on solving business problems.  Regina received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management of Northwestern University.

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The Path to Patient Centricity: Part III
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The Path to Patient Centricity: Part I
The Path to Patient Centricity: Part I

Learn more from Regina Shanklin on how seeing things from the patient’s point-of-view will help you meet th...