Be Patient and Understand the Customer Journey

By Alan J. Porter | STC Senior Member

As pre-sales content and post-sales content begin to overlap, Alan Porter provides the latest insights about our role in that evolution in Convergence Conversations. Learn through this column to build bridges and form synergies with your counterparts in marketing. Contact Alan at to ask a question or propose a topic for him to cover in this column.

We’ve all been there. Sitting in the doctor’s waiting room balancing a clipboard on our knees trying to recall which of the listed ailments we’ve suffered from at some point in our lives. You’ve already given them all this information; why can’t they just get it from the previous doctor you visited?

In some countries, there are definite moves to collect patient data in centralized locations that can be easily accessed. In others, like the United States, various legal restrictions keep such information confined to isolated paper records. While the idea of microchips that could hold all your patient data was approved back in 2004, the chips developed to date in the United States don’t contain anything beyond a PIN number that can then be scanned and entered into other systems to retrieve data. Other countries, like France and Germany, have chips with patient records that are attached to healthcare cards, similar to the insurance cards that people carry in the United States.

So what’s all this got to do with the convergence of content? While it may seem on the surface that the healthcare industry is lagging in the use of intelligent content and reuse, I believe that once you get past the frustrations of filling in yet another form, this is one of the industries that is leading the way in the application of content convergence.

It may not be visible at the point of customer (patient) interaction yet, but there is a lot of thinking and progress happening around the concept of cross-functional content development in the supporting and associated areas of the healthcare industry.

Over the past twelve months, I’ve personally been involved in projects in a large pharmaceutical manufacturing company to take a standardized approach to the use of structured modular content within the scientific communication, medical, and marketing groups of the company. I’ve also seen similar moves and discussions in providers of clinical practices, medical education, and research, as well as managed health and insurance companies.

What can we learn from such initiatives? I believe that a lot of this thinking is being driven by a holistic view of the patient and where they are on their healthcare journey. There is an understanding that to be most effective, we need to understand the history and context of any ailment and how to treat it.

That’s an approach that can be applied to any industry. The idea of the customer journey is not new, but the phrase tends to be used in marketing departments to describe how a customer moves around the website—which pages do they visit and in what order, what do they click on, etc.

I believe that your customer journey, like a patient journey, should take a broader holistic view of everything a customer does, not just at the moment that the customer engages with you.

Understanding “a day in the life” of your customer allows you to develop great empathy for what tasks they are trying to achieve or what questions they need answered. With this knowledge, we can identify what content can help them, or even where there are gaps in the content they need. By pulling together these insights, we can focus on developing content that can move across functional groups and deliver what the customer needs.

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