Marketing as a concept presents quite the paradox: easy yet difficult, theoretical yet practical, but always needed. It can be especially useful when combined with management and implementation design considerations. Marketing itself must be managed. In fact, there’s an entire field called marketing management. The field of design science is related to implementation science and has considerable marketing management roots, as it seeks to produce more successful results over a sustained period of time when first initiating a new business or service.
Lapao et al go into further detail on these concepts in their paper describing a new online pharmaceutical service.1 They first describe the confluence of technological advances along with other forces that drive the proliferation of eHealth strategies. Uptake of those strategies is slowed to some extent by poor managerial and behavioral actions. Thus the authors undertook a design science approach to a new eHealth service. Design science stresses: (1) Identify the problem and motivate customers/patients; (2) Define the objectives in a solution to address the problem/needs; (3) Design the service; (4) Demonstrate, or conduct a field study to test it; (5) Evaluate the service, in this case with the use of “task scenarios” and semi-structured interviews of participants/customers; and (6) Communicate to patients and practitioners, as well as conduct research, and disseminate the results. The authors then describe the service as being one in which the use of software allows an interactive platform between pharmacists and patients who can ask questions and/or seek counseling or some other type of care. A time-and-motion analysis saw pharmacists highly engaged in OTC recommendations and a taking at least some time in conducting screenings. The patients in their pilot cohort saw significant decreases in blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Using marketing management and design science principles, the authors gathered considerable feedback and made modifications to the program for its unveiling to a wider swath of patients in hopes for long-term sustainability.
Although somewhat unique and also very specific in its procedures, the design science and marketing management mix undertakings here are not unlike business planning functions. Pharmacy managers can employ these approaches to continually tweak a service and its marketing messages to help ensure success. These managers certainly can (with the help of marketing professionals and/or academic colleagues) take a “scientific” approach, but do not necessarily have to do so. There is much to glean from the principles described above, such as doing homework/planning before implementation, starting small (piloting) and scaling up, having appropriate evaluation metrics for success, and communicating with various stakeholders to continually refine and sustain, even if not conducted in ways that lend itself to peer-reviewed publication of the results.
Additional information about Marketing Foundations and Value-Added Services as a Component of Enhancing Pharmacists’ Roles in Public Health can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.
1Lapao LV, da Silva MM, Gregorio J. Implementing an online pharmaceutical service using design science research. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2017;17:31.
Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, Professor of Social/Behavioral Pharmacy at Touro University California.