Pharma Marketing is experiencing an important change where Pharma approach is no longer centred solely on healthcare professionals & their prescribing decision making. Instead we have noticed a pivot where marketers are more interested in appealing to the patient. However, we do know that the patient has become more active in their diagnosis and the days of just doing what the doctor says have long gone, with eight in ten internet users searching for health information, and 74% of those using social media*. Whilst the patient voice is acknowledged, & patients are becoming more proactive, is the industry keeping pace to understand them? Highlighting the importance in grabbing every opportunity to know your customer, gather data from various touchpoints and create a personalised, relevant service for customers.
Getting to grips with the nuances of patient behaviour and why it matters
Patient research can be generic, unfocussed and not always relevant to the real world. Pharma Marketing has shifted enabling greater patient engagement by getting behind their views, attitudes and behaviours. The emphasis on patient centricity has never been more important to connect Pharma marketers to their target audience, but do current tools get you there?
- Target patient profiles used in clinical research will describe symptoms, diagnosis thresholds, age, co-morbidities but may not cover how the patient feels, how they define normal, how in control or confident they are.
- Outcome studies describe the past on what a patient did but not why they behaved in a certain way
- Treatment pathways can be evidence based but can also be generic or idealised, do they address real world settings. Regional formulary differences and access to specialists can make a huge difference.
Addressing the need to listen to the patient voice
The voice of the people taking the drugs – the actual patients – hasn’t been as loud as it should have been. That’s despite extensive evidence that listening to patients and learning about their experiences can dramatically improve drug development, delivery, and accessibility, as well as patient support.
The gaps in patient understanding and engagement could be argued result in sub-optimal treatment, slow uptake of new therapy and wastage of prescribed medicines through poor compliance.
- Inability to fully explain why patients behave as they do
- reliance solely on HCP prescribing decisions and advice on initial diagnosis
- lack of timely tracking of the patient voice
- assuming artificial patient research can be extrapolated to the real world
- when engagement with patients does occur, is it one-way
- best practice examples do exist but remain rare so our collective knowledge does not develop
A fresh approach post COVID-19
Currently pharma reps are unable to meet face to face with Healthcare Professionals. This will force change in the feedback loop. Digital channels are possibly more appealing than ever. We would argue that the new world can be modelled working with agile tech led 3rd party partners who can reach out remotely & digitally to engage patients, and build up a closer view on the patient voice so that:
- Patient Engagement becomes a key element of marketing planning and integrated into all campaigns.
- Minimum standards characterised by core tests.
- Tracking to define where we are now and how we progress forward over time.
- Evidence based evaluation of marketing-led interventions.
By changing the way we do things, we can change for the better & move ahead of the status quo. With these four changes, we truly embrace what is important to patients and in doing so optimise their care.
Ventola, L., (2014) ‘Social Media and Health Care Professionals: Benefits, Risks, and Best Practices’ Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4103576/ [Accessed 20 May 2021].