Expert Q&A: Getting patient centricity right

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1. Why do you think biopharma struggles to get the “patient journey” right?

Greg Waitley, CX designer, Sandbox

Biopharma marketers would benefit from investing in qualitative research that focuses on the holistic patient experience.

This is where well-executed patient journey mapping can apply research insights from an inside-out point of view to uncover true patient understanding. Such maps paint a more complete picture of the patient experience, not just the moments in time where the brand plays a role.

Jim O'Dea, president and CEO, Rx Edge Pharmacy Networks

The key to understanding the patient journey is to consider what the patient encounters — how they cope, challenges they face, resources they turn to, and products they use for co-morbidities.

The pharmacy figures prominently because it plays a significant role in the healthcare system. By readily embracing such opportunities, pharma can build better strategies.

Laurie Bartolomeo, EVP, creative director, Dudnyk

The patient journey is inherently a complicated traverse through our healthcare system, often taking patients from -burden to diagnosis to decision and back again — all through multiple touchpoints with the HCP.

A thorough understanding of the patient burden and insights into patient behavior need to be uncovered if real change in the patient journey is to occur.

Nareda Mills, SVP, clinical operations, Ashfield Commercial and Medical Services

Successful companies engage patients early during the clinical trial phase and maintain ongoing discussions with them. Patients have voiced frustration in recent panel discussions on the use of the term “patient journey.”

Patients neither choose to go on this “journey” nor enjoy it. They prefer to reference receiving a diagnosis and making a treatment choice as an “experience.” 

Rick Ratliff, president and chief commercial officer, ConnectiveRx

Shift the focus from the “patient journey” to the “medication journey.” There is now the need to consider all potential touch-points that impact the behavior of all medication journey stakeholders.

Such digital solutions as EHR-delivered messaging, EHR patient portals, social media, mobile apps, and communications make it easy to target patients, customize interactions, and measure impact.


2. Where have companies done a good job of pinpointing unmet patient needs and addressing them? And the opposite?

Greg Waitley 

When done well, patient journeys pinpoint unmet needs and moments that matter. Addressing these needs takes an institutional approach where cross-functional company stakeholders believe their efforts can truly make a difference.

When companies put brand priorities before patient needs, the opposite can occur. Then they have a hard time meeting their communications objectives.

Jim O'Dea

By understanding educational gaps in target demographics, vaccine makers have driven awareness about products and conditions that immunization may prevent. These efforts include pharmacy signage and reminder campaigns.

Some marketers don't recognize the value of the retail environment in patient engagement and miss out as a result.

Laurie Bartolomeo 

In rare disease, it is often the patient or the caregiver who drives diagnosis and treatment. Shire recently launched a franchise effort for its hereditary angioedema portfolio that supports the community as a whole but has a special focus on the individual needs of the patient.

It deviates from the traditional cookie-cutter approach and instead seeks to fulfill each patient's unique needs. 

Nareda Mills

When companies assume what patients need for a successful initiation or to stay adherent, they often miss the mark in setting up patients for success.

Patients need realistic expectations of what to expect with treatment — including side effects and what may happen if they stop taking a treatment or miss doses. 

Rick Ratliff

Innovative patient-services programs let organizations capture the profile of the patient who is prescribed a specialty medication not only to make sure the patient can afford the therapy but also to get them started on it. They serve to educate patients and caregivers, as well.

The challenge? Many of these programs continue to be difficult to access and are labor-intensive.


3. What changes could bring industry to a clearer understanding of — and align its actions more consistently with those of — the patient?

Greg Waitley 

Ask anyone living with a chronic disease and they'll tell you their situation is complicated. Costs are high, access to medication and treatment is not ideal, there are comorbidities to consider, and there are psychosocial complexities that impact their ability to cope. Listen to patient caregivers and understand what they are going through, then develop programs designed to ease their burdens.

Jim O'Dea

The most effective change that pharma can make is to form smarter partnerships with the retail pharmacy industry. Both want to reach patients, help them adhere to medications, and lead healthier lives.

But pharma marketers do not use to the fullest extent the countless value-added tools and services that pharmacies offer. Pharma can better align its actions with genuine patient needs.

Laurie Bartolomeo 

As the patient dynamic evolves, we see a growing separation between HCPs and patients. The impact of this divide in understanding negatively affects the treatment experience — for both sides — and limits the trajectory of specialty healthcare brands. 

It is more important than ever to examine patient and HCP mindsets to learn how they impact treatment decisions. 

Nareda Mills

Creating patient advisory boards early on in product development, and continuing to elicit feedback from patients once they are undergoing treatment, will certainly provide biopharma with a clear under-standing of what patients need.

This should begin as launch strategies are being formulated to determine the “services” requisite to patients' and prescribers' full product benefits. 

Rick Ratliff

Look at the patient as a customer. How do customers make decisions? They utilize mobile apps, ratings, distance, weather, and more. If the industry can consider this process, it will quickly realize today's consumer (or patient) does not make decisions in a linear fashion.

This applies to the medication journey as well. We must design programs to consider this continuous decision process.

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