Rosemary Sundin, president, Orman Guidance

Pharma must start with a significant investment to engage a panel of engaged patients, from whom input is solicited at regular intervals. When a patient panel is properly engaged, it means each patient is screened and validated. It means researchers use an internal review process while adhering to privacy. It means the individual panelists experience transparency in what is being asked of them, including frequency of engagement, privacy assurances, methodologies and technologies in play, truth in self-reporting, and the amount of compensation to expect from participating. Once the panel is properly in place, opportunities for ROI and ripple effect are immense. Imagine an engaged panel that contributes data to the growing body of knowledge about disease, interventions, alternatives, comorbidities, risk factors, and results.

Iyiola Obayomi, senior director, marketing analytics, Ogilvy Healthworld, part of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide

The need for faster, cheaper, and yet still reliable insights has been long sought after by marketers. For pharma marketers, clinical studies and custom panels are quite expensive to develop and maintain. Here are two alternatives. Partner with research “app stores.” Research automation partners can help deliver consistent dialogue with consumers quickly at a relatively lower cost. These research solutions have gained momentum over the past years. Build social media and mobile app communities: Social media and mobile apps have decreased the cost of maintaining, listening to, and engaging with a community of patients. Brands can responsibly solicit input from these communities for efficient and valuable insights. As social listening gets smarter with artificial intelligence integration, dialogue can evolve beyond brand-initiated inquiries into understanding of and participation in nascent topics of interest.

Martha Bayliss, VP, patient insights and principal scientist, Optum Analytics

Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are the perfect solution to this challenge. Most industry professionals are aware of PROs as a key strategic element in clinical trials, but many don’t carry that patient-centered focus into post-approval or population-based studies. Engaging with target patient groups and then monitoring drugs after launch helps a variety of stakeholders understand how the drug is performing in the real world with direct input from patients themselves.

PROs are essential tools for these efforts. These tools are available online using both branded and unbranded drug websites. They offer marketers real-time reports that make it easy and inexpensive to engage with patients on a large scale.

Jim Sharples, VP, Delta Marketing Dynamics

There are several ways that pharma can capture a consistent dialogue with patients without relying on costly clinical studies. One way is to create patient panels and communities — this has proven to be an effective way to keep in touch with patients throughout their journey from diagnosis through treatment. These communities not only can provide real-time feedback for pharma but can also provide design flexibility to capture different information as the needs of the brand change.  Additionally, while social media strategies may be challenging due to a lack of clear direction from the FDA, there are opportunities to monitor patient experiences and opinions.  The best practices we have observed include multiple tactics (including panels, social media, qualitative research) coordinated by the brand team for a more comprehensive approach.