How can pharma better understand and engage with patients?

The new world of patient engagement

Consumers have access to more healthcare information than ever before, and the huge numbers behind online health-related activity are well documented. The impact of social media and its potential disruptions to (pharma) marketing are especially interesting when you look at some of the statistics;

42% of individuals viewing health information on social media look at health-related consumer reviews

32% of users post about their friends and family’s health experiences on social media

30% of adults are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients

The trust, openness and value being placed on social media today by patients, and the demands this creates in terms of treatment and service, can no longer be ignored by healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies alike. Patients are, rightly so, demanding more of a say in the type of care they get, the type of medicines that are being developed, how the medicines are going to be applied to them, and what the regulatory pathway should be.

When you put all of this together, it’s clear that there needs to be a brand-new level of deep engagement with patients. The good news is that all of this is coinciding with a revolution in digital technology and social media in the ability to reach people with particular characteristics all over the world.

The healthcare decision journey

As McKinsey discussed so eloquently back in May 2016, most pharmaceutical marketers are familiar with the concept of conducting market research to create a ‘sales funnel’ as a guide for marketing programs, where patients move from product awareness through to purchase and beyond. In retail, this linear journey has been superseded in recent years by the consumer decision journey (CDJ) which recognises that in a world where consumers are empowered by information, the process involved in making a purchase is more iterative.

For pharma companies seeking to understand how consumers make health decisions, the CDJ is enlightening. McKinsey see consumers undertaking what they call a CareFlow; mapping a patient’s journey from the first awareness of a problem to treatment, examining the factors guiding their decisions at each stage. These insights enable pharma marketers to engage with patients in ways that feel natural and personal.

patient journey

Every point, branch and loop in the CareFlow is potentially a vital point of interaction; by understanding it, the marketer can understand the relative importance of points and (re)allocate investment and attention accordingly.

For example, in a sample of US patients with psoriasis, a CareFlow found that 58% had requested a specific brand of medication from their physician in the past year, twice as high as expected in the general population, this illustrates the importance of communicating with these patients before they visit a physician.

A CareFlow for depression revealed how long it took patients to seek care; often 6 months or more. The time lag represents an opportunity for pharma companies to accelerate the patient path to care. It also revealed how better management of patients’ expectations could improve treatment adherence.

Data and insight available from social media has a critical part to play in constructing such CareFlows, especially when placed in conjunction with other sources such as surveys, web-engine search trends, electronic medical records and consumer data. Once companies are committed to concepts such as CareFlow, the next imperative is to reshape their commercial approach accordingly, something that is likely to require a reallocation of marketing focus and investment. In a digital world, such concepts will be a crucial element of any successful commercial strategy.
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What can social research provide in terms of patient insight?

In the digital era and with the boom in social media there are thousands of patient conversations happening daily. This isn’t breaking news, but how can we ensure we are making use of these conversations and gaining valuable patient insights from them? Social research goes beyond social listening, and whilst many assume it’s the same thing, intelligently conducted social research can uncover some great insights in double quick time.

So, what experiences have we gained here at MMRI?

Can you capture the emotion of the patient?

In Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, we were able to capture the emotion of the patient in the moment of their diagnosis, which you cannot get via traditional research methodologies due to a reliance on memory recall. This insight helped our client to devise the right patient support services and these formed a key pillar of their brand launch strategy.

Does patient experience match HCP perception?

In Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia, we discovered that HCP perception on side effects related to one particular brand was not echoed by the patient population. For the client, this insight enabled them to refine their communication strategy in such a way that effectively changed HCP perceptions about their brand and its side effect profile.

What does MMRI Research give you?

Social research, when carried out by market research professionals, carries benefits that can add value, whether integrated with traditional methodologies or used in isolation, such as:

  • In the moment (capturing the emotion as it happens)
  • Spontaneous (unprompted and unbiased)
  • Conversational (comments and responses can be picked up from other users)

We go beyond social listening, capturing relevant, real-time conversations which are then analysed by our skilled research team to organise and understand themes, topics and sentiment, leading to actionable insights for our clients.

If you would like to discuss anything in this article or explore some of the topics raised further, do please contact me directly or reach the team here.

+44 1932 505634

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