The power of the patient voice – why and how to listen to it

With patients asserting greater control over their health and being more educated and involved than ever in the decisions made with their healthcare professionals, it is of paramount importance that Pharma companies build their strategies with patients at the centre.

Here at Incite, patient-centricity is not just a buzzword, it is at the heart of our ‘think people first’ ideology. We believe that in order to really add value and improve patient outcomes, this requires a deep understanding of what it is like living with a condition. By bringing the patient voice to the fore, we can answer key strategic questions for our clients:

1 / How can Pharma optimise their patient support strategies to improve the patient experience?

By understanding the challenges and unmet needs across the patient journey, we can uncover the tools/resources that can be provided to help patients better manage their condition and support them through key emotional milestones. This can take the form of helping improve access to treatments, to informing patient support programmes and creating non-promotional campaigns to raise disease awareness.

In the digital age, patient support is also comprised of digital solutions and health APPs. Digital tools can empower patients and enhance their experience, but only if developed in consultation with the end user. Listening to potential users early on in the development process is important in gauging: if and how well a solution is addressing an unmet need, if it is going to create long term engagement and how it can be optimised, to ensure they are set up for success.

2 / How can Pharma support the HCP-patient dialogue to drive the right behaviours?

Speaking to patients can provide an insight into the their role and involvement in the treatment journey. It helps to uncover HCP-patient dynamics, the conversations had and how influential patients are in treatment decisions and their ongoing management. These insights can help to understand where and how the HCP-patient dialogue can be improved (eg through targeted HCP and patient educational campaigns).

3 / How can Pharma ensure that the patient is central to HCP decision making to take them beyond data driven decisions?

HCPs are often considered as rational decision makers, but they are also humans where their emotions play a significant role in medical decision making. Capturing the patient perspective can shape HCP communications/narratives for a treatment or device by getting HCPs to think beyond the scientific data through a more emotive story and bringing it to life through patient case studies.

4 / How can Pharma make healthcare more targeted to the patients they serve?

Patient segmentations are a key tool to help Pharma adopt more targeted launch and growth strategies. For a patient segmentation to be actionable it needs to bring their target patients to life and clearly illustrate their needs, attitudes, characteristics and behaviours. Patient segmentations enable Pharma to:

  • Understand the size of the opportunity for their brands
  • Identify the steps needed to drive treatment uptake in their target patient segments
  • Integrate patient types into their communication strategies to ground HCPs in real life patient cases
  • Help HCPs to tailor their treatment choices to individual patient needs

5 / How can Pharma shape clinical trial design to deliver meaningful patient outcomes?

The patient voice can also help to inform optimal clinical trial design. Learning about the experiences/challenges of living with a particular condition can be important when deciding on what key endpoints the clinical trial should include. Through patient research, this has influenced the inclusion of endpoints such as QoL and pain measures.

6 / How can Pharma demonstrate added value of treatments?

Patient research can also be used to inform reimbursement strategies. Drawing on the patient experience, Pharma companies can build more emotive/compelling arguments around why a certain treatment should be considered for reimbursement vs the current SOC or other genericised products.

In order to answer these key strategic questions and truly understand patients and their stories, we need to start off by treating them as real human beings, and not just as ‘people with a disease’. In doing so, we are creating the space to have more meaningful, rich and honest conversations.

At Incite we have a wealth of experience in conducting a wide range of patient research, from mapping out patient journeys to testing support devices and disease awareness campaigns. Over time, we have developed a set of guiding principles which enable us to maximise these insights and approach these conversations in the most sensitive way possible:

1 / Empathy, empathy, empathy

Discussing a health condition with patients can be a highly vulnerable and emotive conversation. So approaching it with empathy and compassion is key to successfully getting to the heart of what matters most to patients.

2 / Mindfulness and sensitivity

When designing patient research, it is essential to carefully consider the ethics by approaching the topic at hand with sensitivity. We place importance on treating these interactions as conversations with real people vs. interviews with participants.

3 / Innovative recruitment and research approaches

We are cognisant of the fact that we need to hear a broad mix of patient voices and adopt the most suitable methodology for the challenge at hand. This is why we apply a multipronged approach to recruitment and use a broad range of innovative research techniques such as task-based ethnography, online qualitative forums, social listening and patient-physician consultations.

4 / Adopting a flexible mindset

We understand the realities of patients’ lives and the importance of being flexible in our approach to recruitment and interviewing to ensure they feel comfortable as well as building in contingency plans to suit their needs.

5 / Holistic view of patient reality

Carers and loved ones can provide us with an alternative perspective and insight on the realities of living with a particular condition. Their point of view allows us to build a 360-degree picture of the broader context of the patients’ lives, as well as the impact their condition has on the lives of those around them.

In applying these best practices, we create a safe environment where patients can lean into their vulnerability and provide an honest outlook, which is at the core of what a true patient-centric approach should be built around.

We thrive on applying our patient research expertise to designing and executing bespoke research projects that are business critical and directly inform your patient-centric strategies. Get in touch with our health team to find out more.