The Patient Summit 2014

Jun 17, 2014 - Jun 18, 2014, London

An integrated approach to patient-centric outcomes

Brands Cannot be Patient-Centric Simply by Adopting the Catchphrase

Patient-centricity is gaining traction in pharma and companies have gone in to overdrive trying to implement this into planning and strategy. But what does it actually mean to be patient centric, and how close are we as an industry to achieving this?



Brands can’t ‘be’ patient-centric by simply repeating the mantra. In order to put the patient at the heart of drug research, development, and marketing, a company must probe deep into what patients want from a treatment. They should be considered more like the consumers ordinary brands aim to please and less like patients who benefit from pharmaceutical treatments.

Although it seems intuitive, this approach is borne out of multiple factors colliding. The move toward more personalised care, the need to communicate a product’s value proposition in a competitive market, and an increasingly engaged consumer base have forced pharma companies to review their marketing strategy.

The industry needs a fundamental change; a seismic shift in behaviour in order to conquer patient-centricity

So just how close are we to being patient-centric? Recognising the need to re-focus marketing efforts is a start, but collectively the industry still falls short of the mark when it comes to execution.

The industry needs a fundamental change; a seismic shift in behaviour in order to conquer patient-centricity. Through our work at Incite in both consumer and pharmaceutical research, it’s clear that three critical areas need attention in order to drive patient centricity forward.  Patient support services, market research, and social media are all important pieces in the patient-centric puzzle. Fine-tuning our approach to each area will ensure that this omnipresent industry term doesn’t become just another marketing catchphrase.

Support Services Revolution

Where do we stand in terms of the support programmes we offer our patients, carers and HCPs? Companies are enjoying mixed success creating relevant and helpful support programmes, and while success stories are few and far between, some are already reaping the benefits.

Abbvie’s Humira is one such success story. The company has rolled out a number of patient support programmes in recent years that are relevant to local markets and can inspire sufferers with Rheumatoid Arthritis or Psoriasis. These campaigns include ‘Let’s Cook!’ and a multitude of online support programs for patients which have had a huge influence on turning the company in to a market-leader.

Asking probing questions about the support service programmes offered at present will lead to marked improvements

For the majority of companies, however, it is undoubtedly a work in progress. Nevertheless, asking probing questions about the support service programmes offered at present will lead to marked improvements.

Consider a review of current programmes at a national and local level:

  • Are there any particular programmes that have worked well?
  • Are there specific programmes in local markets that have seen great success?
  • Have we received feedback that certain services are missing or are in need? 
  • What are our competitors offering in this space and how successful have they been?

With this insight to hand, it will become clear where gaps in our services exist. Prioritising potential services will be the next step – something which requires extensive patient insight.

Market Research Overhaul

Pharma brands have a comprehensive understanding of the HCP, but insight into the patient’s mind-set is not yet as complete. One of the first steps to becoming more patient-centric is to delve deeper into the patient experience. Walk in their shoes. Understand how they live life and cope on a daily basis.

For years, a lengthy and expensive ethnography process has been the go-to methodology for pharma market research. A more engaged and knowledgeable patient base, however, requires a fresh approach and deviating from ethnography will not only save precious marketing budget, but offer insight into the patient experience that’s relevant in 2013.

To help understand the modern ethnography programme, we need look no further than the work of consumer brands. When the likes of large beer brands are incorporating smart phone film, interactive tasks and ‘consumer journalism’ all reporting into an online forum, there is nothing holding us back in pharma from doing something similar.  Not only is this a cost-effective longitudinal option, but it is empowers the patient and offers an opportunity to engage with others via online focus groups.

Similar to ethnography, being able to develop truly patient-focussed campaigns is also something our consumer colleagues have been doing for some time. Collaborating with the consumer on everything from chocolate bar flavours to washing powder campaigns, means that the end user is intimately involved in the campaign development process. The result: a campaign created in association with the consumer which consequently places them at the heart of all communications.

Social Media Insight

While not always 100% relevant or reflective, social media can be an incredibly valuable tool for gaining deeper patient understanding. The social phenomenon has meant that across pharma companies worldwide, teams have started to track social media platforms and are actively reviewing product feedback.

Taking advantage of the fresh insight digital channels deliver means pharma companies can better understand the end-consumers’ brand experience

This is a positive step for the industry and its value can be increased if this approach continues to be adapted to better understand patients. Monitoring feedback will in turn deliver key competitive intelligence. Taking advantage of the fresh insight digital channels deliver means pharma companies can better understand the end-consumers’ brand experience, measure it against competitor activity and even adapt products, packaging and support accordingly.

Future Pharma Strategy

Armed with brilliant support programmes, deep consumer knowledge and understanding, the next step is to adapt our sales force to a more patient-centric way of thinking and selling.  A refined selling strategy should mirror this new lens with a focus on benefits to the patient, outcomes for the patient, and offering the best and most complete support for the patient.

Patient-centricity is certainly on the rise in pharma, but as our consumer counterparts have shown we still have a lot to learn in order to truly excel. By taking advantage of social media insight, changing our approach to market research and scrutinising support services the industry will undoubtedly be a lot closer to achieving the real meaning of this term – ensuring that it isn’t just another buzzword in the process.


Questions or comments? You can share you thoughts with our audience in the comments section below, alternatively you can email the author directly at Pamela.walker@incite.ws.


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The Patient Summit 2014

Jun 17, 2014 - Jun 18, 2014, London

An integrated approach to patient-centric outcomes