Why patient engagement is taking center stage in pharma

Written by Richard Jones on Monday 16th September 2019

Patient engagement (PE) is BIG business, and for the pharmaceutical companies that have invested in its application across the product lifecycle, the rewards are significant.

Patient centricity has long been a buzzword in pharma with a pleasing feel-good factor around it. However, commercial, technological and regulatory pressures leave the pharmaceutical industry with little choice but to embrace patient engagement as a core business objective.

We are seeing patient engagement strategies applied to major commercial models from engagement and retention in clinical trials, through to the collection of real-world patient data to support the value proposition of marketed medicines, and everything in between.

Companies developing therapies for use in rare and orphan conditions are well aware of the value of a single patient successfully completing a clinical trial. The application of patient engagement to small study populations can dramatically improve retention rates and the likelihood of a patient’s willingness to persist with a study and contribute meaningful clinical data.

PE in action: case 1

In a recent project, we encouraged children with an extremely rare disease, their siblings and parents to come together and work with us and a pharmaceutical company to design an app that would encourage retention and engagement in a pivotal clinical study.

Their contributions were so significant and recommendations so profound that the company decided to develop a gamified app as part of the study protocol.

However, poorly planned patient engagement solutions are less productive in their recommendations. Many are developed only through the limiting lens of either the pharmaceutical company procuring the services or the healthcare professionals delivering them.

Since these solutions aren’t truly developed from a patient’s perspective, there’s invariably a disconnect with regards to value exchange, and patients rarely see the benefits of engaging with a study, tool or platform.

Co-creating solutions with patients and patient advocacy groups is essential to deeply understanding the patients’ lived experience and immerse oneself in the patient journey.

Why patient engagement matters

As the healthcare industry continues to shift toward a more value-based system, the need to increase patient engagement has gained paramount importance. In fact, it’s proven that when patients are engaged in their own healthcare, they are more adherent to their treatments, are less frequent users of secondary care and emergency services and ultimately experience better health outcomes.

PE in action: case 2

One of our clients recently designed a patient support program across Europe for patients living with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML). Initially, the solution was catered to help only a handful of patients on their specific treatment – until the plans changed.

The feedback we got from the patients and patient advocacy groups was that every patient and carer living with CML should have access to the solution. And that’s why the pharma company modified the scope of the program, launching a pan-European project a year ago which supports all patients and carers living with CML, and which continues to evolve and grow.

Cost constraints and the drive for affordable care are forcing payers and providers to focus on the outcomes that medicines deliver to patients in the everyday setting. Those outcomes depend on whether patients are given appropriate therapy that they perceive as beneficial – and with which they’re motivated to remain compliant. Avoiding wasteful spending on ineffective treatment is a priority.

Harnessing tech to drive understanding

In today’s digital era, it is imperative to understand how technology can be used to boost patient engagement and as a result, positively impact data collection and in turn patients’ health outcomes.

Prior to building a prototype solution, our team spends a lot of time researching a health condition and understanding the unique challenges and support needs of the patients. Theory is all well and good, but our solutions only truly begin to take shape when we test and co-create them with patients and patient advocacy groups. This rich insight always generates new ideas, identifies fresh challenges and fine-tunes our approach. Is the solution usable? Does the technology smooth or hinder the process? Can people achieve what they want to achieve with
the solution?

By actually placing the patient at the very heart of a project the insights gained are hugely rewarding, thought provoking and true.

PE in action: case 3

In a recent collaborative project with our OPEN VIE colleagues, we have seen patient engagement married with real-world data collection. This has enabled the compilation and publication of long-term patient-centered outcomes data that will be used to strengthen our client’s brand value proposition.

In summary, we are seeing a plethora of business scenarios employing patient engagement techniques to help them achieve their commercial business goals, differentiate themselves in an otherwise crowded marketplace and most importantly develop tools and services that patients value.

OPEN Health brings together a broad base of experts working collaboratively and seamlessly to tackle the challenge of patient engagement, and is changing the industry narrative. Unlike its peers, OPEN Health steps into the shoes of the end user and co-creates solutions by engaging with healthcare professionals, patients, and patient advocacy groups.

To learn more about our patient engagement offering and how OPEN Health can support you, please contact us.