Spotlight interview: 15 minutes on patient engagement in pharma

Written by Richard Jones on Monday 19th August 2019

Richard Jones, Managing Director Patient Engagement, OPEN Health Patient and Brand Communications, takes 15 minutes to answer some key questions on patient engagement in pharma. 

1.  What does patient engagement mean to pharma at present?

There’s no doubt that patient engagement is a new buzz word within the pharmaceutical industry. What is interesting is how different departments are coming to terms with patient engagement. We are beginning to see patient engagement being adopted across the lifecycle of pharma treatments. A case in point being we recently met a global clinical operations team who were exploring what is happening in patient engagement and how they can bring that knowledge to bear in their design and development of clinical trials. All organisations are beginning to explore patient engagement and how they can embed it strategically into their departments. I think it represents a fantastic opportunity for pharma to do things differently in a genuinely more patient-centric manner.

2.  What do patients want more of from pharma?

Patients want greater autonomy, a greater say in the medicines and formulations that are developed, the diseases they are targeted to treat, to some extent how the clinical trials are designed, and how the benefits are communicated to the public.

Patients want far greater involvement in the end-to-end product life cycle. We’re starting to see patient groups, for example the “My Name’5 Doddie Foundation” in motor neurone disease, pushing for greater research into effective treatments.

3. Should pharma do more with patients?

The simple answer is they don’t have a choice. 10-20 years ago a patient would have accepted a diagnosis or recommended treatment without question. Now, with the advent of technology and information being available at everyone’s fingertips, patients are becoming much more informed about different diagnoses, treatments, and which products are effective and ineffective in certain scenarios. So, the healthcare professional can expect a much more challenging consultation and therefore pharmaceutical companies must respond to that.

4. What are you working on that is improving patient engagement?

We work with pharmaceutical clients and patient advocacy groups in a strategic capacity to help them define what their organisational patient strategy should be, and we undertake that in a number of ways. We run cross-functional working groups within the pharmaceutical company, and we facilitate and run co-creation meetings between pharmaceutical clients, patient advocacy groups, and patients. Both approaches will help determine what the correct and unique patient engagement strategy for a pharmaceutical company should be. We conduct a lot of work to understand the lived experience of patients and carers with a particular disease through patient journey mapping projects and have developed an evidence-based methodology. We help pharmaceutical companies understand where they can develop tools and services to satisfy genuine unmet needs and act as a point of differentiation.

With our inhouse patient research team, we are able to conduct specialist patient research; from ethnographic studies through to POP (physician observed patient) groups where physicians will observe patients talking about their disease, and in turn, we interview the physicians.

We design patient engagement and patient support programmes for pharmaceutical clients. What’s really interesting is the programmes now span a wide breadth: from projects looking at patient engagement in clinical trials, through to developing technology solution apps to help support a patient to be maintained, engaged and positive about participating in the length of a clinical trial, and finally to the post-marketing phase where you’re looking to support a patient who has been prescribed a treatment.

We also work with patient advocacy groups and pharmaceutical companies to co-create patient materials and we find that it is a really positive, collaborative experience where patients and patient advocacy groups have a chance to design and develop the materials that their wider patient group will receive.

5. What sets OPEN Health apart in the patient space?

What is absolutely unique about OPEN Health is that we have a relatively small but highly experienced patient engagement team comprising of senior consultants and health psychologists, headed up by our own Doctor in Health Psychology. What is fundamentally important is our ability to draw on the experience of other OPEN Health practices (including a first class digital and health technology team, a real world evidence team, a communications team and an outstanding creative team) so that we are very efficiently able to design, develop, deliver and maintain patient assets for a pharmaceutical client in a way that no other agency can. In a nutshell, it’s our ability to bring together a team of experts to coalesce around a problem that would be unmatched in any other agency. Where else could you get a real-world evidence consultant, a health psychologist, a senior medical writer, a patient writer, a UX designer and a communications team all working on a patient project?!

Look out for Richard Jones’s article on patient engagement in PME which will be published on 16th September.

For more information contact:

Richard Jones, Managing Director – Patient Engagement OPEN Health PBC

+44 (0) 1628 481112