Spotlight interview: 15 minutes on insights and market research in pharma

Written by Neil Rees on Thursday 21st November 2019

Neil Rees, Head of Research, OPEN Health Patient & Brand Communication takes 15 minutes to answer some key questions on insights and market research in pharma

1. What sets the research team at OPEN Health apart within the industry?

As the research team within OPEN Health we work closely with many different teams offering a variety of skills. We involve the strategic expertise of our patient engagement team with our patient research, including a modular approach to patient journey mapping. What’s really powerful is that we’re working with patient engagement strategists, health psychologists, digital experts, design teams, and copywriters who all approach things from the end user angle. This means that not only can we conduct in-depth patient research, we also understand it in a wider context. To deliver effective solutions for our clients and to conduct research that has an end output in mind, we offer genuine action leveraging those unique skills to take our insights a step further and start thinking about design and deliverables of tailored patient engagement solutions.

2. How does the focus on patients create value for pharma?

The value is really in providing patients with support that better helps them to understand their disease and how to live with it. Many patients feel very alone and isolated with their condition and what they go through. Historically their relationship with their healthcare professional is one of teacher-pupil; they expect to be told what they need to know and if their physician hasn’t told them something, they assume they don’t need to know it. It’s not until they seek other sources - whether that’s through peer support, speaking to other patients on forums, or help groups - that it can become particularly apparent. But of course, not all patients want to do that, so we need to find other tools that support them to help them better understand and they can come through the healthcare professional or other routes. It’s about creating support that is particularly important for them so they can better manage their disease, engage with their treatment and lead to improved outcomes.  Improved outcomes is the ‘value’ for pharma, matching many mission statements and demonstrating true patient-centricity. 

3. Some of the insights generation around patient journey mapping seems particularly interesting: can you tell us a little more about it?

It brings to life the patient’s lived experience; with our modular process we try to understand the known knowns. We develop hypotheses using several methods, such as literature reviews and social media listening to find out what is already out there. We then explore the known unknowns: meeting the patients, going into their homes etc. Without spending time with patients you can’t understand the true impact of the disease on not just them, but their family, carers and support network. We capture patients talking about how it’s really affecting them and as a result it’s a great tool for our clients to use internally so they can see for themselves the impact of disease. Hearing those patient stories moves the patient journey mapping process from the hypothetical to something real.

4. What do you see as the future of insights / research?

Insights will always have a role; without understanding your ‘customer’ you can’t fundamentally move forward as a business, but how we gather that insight will always evolve. Artificial intelligence is likely to have a much bigger impact as there are so many sources of data available, so the challenge is how you make the most of it. Gathering the patient view will continue to grow in importance, patient journeys will evolve, treatments will change, and psychology and viewpoints on how to cope with disease will change over time too. Millennials see things differently from Gen X, their information needs will be very different, so understanding that and building the appropriate solutions for them will be important.


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