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Ditch the data?

Looking beyond the data

Kristina MarshallFrom the 4G you used while looking at emails en route to work, to frantically checking the number of steps you did after climbing four flights of stairs and that intense Boxfit class - we are constantly relying on data. And the same could be said for pharma.

As a medical copywriter, I spend my life surrounded by papers. My world is full of p-values, key selling messages and reference packs. Data plays a fundamental role in all that we do in our industry. We need solid data to form the most compelling arguments for our brands, and to formulate that unique narrative in time for that blockbuster launch.

Look beyond the data

But what happens when data stops adding glorious content to your brand story? When that phase III study you’ve been eagerly waiting for shows no superiority to the key competitor? Or when there are simply no new trials on the horizon? Data starts to take a bit of a back seat.

And think about healthcare professionals. Many will know their specialty inside out and will have no doubt seen the data umpteen times. If we truly want to change their behaviour, we need to give them unique insights and powerful creative that will make them sit up and think twice before writing the next prescription.

Could it be that the big creative idea no longer comes from the product itself, but from those faces that sit behind the data? If our ultimate aim is to accelerate change for patients and help them to get better access to healthcare solutions, then we really should start talking to them first.

Each patient has a story to tell. And it’s more than likely that the physician has not heard it. It’s very difficult for a patient to tell the GP the full story in a 10-minute appointment. Or how about the annual check-up with the specialist? Will the patient have time to discuss the day-to-day implications of living with a life-long condition in any great detail?

Time to talk

Let’s put this into context with this hypothetical example. Around one in seven people suffer from migraines, and these can impact severely on quality-of-life. After patients took product A, their quality-of-life score improved by 6 points. But how about we immerse this data into everyday life? When we let 17-year-old Jack talk, he said that migraines are stopping him living his life to the full. While his friends have finished their A levels and are loving life at university, Jack is back at college redoing the year and his exams. You see, Jack spent most of last year curled up in bed with migraines so intense he could not leave the house. And how about when we spoke with 40-year-old Jenny, a single mother of two toddlers who relies heavily on her parents to look after her children? When a migraine hits, she needs to shut herself in a dark room in silence. Jack feels like he is failing. Jenny feels like she is not fulfilling her duty as a mum.

When product A came along, everything changed. Jack felt he could live a life less limited. He was finally able to live the life of his friends and not be anticipating when the blurred vision and mind-numbing pain would set in.

As for Jenny, she no longer needed darkness and silence and could stop relying so much on her parents. She could finally start being the mum she dreamed of being. How much richer does the data become when we talk to patients and immerse this into their everyday lives?

Patients at the centre

There are many ways we can then use these unique insights. By integrating patient videos into a detail aid, physicians not only hear first-hand accounts of how data impacts on day-to-day life, they can also see and feel the emotion behind each unique story. And a brand campaign doesn’t need to have images of devastation to be impactful. Bold iconography alongside hard-hitting quotes around the devastation caused by a condition can be just as poignant.

So, should we ditch the data? No. Should we be looking into how we immerse data more fully in the lives of patients? Yes. It’s time for the faces behind the graphs to step forward.

Because data alone isn’t enough anymore.

Kristina Marshall is a medical copywriter at Frontera

in association with


13th August 2017

From: Healthcare



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