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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Pharma marketers' blog: How to be a patient-centric pharma marketer?

Understanding that patients are a person first and a patient second

Patient-centricity is one of the most important trends, terms and disciplines across the pharma and biotech industry as we move from being a science and product- focused industry to a more customer and patient-centric one.

Different companies address patient-centricity in different ways: from major global training programmes to help cross-functional brand teams map the patient journey and experience for a particular disease and healthcare system, to sharing patient testimonials, letters and posters internally.

When working across the industry with different companies and teams, it soon becomes apparent who is prioritising the science, the sales process, the financials and/ or the patient.

There are many companies building strategies that combine all of these. It is worth asking yourself how patient-centric your organisation, business unit and team are. Here are a few signs that would indicate true, heartfelt commitment to the patient within pharma and biotech companies:

  1. Are there regular patient awareness day activities: talks, charity events, skill sharing with patient advocacy groups, educational team events?
  2. Are there clearly defined roles for
    patient engagement, insights and the design and delivery of patient support programmes? (Within budget, of course)
  3. Are there patient-centric goals that are shared in investor/analyst presentations showing how many patients will benefit from their medicines and support programmes?
  4. Does the senior management team speak very authentically about patients in different disease areas, drawing on personal experience and talking directly to healthcare professionals and patients?
  5. Are target patients for medicines described in terms of their clinical profiles or as people suffering from a condition impacting their lives?
  6. Are patients or patient leaders involved at a senior level in advisory boards and projects as well as senior physicians?

These are such simple yet powerful things to get right and can motivate and align a large multinational organisation. It is, of course, easier said than done as there are often silos to break down, historical ways of working to challenge, resources to prioritise and compliance guidelines to navigate.

Let’s look more specifically at some of the key competencies of a pharma marketer regarding patient-centricity:
Patient understanding and insight: do you and your team have a deep understanding of the patient’s life, needs, end-to-end experience with the healthcare system, interactions with other sources of information or support, frustrations, language they use, and is this mapped out and understood by your whole cross-functional team?

It’s also worth exploring carefully the impact of COVID-19 on your disease area and patients, given the disruptive events of the last year.

Target patient profile and personas: have you clearly defined the target patient(s) for your brand lifting your patient(s) off the page with personas, portraits, photos and even a name and a personality? Using real patient testimonials and photos is extremely powerful and can be done with the agreement of the patients involved and good supporting paperwork.

Patient-centric brand planning: creating a patient-centric brand plan is an essential skill for a pharma marketer. Introduce the patient at the beginning of your plan and bring the patient to life throughout your plan, ensuring that your plan has patient-focused objectives and strategic imperatives and that you can quantify the number of patients who will benefit from your brand and the support programmes you are investing in. There is nothing more powerful than seeing or reading a truly patient-centric brand plan!

Patient engagement and programmes: do you have clearly defined programmes for patient education, support, adherence? Have these been developed with a patient advocacy group? Are they easy to find by patients – online, in print, in different languages?

Patient engagement metrics: are you tracking the overall experience of the patients who take your medicine? Do you have feedback mechanisms in place to evaluate patients’ satisfaction with your support programmes, the benefits your medicine delivers, as well as any ideas for future patient-centric innovation?

And lastly, a few words about how patients like to be described. At a recent patient conference, one of the speakers spoke powerfully about being a person first and a patient second.

She advised our industry to consider a patient’s whole life, including friends, family members and work, to think about how to make things easier for the patient, to make our educational materials person-centred not drug-centred. Wise words indeed and something that I firmly believe we can all do.

Stephanie Hall is MD of the award-winning brand planning healthcare consultancy Uptake Strategies

28th April 2021

From: Marketing

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