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Digging deeper to connect with the powerful force of patient understanding

EphMRA's president Karsten Trautmann advocates a holistic approach to market research


Data-propelled insight has always been a vital lens  to bring a disease and  its solutions into a workable  focus but market research is  now driving towards a potent 360-degree vision.

The brave new world of research still majors on responses to traditional touch points but the pressure is on to add extra layers of understanding as society’s relationship with healthcare twists and turns.

The influences of carers and patients need to be central in a broader, holistic approach, believes Karsten Trautmann, president of EphMRA (European Pharmaceutical Market Research Association) the forum for strategic business intelligence and marketing research professionals among more than 150 firms globally.

“Market research is moving to a greater emphasis on quality of life; this is what the future is all about,” he says. “We have worked with healthcare professionals for decades and it is almost as though we have discovered there are patients, their families and carers. We need to ask what we know about them and how we can help internal and external stakeholders to develop solutions that encompass the full disease journey beyond the traditional patient journey.

“We have to make the drug part of their lives, not a disruptor in their lives and to do that best you need to fully understand their lives. If the drug is not a burden, it will be easier to live with the condition and this, in turn, will influence treatment outcome. If patients feel good and understand the benefits completely, they will have a positive attitude, as opposed to the ‘take your pills or this will happen’ approach.”

Holistic and connected

Mr Trautmann, Director, Global Data & Knowledge Management at Merck KGaA, insists market research can enable industry to gain that deeper understanding of the holistic elements of any condition and forge productive synergies with payers and patients. The theme will feature large at EphMRA’s annual conference in Basel, Switzerland, at the end of June.

“Patients that understand their condition and their medication are often more likely to stick to their regimes, which will make a dent in poor compliance rates and that will impress payers,” he adds. “Quality of life will need more consideration in treatment decisions. We cannot just say let’s develop something that gives us a tiny competitive edge. It has to be about the package you deliver to the patient, not just the medicine.

“If you want to be holistic and connected then you have to look at every element and ask questions about how patients are informing themselves, what elements are important to them and to try to understand what they are thinking.

“Rather than a company saying ‘we have this drug, what do you think?’, we need to come at it from a different perspective and ask ‘you have this disease, what do you need to know?”.

The global pharmaceutical industry spends more than €2bn on market research to provide insights that herald business advantages as well as improve drug delivery despite the current climate of challenging budgets. Its ability to key into the demands and desires of patients and their support networks, from family to physicians, is a valuable commodity.

Trautmann adds: “Pharma-ceutical development is a scientific process but market research needs to be consulted much earlier in the journey. From my experience working in R&D project management before I moved to market research, we needed more insight on the table to help decisions on how to structure the layout of the drug. Of course, we need efficacy to have a successful product and sell the drug but we need to look at the complete package. Do we have the best device in place to administer the drug? Have we thought through how the patient gets all the information they need? Do we have support programmes in place? Everything needs to be connected; information, the treatment decision from HCP, a good device, training, good follow-up and a good quality of life with the patient view considered.

“Often drugs are developed with little or no thought given to how patients and their families are living with the disease and what they really need beyond the efficacy of a drug.”

Positive impact

Taking the holistic view works way beyond a feel-good factor and positive feedback from patients as it can generate greater take-up and improved potential for approvals from healthcare systems. To get buy-in at board level requires top quality market research with the proposition and its impact clearly identified, adds Trautmann.

“To have an influential role at board level, market research has to comply with company structure and supply intelligent, solution-oriented work that can have a positive impact in supporting decisions. It deserves a place at the top table but it must earn that place with quality, insightful and forward-looking perspectives. Fulfilling those criteria improves the chance of being involved at early stage development.

“The role is not just about telling the board what is happening today but advising on what they should consider tomorrow. We have to communicate our methods and rationale to our internal and external stakeholders to fully demonstrate the role market research can play in transforming the industry.

“Naturally, there are barriers and resistance. You will have to convince people in your organisation that quality of life needs to be considered alongside scientific parameters and market demands such as how many patients you can reach.”

Clear direction

The EphMRA conference, which runs from 26-28 June, has a wide-ranging programme featuring the drive to have greater boardroom impact, enriching customer insights, harnessing digital developments to meet brand needs and how to derive greater understanding from patient engagement.

“I am very excited by the conference programme. Thinking about where our profession should move to is reflected in the sessions, workshops and speakers,” adds Trautmann, who took over the presidency this year from Thomas Hein, after two years on the EphMRA board. “I believe it will be a great conference and will allow us to understand the issues members are experiencing and to exchange different methods that touch all elements of the profession, including the important question of how we can listen better to the patients.”

The ever-increasing capabilities of digital are both a blessing and a curse to market research, and one key session asks if information overload is clouding decision-making.

“This is a very important topic,” says Trautmann. “Good market research makes it easier to focus on a clear direction but we have so much more information these days and it is easy to assume that modern technology and data have all the answers. But, although we need Smart Data to get the answers to our questions, we have to be careful not to become too reliant on data and accept that not all the information we need for a holistic view will come in a fast manner.

“It is important to analyse every aspect of the data but it is also crucial to have healthy judgement and not to block channels of information such as what the patients are saying. How we moderate data is a fascinating debate, which we need to focus on now and in the future.”

Article by
Danny Buckland

is a health journalist

2nd June 2018

Article by
Danny Buckland

is a health journalist

2nd June 2018

From: Research



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