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Ten years at the forefront of patient experience

Helen ScottThis month marks ten years of Hive, which has prompted us to reflect on how the world has changed over the last decade, and how it is going to change over the next one.

When we opened our doors we would say to our clients: “You have to understand the patient and the people around them if you want to build a truly relevant brand.” From brand managers to reps to medics, they thought we were crazy. Patients were nowhere to be found in strategic processes; they weren’t even part of the vocabulary used by industry stakeholders. All that those stakeholders were interested in was prescriber messaging, the sales story, the ad and maybe a leave piece and tent card for good measure.

Fast forward to today and virtually every agency and client talks about patient-centricity as a matter of course. That’s music to our ears, of course, because it means that our expertise is relevant industry-wide. Even more importantly, however, it means that the world that we wanted to help bring into being, the world where meaningful healthcare communications radiate outwards from patient experience, is now a world that other people see the value in too.

But there’s still a long way to go. Patient-centricity is a term you hear bandied about in the boardroom and sprinkled throughout marketing plans, but it is still only rarely being incorporated as a key building block of healthcare brands. Time and time again the term turns out to be more buzzword than belief. Sometimes ‘patient-centricity’ means nothing more than ‘we need a patient leaflet’. At other times it amounts to chatting to a small group of patients to validate some thinking - instead of using patient insight to inspire that thinking - or building a patient programme from a similarly limited position of knowledge.

This simply isn’t good enough. While the industry has been catching on to the importance of patient-centricity, it is often only to a cosmetic degree. And in any case, the world has moved on again. For us, now and for the next ten years, the idea of understanding an individual’s experience of disease or taking a medicine is just as essential as it was when we opened our doors, which is why we have honed our skills, talent and processes to help us do just that. But at the same time, new possibilities are opening up in terms of what we can do with the information we gather, and how it can be integrated into more advanced, more compelling creative communications and interventions.

We know that it is becoming increasingly essential to look at clinical outcomes, rather than just measures of behaviour change. Now more than ever there is a need and a desire to move beyond a simple change in engagement. From clinical trials through to real-world studies, we need to be demonstrating and communicating the relationship between behaviour change and clinical improvements.

Wherever you stand on the issue politically, the rise of private healthcare is undeniable, and with it comes greater autonomy and choice on the part of the patient. Recognising the power of patients as customers, customers who will demand a more considered experience and challenge parts of the healthcare system in a way we haven’t seen before, is the future that is almost upon us. This is the space in which pharma initiatives will need to operate. Being left behind is not an option.

Identifying problems and then designing better experiences through co-creation, minimum-viable-product (MVP) development and multichannel forums are things we need to harness in the future; the fact that the phrase ‘customer experience (CX)’ has reached the pharma world is testament to this. Doing this well, partnering right, working in an agile way and constantly evolving is critical, and if we want to remain relevant the work needs to begin now. Towards the end of last year we ran a series of sprints designed to challenge and analyse how we run our teams, how to quickly and efficiently reach strong solutions, and how to enshrine prototyping and testing at the core of our creative mindset. Whatever the next ten years hold, we know that it’s going to be exciting, and we want to be right at the forefront of it.

Helen Scott is managing director at Hive Health

In association with


20th February 2018

From: Marketing



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