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The Patient Journey

A roadmap for success

In association with The EarthWorksThere has been a lot of talk in recent years of a need to increase patient- centricity within the pharmaceutical industry. Indeed, there have been many great steps towards a more patient-centric approach, and a greater recognition of the value of patient choice and the need for increased self- management across healthcare systems. This is mirrored when we speak to healthcare professionals, who have a growing demand for methods to support patients, beyond the medicine.

While we know that self- management and choice are increasingly important within healthcare, actually putting this into practice and creating meaningful solutions for patients has been tricky. Patients are only able to better manage their conditions and do more for themselves with the necessary tools and information. And these tools and information have to fit into the lives of patients in a seamless way. This is a real

opportunity for those within the pharmaceutical sector to empower people, but they can only do this by truly understanding the unmet needs.

Mapping the patient journey

There are many different perspectives of how to build an effective and successful patient support programme, with each offering a unique method of doing so. One thing is clear though: any successful patient support programme must be grounded in the patient journey. Taking a step back and reflecting on each step

prior to building any journey can contribute to the quality of the overall analysis. When developing a patient journey it’s imperative to understand a variety of perspectives.

Typically, research consists of speaking to patients, carers and healthcare professionals. Before building solutions for patients and carers there is a need to construct a coherent understanding of the unmet needs of the audience. By identifying the unmet needs, engaging with patients will add value to the insights instead of duplicating existing knowledge. Only then can you create tactics to overcome unmet needs.

Translating insight into effective patient support

As a starting point, patient journey maps provide fantastic illumination of the challenges faced by patients and their supporting stakeholders. However, while the research conducted to generate a patient journey map will provide the audience with empathy into patient lives, which of course is a key motivator for why we do what we do, its potential is so much more.

The true purpose is to identify unmet needs along the journey that, through consultative interpretation, and the provision of appropriate tools, can change beliefs and behaviours towards disease management for improved clinical outcomes. Internally the patient journey map provides you with

the blueprint for strategic planning, identifying the needs to be tackled to make a meaningful difference to the treatment paradigm. The visual representation of the journey is also a great tool to bring colleagues on board with your strategic approach, basing it on evidence as well as inspiration.

Tools generated for patients need to be developed with the user in mind. The traditional approach of writing by pharma has focused on high science with the medical audience as a target. However creating engaging materials for the patient audience requires a different skillset. Tone of voice, empathy and simplicity are crucial in developing tools and content that are read and re-engaged with. Creating engaging content that is easy to understand and yet grounded in clinical evidence is key when creating meaningful interventions for patients. Embedding this content in relevant behavioural models will ensure that measurable behaviour change occurs.

A failure point of tools generated from patient journey mapping is the resultant lack of awareness from HCPs, patients, carers and other stakeholders. Frequently we find they are unaware of specific apps that can aid patient disease management yet state certain services apps offer as unmet needs. The notion of ‘build it and they will come’ isn’t enough – users and healthcare providers need to be aware not only of the tools, but the benefits of these and the difference they can make. Effective brand and medical communications, utilising case studies of uptake and who the tool is for is crucial for engagement. And simply engaging with patient associations as part of the immersion process is not enough. Ongoing consultancy can lead to greater buy-in of the tool and recommendations to their members as a valuable aid to disease management. With this buy-in, the effectiveness and reach of any patient support programme is heavily increased.

The five pillars of journey mapping

There are five pillars which should be considered when developing a patient journey. Aligning to these will ensure that the process of building a journey is multi-layered and robust.

1 Integrate behaviour change within the patient design. Considering the purpose behind patient mapping is to develop solutions to meet the unmet needs of the audience, analysing the insights using behaviour change theories will ensure that the outputs of the journey elicits behavioural change.

2 Critically analyse existing research, including publications and systematic review. Summarising the findings within a literature review can inform the development of the research plan. A literature review also serves as a rationale for the qualitative interviews and begins to form the patient journey.

3 Listening to social conversation can add layers of insights. Online conversations can uncover valuable insights about
the audience, whether this be patients, healthcare professionals or key opinion leaders.

4 Speak to real patients, carers and healthcare professionals to help construct the journey. This can be done in a number of ways and is dependent on how much insight is collated. Observational or phenomenological methodology is dependent on the sample size and rationale behind the research. Although there is a preference for one-to-one interviews, focus groups and advisory boards can offer just as much value and insight required.

5 Engage with key influencers throughout the patients’ journeys. This allows the development of a robust strategic patient pathway. Mapping this out will help inform the specific touchpoints where a tactical intervention can be introduced and by whom. And it’s important not to forget patient associations – accessing and working in collaboration with patient groups can help engage patients willing to co-design research and be part of the co-creation process.

In summary, when considering the five pillars of constructing a patient journey, it is important to integrate, critically analyse, listen, speak and engage with patients, carers, healthcare professionals and patient associations.

Contributors: Neil Rees, head of research,, Dr Sumira Riaz, lead health psychologist,, Alex Morton, patient and healthcare writer,

In association with

The EarthWorks

13th June 2018

From: Healthcare



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