While HCP insights are critical to product development and launch, life science teams also prioritize patient input. Involving patients, understanding their perspectives, and implementing their feedback is necessary to develop treatments that outperform the competition. And as patients take more control over their health and healthcare, HCPs may be more inclined to work with and prescribe therapeutics from life science companies focusing on patient engagement.
Research shows that 91% of people in the pharmaceutical industry believe patient centricity is important, but just 30% say they’re confident in their companies’ ability to execute that mission. In the same report, just a third of patients reported interacting with a pharmaceutical company regularly; only 1 in 5 patients know about support services pharmaceutical companies offer. How can the industry bridge the gap and connect with patients meaningfully?
Life science teams should engage patients early and often. Traditional roadblocks remain: work and family commitments, health issues, economic factors, and trust issues can prevent patients from engaging or being candid when they do. Virtual patient engagement overcomes many challenges, enabling your team to connect with patients more frequently, follow up with them more easily, and get a complete picture of their experience. However, you’ll need to adequately prepare patients for virtual interaction and incorporate the results into your broader insights management strategy to truly get value from patient engagement.
Prepare patients for technology
Virtual patient engagement is more successful when it’s asynchronous. Why?
- Flexibility – patients provide feedback over days or weeks at their convenience
- Privacy – patients can answer anonymously or directly to the moderator, resulting in more candid feedback
- Follow-up – moderators can ask patients to elaborate further or provide more information
Remember that virtual meetings may still be new to some patients. You may face low engagement levels if patients must determine how the technology works or navigate the sequence of events during the meeting. Prepare patients on how to use the virtual engagement platform ahead of time, perhaps by asking a few low-stakes questions about favorite hobbies or a recent book. You’ll get more relevant insight when everyone is comfortable using the virtual platform.
Additionally, tell patients what to expect in an online session and define the objectives clearly:
- What level of participation will be expected of patients?
- Who will patients be required to interact with?
- What are you hoping to learn from patients?
Tailor engagements for a virtual environment
When choosing questions to ask patients – especially during sessions that do not involve live virtual elements like a webcast – you shouldn’t merely default to those that would be suitable for in-person interactions. Virtual meetings might initially seem more sterile to participants than in-person meetings, but you can foster warmth.
Ask a combination of qualitative and quantitative questions framed thoughtfully and considerately. Use open-ended questions to spark group engagement between patients themselves and the moderators. And if applicable, add visual collateral and documents that prompt patients to give more detailed answers.
Empower and support in a community setting
Current research reveals that patient empowerment via information and services is among patients’ top expectations of pharmaceutical companies.
In addition to engaging patients one-on-one or in small groups for async sessions, you can establish online communities and resource centers where patients can access support material. This could be educational material with insights to inform patient decision-making processes around treatment options or information about upcoming clinical trials. The material could also provide emotional and motivational support for patients by focusing on topics like dealing with a new diagnosis and coping with chronic conditions.
Take advantage of a major shift to digital health
This is a moment of opportunity for pharmaceutical and medical device organizations. Before the pandemic, patient adoption of digital health tools stalled, but the crisis forced a remarkable shift in this behavior, and patients are more accustomed than ever to discussing and managing health issues in a virtual environment. The swift development of vaccines and other treatments also caused patients to have a better opinion of pharmaceutical and medical device companies after COVID-19, with a boost in patient trust of 45% for pharmaceutical companies.
Use technology to elevate the patient voice
Patient engagements generate a lot of information in structured settings like focus groups and one-on-one interviews, but also across social media platforms and other online forums. Life science teams can use social media listening to monitor patient conversations about their condition, treatments, and experiences living with a disease. Tools like sentiment analysis and natural language processing reduce the time needed to home in on trending topics that could influence strategy.
Now is the time for life science organizations to establish or re-establish productive relationships with patients who can offer expert insight into their first-hand experience with conditions, treatments, and trials. To discover more tactics to engage patients effectively, download our white paper.