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December 3, 2021

Insights management and virtual patient engagement

Patient-centricity is more than a trend – it’s imperative for life science companies. Here's how to handle patient engagement within your insights management strategy.
patient engagement

While HCP insights are critical, patient engagement is integral to the advancement of life science companies. Involving patients, understanding their perspectives, and implementing their feedback is necessary to develop drugs and devices that have the maximum positive impact. And HCPs may be more willing to work with and prescribe therapeutics from life science companies they perceive to be more patient-centric.

According to research, 91% of people working in the pharmaceutical industry believe it’s important to prioritize patients. However, just 30% say they’re confident in their companies’ ability to execute on that mission. In the same report, just a third of patients reported interacting with a pharmaceutical company on a regular basis.

Virtual patient engagement instantly overcomes logistical challenges faced with in-person meetings. Your team can connect with patients more frequently, follow up with them more easily, and get a more complete picture of their experience. Here’s how to successfully engage patients in virtual settings and incorporate their perspective into your insights management strategy.

Prepare patients for asynchronous communication

Virtual patient engagement is more successful when it’s asynchronous, or over-time. This means you’ll ask patients to provide feedback over a period of days or weeks, at their own convenience, via an online forum accessed through their phone or computer. Allowing patients to answer questions and provide insight at a comfortable pace for them – with less pressure and no travel – improves engagement.

Remember that virtual meetings may still be new to certain patient demographics, and you may face low engagement levels if patients have to figure out how the virtual advisory board platform works or 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. When everyone is comfortable using the virtual platform, you’ll get more relevant insight.

Additionally, tell patients what to expect in an online session and define the objectives clearly. What level of participation will be expected of them? Who will they be required to interact with? What are you hoping to achieve?

Tailor your questions 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 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 with the moderators. And if applicable, add visual collateral and documents that can prompt patients to give more detailed answers.

Offer many ways to provide input

Patients should have other channels where they can contribute to the conversation during the entire virtual engagement process. One way to do this is to offer a resource to read and react to, in a format where patients can take some control and add comments or suggestions. Within3 offers a document annotation feature that allows participants to provide input on proposed patient-facing materials and resources. There are also tools that moderators can use to promote and encourage patients to add to ongoing discussions.

Empower and support in a community setting

2020 survey of about 3,200 patients found that patient empowerment via information and services is among the top expectations patients have of pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

In addition to engaging patients one-on-one or in small groups for over-time sessions, you can also 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. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, patient adoption of digital health tools stalled. Of patients surveyed in one research report, those who reported using digital tools to manage their health fell from 43% in 2018 to 35% in 2020. But the pandemic forced a remarkable shift in this behavior, and patients are more accustomed than ever to discussing and managing health issues in a virtual environment.

Patients also have a better opinion of pharmaceutical and medical device companies in the wake of COVID-19. New research shows that patient trust in the healthcare ecosystem has increased, with a boost of 45% for pharmaceutical companies and 44% for medical device companies.

Now is the time for life science organizations to establish or re-establish productive relationships with patients, who can offer expert insight into their own first-hand experience with conditions, treatments, and trials. To discover more tactics to effectively engage patients, download our white paper, “Best Practice Guide: Insights Management and Virtual Patient Engagement.”

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