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Patient centricity is a growing focus for life science organizations, and for good reason – there’s plenty of data to suggest that centering patients and their experiences are much more than just noble ideals. In one study comparing trials with significant patient-centered elements to traditional trials, researchers found that 87% of the patient-centered trials had positive results, much higher than 68% for the traditional trials. And companies that take more patient-centric approaches to trial design and execution have moved the needle on reducing average trial enrollment time and shortening the timeline from first patient dose to product launch.

Clearly, pharmaceutical and medical device teams can add significant value to medical affairs, clinical, and commercial activities by making patient engagement more frequent and more meaningful. Let’s examine how teams can add this strategic capability and break down a few barriers to better patient engagement.

Building a more patient-centric approach

Even prior to the abrupt rise of virtual interaction, telehealth, and remote monitoring amid the pandemic, digital transformation and insight gathering were already emerging as tactics for better patient engagement. In a 2020 article, Deloitte reported that to build a more patient-centric organization, life science companies should harness digital and data analytics opportunities to engage patients, collect data on patient outcomes as well as their unmet needs, and form deeper collaborations within the industry – including with advocacy groups, clinicians, and health plans.

Many Within3 client teams had these capabilities prior to the crisis, and we’re increasingly seeing companies that want to build this competency. Hybrid virtual engagement – asynchronous discussions held on our platform, combined with real-time virtual interactions like webcasts – provides a flexible approach to teams who want to engage patients, collect and review the resulting data, and determine the next steps for a variety of activities across the product development lifecycle. Hybrid virtual engagement also avoids many of the pitfalls of traditional patient interaction methods like in-person monitoring, in-depth interviews, or focus groups.

Barriers to better patient engagement

Many life science organizations may believe they are patient-centric by nature – after all, they develop and launch devices and therapies designed to treat patients. However, as the Deloitte report points out, these patient perspectives are often viewed through the lens of physicians or regulators. Designing trials and creating educational materials with patients in mind isn’t really the same thing as bringing the patient into the process from the beginning. Fortunately, virtual engagement solves this issue in a number of ways.

Consider a clinical trial that requires patients to drive to an investigation site once every few weeks. The patient may not live nearby or might rely on public transit subject to schedule changes or weather delays. Patients also have work and family commitments, health issues, or other factors that may make this schedule unappealing or just impossible – putting them at risk for dropping out of the study. In other cases, life science teams may simply be reluctant to prioritize direct patient engagement due to compliance and industry regulations.

Engaging patients via a virtual platform eliminates many roadblocks that would otherwise negatively impact engagement efforts. An asynchronous environment means patients can participate in online discussions or periodic check-ins on their own schedule, without traveling. The ability to stay anonymous, answer private questions, and provide completely candid feedback without disclosing personal medical or identification information protects patients and life science teams from a compliance standpoint.

Preparing for patient-centricity

A hybrid virtual patient engagement strategy enables a true patient focus across life science organizations. Clinical teams can design trials that are patient-focused with the right virtual engagement tactics and tools, and the patient story can enable medical affairs teams to help healthcare professionals understand more about the patient experience. Commercial teams can solicit candid patient input to craft messages with a better understanding of the medical and emotional implications of a particular diagnosis.

So, how can pharmaceutical and medical device teams build this capability? And what are the keys to successful patient engagement?

The answer, at least in part, begins with understanding what your team is trying to achieve. In other words, begin with the destination and plan accordingly. And when it comes to designing a successful virtual patient engagement session, key best practices include preparing patients for online engagement, a systematic approach to question selection, providing multiple channels and opportunities for input, and establishing a supportive community setting.

Learn what our global client success team has learned from helping clients lead patient engagement sessions – watch the video.

To learn more about compliant virtual patient engagement, download our white paper.

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