Why patient insight is critical to improve patient outcomes

Better patient outcomes by understanding the whole patient, means better business

Pharmaceutical companies are failing to meet patient demands for closer involvement in the development of their healthcare, and they’re missing a major opportunity.

According to our thought piece The Patient Gap, one in two patients wish pharmaceutical companies knew more about their lives. And one in three would like to engage further with them.1

Yet when we asked marketing leaders in healthcare to list the seven biggest challenges they faced, not one cited ‘gaining meaningful patient insight’ as a priority.2

This highlights a clear gap between the opportunity to collect more patient insight and the insight being collected by the industry in reality.

On top of this, just 21% of leading healthcare marketers agreed they are effectively using patient insight to innovate. And only 15% believed the patient insights they collected were relevant to their business.3

No wonder only 6% of patients strongly agree that pharma companies are on their side.4

An incomplete picture comes at a price

Historically, pharmaceutical companies have focussed on treating the disease versus understanding the whole person battling the disease. And so relegated the introduction of patient needs and insights downstream to the drug commercialization phase.

But the effectiveness of any drug is reliant on patients accurately following instructions. And when they don’t, clinical efficacy is reduced.

According to one recent survey, 50% of people diagnosed with glaucoma were found to be risking blindness by not adhering to their regime 75% of the time. And the reason for the poor adherence? The eye drops are difficult to administer.5

On top of the obvious impact on the patient, poor adherence costs the payer, society, and the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the drug.

In the US, hospital admissions due to poor regime adherence alone are estimated to cost $100bn a year.6

So the message is clear: the potential rewards of bridging this ‘patient gap’ are significant.

How to bridge the patient gap

The patient gap exists because pharmaceutical companies don’t fully understand how their drugs fit into patients’ lives.

Pharmaceutical companies must prioritise patient insight to get a better understanding of the preferences, lives and cultural contexts of their patients. This will help them to identify the factors that influence patient behaviour and enable them to develop therapies accordingly.

Companies should consider ways to involve patients throughout the R&D journey. This provides the opportunity to change a planned treatment regime before it’s too late.

They should also look further afield for their insight, using a wide range of sources. Friends, family, employers and carers can give a wider understanding of the impact an illness has on the patient and the difficulties they have in following the treatment regime.

There is a wide toolkit of insight methodologies to employ to gather this insight including ethnography, storytelling and behavioural sciences. These help to deepen the understanding of the patient’s life and flag some of the unconscious difficulties they may be experiencing.

And finally, any insight collected needs feed into end-to-end patient experience design. The focus needs to be on the patient’s entire life, not just the two to three times a day the patient takes the drug.

By capturing the right insight and feeding it into the way healthcare regimes are designed, pharmaceutical companies can increase the efficacy of treatments, reduce costs and improve the lives of patients.

In this way, patient insight will deliver business value for those pharmaceutical companies ready to listen.

1, 4. Clear- The Patient Survey – Nov 2014
2, 3. Clear – Cost of Change Study – USA 2013
5. Okeke CO, Quigley HA, Jampel HD, Ying GS, Plyer RJ, Jiang, et al. Adherence with Topical Glaucoma Medication Monitored Electronically.
6. Osterberg and Blascke, Adherence in Medication, 2005