How to include the hard to reach?

Rebecca Marshall-Clarke  |  Adelphi Research UK


Are we in danger of focusing brand strategies only on engaged patients?

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Patient–centricity has increasingly become a key element of pharma’s strategic decision–making. We are starting to see evidence that placing the patient at the heart of decisions is transforming pharma brands throughout their lifecycle – from conception and clinical trials – through to delivery and reimbursement.

The changes to take a more patient–centric approach took place at a government level in 2012, through the consultation document ‘Liberating the NHS: No decision about me, without me’. The emphasis on empowering patients and engaging communities was further shaped by the publication of NHS England’s ‘Five-Year Forward View’ in 2014.

But what does patient- centricity mean for marketers and researchers?

Patient insights have become a key driver of brand strategy – helping brands differentiate through taking a more patient-centric approach.

We’ve seen an increase in patient support programmes for example and more effective targeting of patient segments with particular needs.

Immersive research which provides an understanding of the daily life of individual patients – including how they feel about different treatments and how they live with their conditions – is crucial in informing these key brand decisions.

Just how patient-centric is healthcare market research?

How well are2art marketers and healthcare researchers truly taking on board the governments ‘no decision about me, without me’ mantra? Are we thoroughly carrying patient–centricity through to healthcare research?

Adelphi has certainly seen an increase in the volume of patient research and much of this work does place patients at the heart. For instance insight from patient journeys allows us to walk in individual patient’s shoes – enabling us to understand their feelings and attitudes throughout treatment.

But are we always reaching the right patients?

Are we only reaching a narrow pool of self–selecting patients for instance – the ones who are:

  • Easiest to reach
  • Active about their condition
  • Willing to take part in research
  • Articulate and health literate enough to participate?

Through limiting research to engaged patients, how well are the real needs of the whole patient population being represented?

Are we building strategies to help patients who are already more engaged than most, rather than the disengaged – those who might need the most help from pharma?

Could we support further towards the NHS’ goal of ‘right treatment, right patient, right time’?

How can we reach and involve disengaged patients?

The challenge is how to reach out to those patients who might be less engaged, not interested in taking part in research and/or less health literate.

During the recruitment phase should we be allowing more time to access more hard to reach patients?

Do we need to be thinking of more novel ways, tapping into consumer approaches, to reach beyond patients who are already engaging proactively with their disease?

Should we be developing methodologies that are less dependent on socio–economic group, articulation and health literacy?

Could we for instance replace central locations with shorter interviews and incorporate more peer–to–peer interviewing?

We might find that research takes a little longer an3artd requires us to think outside of the box but if our efforts pay off we will be able to provide brands with the insights that they need to:

  • Leverage compliance in even the toughest patients
  • Generate patient push in motivated patients whose health literacy would otherwise have prevented them engaging

Ultimately we would be helping patients to make a real difference to their health, by ensuring that pharma companies understand the full spectrum of patient needs.

Thus empowering pharma to be better placed to get to the right treatment to the right patient at the right time.

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