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January 28, 2015

Engage patients and profits will follow

Shannon Quinn from Sanofi was the moderator for this first meeting of 2015 which was focused on patients. She pointed out that what matters to pharma is not necessarily what matters to patients. The speakers of the evening would be addressing how to bridge this gap and how to find ways to “do the right thing” for patients while enjoying financial success.

The first speaker of the evening was Anne-Marie Wright, President of Element Strategy Inc. and an Advisory Board Member of the Canadian Association for People-Centered Health. She threw out the term “patient-centricity” and questioned whether it was more than just a “buzz word”. Clearly it’s not, as results from the 2012 Ernst & Young Progressions 3.0 report showed. Anne-Marie quoted the paper, saying, “Access to information and opportunities to communicate in new and different ways have strengthened health literacy, defined as the working knowledge and language of healthcare. The global population, particularly those in developed nations, are emerging as informed consumers of healthcare, rather than passive recipients.”

Empowered patients = self-managing patients = better health outcomes
Anne-Marie outlined the drivers motivating and influencing this trend. Patients now have the drive to:

  • Learn and better understand health and wellness
    • Definition of health is changing
    • Enhanced health literacy
  • Engage and connect to other consumers; want to learn from others
    • Sense of evidence-based therapy is in learning from others that have the same illness, which is as important as the doctor’s opinion
  • “Take control”
    • Information technology propelling people to become active participants in their personal health journey
  • “Self manage” health information
    • Increasing desire to make informed and educated decisions relevant to their needs
  • Ensure accuracy
    • People who have access to, and manage their own health info are more likely to recognize changes or error in health data and make the link between action and health outcome
  • Collaborate with healthcare providers; not be simply recipients of care
    • More informed consumers will continue to strike for a deeper engagement with the healthcare team of their choice

But how can pharma provide more patient-consumer value? Anne-Marie offered the following tips:

  • Shift focus from the disease to the person
    • “What is the matter” vs “what matters to you”
    • Needs’ based insight comes from the consumer and not the provider
  • Understand consumer preferences and values that inform your customer experience strategy
    • Research, feedback, tracking, information sharing
  • Segment your market; different segments have different needs
    • Identify desires and commonalities of sub-sectors to tailor products and services in a way that reflects these insights
  • Move from “one size fits all” to “one size fits one”
    • Adapt strategies to better meet individual/segment goals and personal circumstances
  • Broaden your focus on healthcare professionals; go beyond physicians
    • Move beyond physicians; changes in pharmacy scope of practice is likely to continue to evolve and will change the way all medications are prescribed and dispensed in Canada
    • Patients will see their pharmacists 6 times more often than they see their physician
  • Explore digital technologies
    • That better connect people to your brands and allow them to be active partners in managing their care

Anne-Marie also quoted a US survey done in 2014 by Accenture Life Sciences, which revealed that 76% of patients think pharma companies have a responsibility to provide information and services that help patients manage their own health. 74% of respondents thought that the best time to initiate outreach was when a patient starts a medication. Anne-Marie polled the audience, by asking: “Over the past year, have you conducted patient-consumer research on your product or service?” Only 44% said yes, and 45% said no.

Anne-Marie finished her talk by suggesting that pharma learn the following lessons from the consumer packaged goods industry, as it’s an industry with a consumer focus that is strongly linked to profitability:

  • Role of strong brands and category domination
    • Emotional attachment
    • Consistent delivery of the brand
  • Vision of future market trends
  • Consumer understanding
  • Excellence in marketing strategy and execution
  • (Integrated) marketing and sales plan
    • Getting more emotionally and insight-based in the brand
  • Access to, and relationship with, mass retail
    • Difference between distribution relationship with retailer vs patient-partner relationship; pharmacies have the same goals that you do (i.e., better patient care)
  • Numerous stakeholder relations

The second speaker of the evening was Dawn Richards, Vice-President of the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance, who represented the voice of patient associations as well as the patient, as she suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. She said that patient associations exist because of some kind of unmet need that is not being filled by the healthcare system or providers. These associations exist to educate all stakeholders, lobby/advocate, stimulate research, help in the search for a cure and support other patients.

Dawn said that patients living with diseases have many motivations, including helping others with diseases, speaking for those who can’t/don’t have the time or energy, obtaining access to resources and having reach that would otherwise not be possible, and collaborating meaningfully with pharma and healthcare professionals. Dawn outlined how patient associations are currently working with pharma:

  • Ad hoc
  • Relationship building
  • Provide advice
  • Recruitment for trials
    • Traditionally interactions occur at later stages, not at R&D phase
    • European Patients’ Academy on Therapeutic Innovations (EUPATI) initiative in Europe aims to change this by training patient experts on drug discovery and development process
  • Access to other patients

However, she added that a lot of these interactions are not well established, nor are they strategic. Some of this is due to barriers, but there are also facilitators that could be leveraged. The barriers and facilitators to consider between patient associations and pharma are:

  • Goal for pharma and patient organizations
    • Helping patients with a specific disease
  • Organizational differences
    • Volunteer vs business
    • Compliance/legal stipulations
    • Vast capability differences
    • Language spoken must be understandable to groups
  • Specific to patient groups
    • Fear of losing independence; don’t wan to be “bought out”
    • Trust; put a face to the patient
  • Regulatory agencies
    • Health Canada, Rx&D, PAAB

Dawn left the audience with the following key take-aways:

  • Patient associations allow you to obtain access to other patients through engagement of groups/key patients, including patient opinion leaders (POLs)
  • Engage patients to understand their daily lives and how your therapies have transformed their lives
  • Enable patient participation in R&D agenda and priority setting
  • Build clinical trial protocols that make sense to patients and fit into their lives
  • Build better educational programs and patient support programs with patient input
  • For patients with chronic illnesses, help them see how they can be in control

At the end of the meeting, the floor was opened for general discussion and questions from the audience.

  • Q: How should teams start to work with associations?
    • Find the charity that’s associated with the indication of interest and they will have ties with patient associations
    • Build a relationship and figure out a beneficial tool that you can build together
  • Q: What are the expectations that patients have from pharma?
    • The Accenture study suggests that consumers are open to receiving services from pharma and they want help
    • Find ways for patients or associations to be the owners of programs being developed and optimize patient access to the programs
    • There is that gap between what you think they want and what they actually want; the information that you’re providing them isn’t info that they’re looking for
    • Have that conversation with associations or other mechanisms of research that gets you to another level of insight
    • Educate about what your products have done to improve lives; it’s important to remind patients of that; tell them that profits are reinvested in R&D
    • Patients like is like a Facebook for patients; the information gathered on the site is sold to pharma and the website is clear about that; conversations on the site have impacted the drug manufacturers

Anne-Marie made the comment that pharma detail aids are product-feature focused rather than emotion-focused, which is more relevant for patients. A member of the audience pointed out that pharma’s hands are tied in terms of the messaging they can use in advertising due to PAAB. He suggested that it could be beneficial for patient advocacy groups and Rx&D to work at breaking down these barriers.

Presentation (PDF 1.40 MB)

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Lara Holmes
Medical Writer
Cell: 514-425-4977


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

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