To Be Successful, Pharma Marketers Collaborate With Patients Early and Often

The role of technology, its impact on patients, and access to treatments were major discussion points at this year’s eyeforpharma Patient Summit in Philadelphia.

Laura Wilson, patient strategy in Fingerpaint’s Cedar Knolls, N.J., office, recapped some of the most important takeaways from the event and how they will impact pharma marketers.

Q: What were some of the overall themes at the conference?

Laura: The concept of patient centricity is maturing faster than it has at any other time in healthcare’s history. As a result, co-creating with patients to develop solutions that are most important to them is becoming increasingly vital.

The advancements being made in drug development are fantastic, but they are useless if the patient doesn’t have access to the cutting-edge therapy. The industry needs to be as innovative with access as they are with development.

Q: What is fueling the rapid advancement of patient centricity, and how should healthcare marketers be approaching it?

Laura: Technology—specifically, the evolution of social media, relationship marketing, and the expectations of personalized user experiences—has really helped advance this area. And, through patient advocates and influencers, we can learn about patients’ experiences with their condition, their healthcare interactions, and their treatments via social media as well. For marketers, this gives the opportunity to learn from patients in order to develop truly meaningful and relevant content and deliver it to patients at the appropriate point in their health journeys.

To do this, marketers must involve patients as early and often as possible—starting at, or even before, the clinical trial stage. It is much more effective to learn about and personalize desired patient outcomes at this point in the process than it is after-the-fact.

Q: You mentioned that co-creating with patients was a theme. Can you elaborate?

Laura: Yes, co-creating with patients was a central theme, and what I found noteworthy was the emphasis on going beyond just outcomes. Many of the speakers, who were from companies that develop therapeutics, advocated for bringing in patients to provide honest feedback on everything from packaging and program content to access challenges and how care partners would potentially be impacted.

It’s also important that marketers and drug developers are not the only recipients of feedback. Invite patients to speak with all stakeholders in the drug development process. Co-creation should include inviting them to speak at leadership meetings and ad boards, as well as pointedly asking them to define potential problems to make sure we are solving the right ones. Of course, that also means being open to hearing blunt feedback or feedback which may be different than expected, and then being nimble enough to pivot and change course to make products better.

Q: You’ve mentioned access a number of times. How does that impact marketers?

Laura: “FDA approval is not the gold standard anymore” was a quote during the conference that stood out to me, and something we all need to keep in mind. This means that just because a product is approved by the FDA, it doesn’t guarantee insurance companies are covering it, doctors know about it, or patients have access to it.

As marketers develop commercialization plans, they need to include access issues as part of the patient journey and be acutely sensitive to motivators and barriers that exist. Whenever possible, they should break down silos and speak with support team members to find out where patients and families are running into problems to be able to more accurately troubleshoot and overcome them.