PHILADELPHIA, April 12th, 2018 – It is perhaps unsurprising that an event of the eyeforpharma scale is far from idle talk; what’s pleasantly striking is that the participants actually maintain their commitment to actionable insights only from year to year, no matter how “general” the keynotes may sound once formulated. At the heart of this year’s event has been patient centricity – and it is here that the topic has outgrown the “buzzword stage” and is becoming a practical direction of work. Viseven has been involved in several roles throughout the event, not just sharing ideas but also listening closely; here are the highlights.

The idea that pharmaceutical industry should become closer to patients has never become more relevant. Today’s patient audience is expecting much more from their experience with healthcare systems; it is a paradox that things like retail now provide much more convenience and attention to the individual than vitally important services. Meanwhile, patients naturally hope to be offered what technology has proven possible in other industries. Everyone in pharma is now almost obliged to declare patient-centric approaches their priority.

What exactly does this mean, though? How will you define the new attitude, and how do you embrace it? Without practical definitions and examples, no amount of hashtagging will be enough to raise the notion above mere buzzwords. The 17th annual eyeforpharma was poised to provide actionability – and it did.

How real is patient centricity?

It’s one thing to say, “provide value”, but how doable is this? What should one understand by patient-centric thinking? In the context of a keynote speech by Jim Robinson of Alkermes, Inc., one should consider the difference between brand-centric and patient-centric approaches to obtain a valid definition. It is immediately obvious whenever businesses start their strategy with the brand at hand and “push” for the audience to conform to that vision. Patient centricity is, then, the reverse – first define the patient value, and then (nice motto) –

Engage authentically.

Of course, this will rely heavily on insights and data, simply because building effective, genuine communications will require a good understanding of not just patient advocacy groups, but individual patient experiences. In this sense, unlocking the potential of data is crucial if you want to “walk the walk, not just talk the talk”. This was formulated by Hensley Evans, ZS Associates, who presented the concept of continuous data flow all along the patient journey at various stages. By participating actively (and holistically) in the journey, pharma can establish a clear sense of direction.

The role of technology in this is hard to underestimate; obviously the “along-the-patient-journey” tactics requires it; however, putting a premium on tech has the inherent danger of “industrializing” and “robotizing” healthcare as a whole. This was the topic of the presentation by Paul Navarre, Ferring: abusing the possibilities of bulk actions that tech provides can impair the individual value delivered – while conscious use of those possibilities can personalize engagement.


Value: what kind of, for whom, and how to

So who should get what for the whole system to function? The successful practices shown during the event tend to be based around the following:

  • Patients get support + convenience in return for insights;
  • Physicians get informational value + patient adherence in return for collaboration;
  • Pharma gets insights + collaboration in return for carefully delivered solutions.

Getting this seemingly idealistic mechanism into motion will require a sort of balance to be established between pharma’s priorities, as Paul Navarre pointed out.

Viseven Digital Content Factory

Being able to make decisions about the balance in each of these areas will require a firm grasp on the situation, as shown by GSK in one of the panel talks (the company has participated very actively in the conference, indeed). In this vision, insights are obtained at a larger scale from increased patient engagement, and then plugged into decision making procedures across the whole business context:

Role of individualized CX, channels and apps

Practically all the promising paradigms for patient centricity suggested have this prerequisite: providing patient experience across healthcare that could be evaluated as rigorously as customer experience in other, more “consumerized” industries. If patients are supposed to use, say, a mobile app for the system to function, then the app should be as usable as what they have outside healthcare – and even more. As proven by the overall evolution of customer engagement, the basis is personalization. Massive solutions are not bound to be generalized, as Bill Nolan of McKesson Speciality Health and Glenn Wada of CoverMyMeds pointed out. Instead of embracing one-size-fits-all systems that are easy to oversee but that yield poorly workable metrics, the industry can employ the same effort in creating frameworks for individualized interactions.

eyeforpharma Philadelphia

A similar attitude was also shown by Google’s David Blair based on the actual tactics of engaging with video content (in paid non-branded campaigns).

eyeforpharma Philadelphia

Finally, one should not forget about the physician audience; a meticulous analysis of, e.g. physician engagement online (website traffic) is the counterpart of patient insights in terms of analytics here. This was discussed by David Reim of DMD. The same sort of careful analysis should be applied to other channels, as well – and the content delivered across these channels selected accordingly.

health benefits to patients

Aligning the endeavors: products to value, communications to audiences, etc.

The next condition for patient centricity to become practicable is holism; catering to patients in detached episodes but failing to embrace the wider reality of physicians, caregivers – and, grimly enough, business feasibility – will not lead to an actual shift in thinking. One will have to:

  • Align product with actual measurable values;
  • Align patient support with account of patient experience;
  • Align messages across channels when dealing with decision makers;
  • Align the expected patient journeys with what everyone else involved is doing at the moment.

This has been emphasized during the second day of the event. One of the panel talks with Jay Graves of Roche Diabetes and Kevin Cowles of Shire, moderated by Viseven’s Nataliya Andreychuk, for example, focused on how the performance of representatives can be aligned with the actual patient experience to link together the entire system, HCPs being midway and in charge. The ways to implement such interactions can vary and involve, for example, VR/AR tech (a pathway discussed at the talk) – as well as other channels.

patient journey

Backstage works for paradigm shifts

At the event, quite a number of cases have been shared where patient-centric approaches were successfully implemented; for now, these are just forays that will (hopefully) lead to truly holistic operational modes. What these cases have in common is increased attention to individual needs – and personalization of experienced delivered. While the “splendor of digital” is not the priority here, it remains the enabling factor. Whether to provide convenience to the patients in managing their conditions with wrist-worn gadgets and mobile apps, or to grant physicians informational value in eDetailing, email, remote calls, online conferences – there is this great backstage that supports the endeavors.

Optimizing these backstage processes is, then, the basis for successful implementation of new visions. Once you have enough resources liberated from technicalities, you can think of the audience more comprehensively and carefully, not being anxious whether a given initiative is manageable.

key takeaways

Perfecting all the processes involving digital content was the topic of the practical workshop by Viseven team as part of our contribution to the event. By discussing actionable insights and workable tactics of content creation, circulation and adaptation to personalized messaging, we shared our own expertise in this sphere – and also took to consideration the specific issues that the industry encounters along the way. Our comprehensive solution for managing multichannel digital assets, the Digital Content Factory, also introduced at the workshop, is a response to these challenges that, as we believe, will empower the content aspect of patient centricity. There is still quite a way to go – and by fusing insights, humanity and tech, the industry will accelerate its progress along the path.