The Three E’s: Keys to advancing patient centricity

Pharma companies face mounting pressures today. For example, as competition increases, commercial teams must do everything in their power to gain a foothold in the marketplace for their products quickly after launch. The proliferation of data offers great opportunities for enhanced insights, but also challenges if a company fails to put a strong data management infrastructure in place. Further, there are myriad factors and players that impact treatment decisions today, well beyond the HCP. For example, the consolidation of health care has put more decision-making power into the hands of stakeholders within large health systems. And patients and HCPs face an increasingly noisy digital world where they must navigate information (and assess the quality of that information) from a variety of sources across channels. 

To thrive in this environment, pharma companies must put the patient front and center in their commercial efforts. Getting closer to the patient will help commercial teams drive impact in the marketplace as soon as possible. This speed-to-impact is crucial as launch pressures increase. The key to getting closer to patients? I call them the three E’s: ecosystem, execution and engagement.

Map the ecosystem of care:

Patient centricity starts with data. But not just any data. A company needs to compile a comprehensive assortment of data that replicates the patient’s “ecosystem of care.” By collecting and organizing this data, a company can gain insight into the nuances of a patient’s complex treatment journey and act appropriately at strategic points along that journey.

Patients often face complex and meandering paths to effective treatment. Along these paths, a mix of individuals and organizations impact the care the patient receives (from primary care physicians and specialists to health care providers and payers). Patients also continually receive information from many channels (e.g., from advertising, social media, and patient advocacy organizations, as well as in their direct interactions with caregivers). And no two journeys or ecosystems are exactly the same. A better understanding of patients through thorough collection, organization, and analysis of data will help companies tailor promotion, education, and support to the real needs of patients as they and HCPs navigate care.

Organizing data around the patient’s ecosystem of care requires a fundamental rethinking of the traditional HCP- and/or HCO-centric pharma data warehouse. Ideally, the data a company collects, organizes and analyzes should help it map a clear picture of all that surrounds a patient – from her interactions with physicians (primary care and specialists) and her insurance plan’s formulary to the protocols of the dominant health system in her market. Of course, the inclusion of anonymized patient-level claims data and patient hub data are crucial to this ecosystem, as well. By structuring the data warehouse around the patient’s ecosystem of care, a pharma company will ideally be able to segment patients appropriately and answer questions at the patient level. For example:

  • Is this patient’s doctor a loyalist for our brand?
  • Is our product in the formulary in the health system where this patient is receiving care?
  • Is the patient in need of therapy?
  • Is the patient at risk of leaving therapy?

Much of the data a company needs to map this ecosystem of care is available though some remains underutilized in the industry. When organized well, this data ecosystem gives a company insight into key factors that impact treatment decisions. With this patient-level insight, a commercial team can take action to support the patient and her physician(s) along that journey.

Execution turns data into action:

After a company maps its patients’ ecosystems of care, it must put the insights it pulls from that data into action in both a holistic and tailored manner. The effort should be holistic in the sense that the company is considering all the factors and parties that influence treatment decisions. It should also be tailored so that it reaches HCPs and patients with the messages that will resonate based on their unique contexts.

The execution phase involves crafting and deploying campaigns across a wide mix of channels, including:

  • The field force.
  • Email promotion.
  • Social media advertising.
  • Third-party physician networks.
  • Brand or company websites.
  • Destination and educational websites.

A company should seek to engage patients and HCPs with the appropriate types of content using the right channels at the proper cadence. This omnichannel orchestration is usually HCP-focused (though it can also incorporate DTC promotion). However, knowledge of the patient sits at the heart of any effective omnichannel strategy.

If a company maps its patients’ ecosystems of care at a granular level, it will be able to develop campaigns and messaging in a similarly granular way. Detailed, patient-level insight enables optimal message development and sequencing. For example, if a company understands patient-level details related to dosage, duration of therapy, competing regimens and more, it can more accurately predict patient and HCP behavior and optimize outreach accordingly.

The company can layer these tailored messages on top of market-wide messaging. For instance, say the brand is performing well in a specific metro area thanks to a strong position in the protocols set by the area’s largest health system. The dominant insurance company for patients in this market includes the therapy in its formulary. In this case, a company could focus its efforts on reinforcing its strong position with information about safety and efficacy. However, in another market where the company’s therapy doesn’t enjoy a preferred position on the dominant payer’s formulary, it may need to focus on promoting its voucher and patient assistance programs.

A sophisticated omnichannel program will target HCPs with messages that anticipate and address the needs of patients.

Drive engagement with stakeholders:

Engagement is the result of the work a company does in developing the data-backed ecosystem of care and its patient- and HCP-focused campaigns.

A key to successful engagement is frequent and planned measurement, which enables insight generation and refinement of strategies. However, a word of caution: It’s crucial not to overreact to data. While companies should be reviewing data and making minor tweaks (to messages, timing of promotions, etc.) in near real time, they should not reorient their promotional strategies until they collect six months of data. Adjusting activities too reactively will blunt the impact of an omnichannel strategy.

Companies should measure in multiple ways in an effort to understand their HCPs and patients. For example:

  • Segment engagement from light to deep (and consider including additional categories between these two extremes, depending on the amount and granularity of data available). Light engagement includes awareness-focused metrics like ad impressions. Deep engagement includes activity metrics such as clicks and email opens.
  • Conduct overlap analyses using statistical attribution to scale spend across channels based on the customer base’s promotional response across those channels. These analyses will help a company understand whether its customers are receiving the right promotions on the right channels and then adjust its marketing messaging and investment to align with customer engagement.

Rigorous measurement closes the loop on the effort that began with mapping the ecosystem of care. It ensures a company makes optimal use of its insights and promotional tools to support patients and their physicians throughout the treatment journey.

Put the patient at the center

Pharma companies can address many of the competitive pressures they face today by using these three E’s to put the patient at the center of their commercial efforts.

A company should develop a data framework that generates deep understanding of patients by mapping patients’ ecosystems of care. This understanding should drive interactions with patients, yes, but also the entire network that touches them. Companies should deploy tailored and coordinated promotions across channels that account for these parties and their impact on patients. A company’s promotions must go beyond the brand and help educate and support patients and physicians in line with their unique circumstances and challenges.

In the end, by leading with data in their pursuit of patient centricity, pharma companies can better serve patients and HCPs and meet their needs along the treatment journey. This is not only the right thing to do but also essential in the face of the challenges pharma companies face today.