As consumers shoulder a greater portion of their healthcare costs, patients now expect better experiences throughout their health journeys. Paralleling this shift, pharma companies are recognizing the value of being more directly connected with patients—and the potential to draw upon that information to improve research, marketing, and commercialization.

But implementing patient-centric thinking—which internalizes the patient experience, their preferences, and values into daily operations—is hard to do in practice. Putting the patient first requires a clear understanding of the patient’s journey, including the various encounters that led to the treatment of their illness or condition and how they feel about their treatment options.

It’s not enough to rely on educated guesses, anecdotes, or incomplete data sets that only paint a limited picture. Patient-centric thinking requires capturing both direct and indirect feedback at each stage of their health journeys, from awareness of the problem to treatment and beyond. These insights then allow pharma marketers to engage patients with personalized, helpful outreach that meets them where they are, improves their overall experience, and supports better outcomes.

At the same time, pharma marketers who are leaning in and building first-party relationships with their patients will be the best positioned to take advantage of the shifting consumer privacy landscape. The looming deprecation of third-party cookies will impact some of the most common and most important channels pharma marketers rely on today.

Pharma brands that invest in developing a first-party data strategy—with data collected with consent from enhanced website analytics, patient applications, and patient support programs, for example—now have the opportunity to transform their operations for the better amid these changes. Indeed, first-party data is powerful and can yield both valuable audience insights and predict future behavior patterns, supporting a truly patient-centric approach.

Collecting First-Party Data to Understand What Patients Need

2020 survey of more than 3,200 patients from BCG and AstraZeneca sought to answer two questions: 1.) What do patients want from pharma companies? and 2.) How well are those companies meeting those needs?

The answers were revealing. Notably, the study found that most patients surveyed could not name the manufacturers of their own medicine. However, those who could name those brands tended to view the industry as more patient centric. Additionally, outside of ensuring affordable access and clinical trials that reflect the real world, patients said they most valued when pharma brands provided transparent information, empowered them with information and services, and sought their input. These findings back up DeepIntent’s own research into how patients want to feel more informed and empowered to present treatment options.

Addressing these issues, many pharmaceutical brands are investing in mobile apps designed for patients to do things such as report symptoms, track their wellness, and receive updates about new drugs and therapies. These resources are particularly valuable for rare diseases, where lack of awareness, limited information, small patient populations, and unique patient journeys can delay vital treatment. To illustrate, Pharming recently developed a free app called “HAE & Me” for those suffering from Hereditary Angioedema (HAE), a rare genetic condition that causes painful body swelling and affects fewer than 10,000 patients in the United States. Using the app, patients can track past swelling events to share with their healthcare providers, receive information about treatment options, view lab results, and automate reminders for refills.

Through applications like this, pharma brands can develop meaningful relationships with their patients—and even build communities centered around their patients’ unique challenges. These applications help brands build on insights gathered from other data sources, such as interaction data from their websites and primary market research data, to paint a more complete picture of patients’ healthcare journeys to better engage these audiences in the future.

First-Party Data and the Future of Digital Marketing in Pharma

Without third-party cookies to rely on, pharma marketers will soon have to shake up their approach to reaching relevant audiences. Some may accomplish this through increased spending via tactics and channels that have minimal or no dependency on cookies, such as cookieless targeting and connected TV (CTV). For others, success will come down to the careful, privacy-safe application of first-party data to create predictive models of potential audiences that can be activated and measured against.

Done correctly, investing in first-party data today means that brands will have a better understanding of their audiences—including age, demographics, and preferences. This data can inform everything from R&D to commercialization, and from a marketing perspective, can be used to refine messaging, optimize campaigns, and even find new audiences at scale in a privacy-safe way without the use of cookies.

In today’s consumer-oriented landscape, becoming a more patient-centric organization is the goal of many pharmaceutical brands. Putting the patient at the center of their efforts is indeed a laudable objective with many tangible outcomes, but without investing in better data and patient-centric applications to truly understand patients’ needs and preferences, that goal may remain elusive for some time yet.

  • Chris Paquette

    Chris Paquette serves as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of DeepIntent. Chris draws upon his multifaceted technical, scientific, and entrepreneurial expertise to provide healthcare marketers with cutting-edge marketing technology solutions. He is also a part of the Forbes Technology Council, an invitation-only community for world-class CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, and technology executives.


You May Also Like

Silos No More!

How aligning and strengthening interaction between pharma sales and marketing departments and communication with ...

Improving Sales Effectiveness: How to Turn White Noise into Recommended Strategies

When my children were small, we played white noise soundtracks in the nursery to ...

How We Design the Post-Pandemic Workplace

The dust is starting to settle across the labor market after the upheaval of ...