Don’t Create Programs for Patients—Co-create With Patients


Panorama by on August 30th, 2016

“In marketing, one of the concepts is that you create solutions for the patient,” UCB’s EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Bharat Tewarie said in a recent interview. “But I say: ‘Move away from creating solutions for the patients…to creating them as the patient’…When you do that, your insight changes completely.”

These are not just platitudes—UCB is putting this belief into practice. By seeking to more deeply and holistically understand the patient experience, they believe they can reframe the challenges to be solved and the jobs to be done from the perspective of the consumer, not the business.

That’s why several years ago, when UCB identified a distinct void in effective fitness programs for Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers, they decided to work directly with patients to understand their fitness needs and build programs and messaging that worked. For example, the company launched a private, online patient-research community composed of 300 U.S. men and women suffering from moderate to severe RA.

Community members shared their own RA-friendly exercise tips and tricks, as well as frustrations regarding existing fitness programs. They gave UCB valuable feedback on marketing strategy and fitness program messaging, reviewed and commented on everything from TV commercials, website content and design, to pamphlets, brochures, and direct mail marketing materials. And after launching the “My RA Fit Kit” program—a free, personalized, fully customizable fitness program for RA sufferers—as well as a marketing campaign to help promote it and encourage sign-up, UCB saw positive business results as over half a million people responded to the campaign and requested information.

Examples of Pharma-Patient Co-creations

Through longitudinal online engagement coupled with live workshops, patients are helping major global companies launch new products, conduct Rx-to-OTC brand switches, and enhance relationships with payers, P&T committees, retailers, prescribers, and benefits administrators. They’re co-creating physician and patient education programs that increase prescriptions and enhance adherence, and helping brands understand how to be more resonant for patients, prescribers, and the newly insured.

For example, the manufacturer of a schizophrenia drug sought to understand all aspects of patient care from the caregiver’s perspective, in order to create programs and support materials for this frequently overlooked customer. In a private, online community, they brought together a group of friends, family members, and spouses who, through ongoing ethnographic work, provided a real-time view into caregivers’ daily routines, frustrations, and struggles. Caregivers discussed how they approached treatment decisions, including switching from one therapy to another, and broached sensitive and emotional topics such as the struggles they and their schizophrenic loved ones faced. They generated a treatment timeline mapping identified needs during hospitalization, first appointments, and at home.

Through their work with the pharma company, caregivers ultimately co-created a new medication starter kit to accompany the new treatment, as well as education materials that addressed life after hospitalization. In addition, the community inspired an email support program and website that supplied caregivers with comprehensive information on everything from regional doctor and hospital information, to advocacy organizations for the mentally ill, to resources for respite care.

The benefits that accrue from this sort of ongoing partnership between pharma companies and patients are multifaceted. In eyeforpharma’s 2014 Healthcheck survey of 971 global pharma executives, 85% agreed that patient centricity is the best route to future profitability, and 73% agreed that pharma companies need to become genuine healthcare providers. That view is shared by healthcare practitioners as well. “This also resonates with me as a HCP,” said one respondent. “We need solutions, not a packet of 28 tablets.”

Patient partnership—both patience and partnerships with patients—fuels mutual respect between healthcare consumers and the pharma companies that serve them. And along the way, it just may boost the self-respect of those who work in this much-maligned industry as well.

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