From Pharma Marketing to Patient Insight

Winning in the pharmaceutical market requires massive focus on continuously delivering better customer experience for a trusted and transparent relationship over time. Scientific progress, augmented intelligence and more empowered patients are driving changes in the delivery of healthcare into a personalized experience that demands health outcomes as the core metric. Innovation, productivity and access to patients remain the industry’s biggest challenges. These trends challenge the capital strategy of every function in the pharmaceutical value chain, from R&D and product supply to product launch and patient-centric operating models.

Where is the value in “patient insight”?

Any meaningful journey starts with defining a destination. Historically, pharmaceutical companies have focused on treating the disease versus understanding the whole person battling the disease. As a result, patient needs and insights were relegated downstream into the drug commercialization phase. A key challenge in the pharmaceutical journey now is that patients have a much broader definition of value. Patients consistently expect services from pharmaceutical companies, before they are treated for a disease regardless of the type of illness they have. Deep patient insight is critical into understanding customers’ needs, behaviours and attitudes. There is a huge opportunity to impact people, society and commercial performance by engaging patients earlier, more deeply andmore broadly in the design of healthcare experiences.

What “patient insight” means for the pharmaceutical industry?

Retail, consumer products, telecommunications, FMCG companies have been focusing on differentiating customer experience for decades and have become passionate and consumer driven by engaging the right customer with the right message and content, through the right channels, at the right time and way. For companies born in this empowered customer era, such an engagement is part of the normal way of doing business.

However, for companies with a long heritage in traditional sales and marketing models, such as pharmaceutical companies, adapting to this environment is a challenge. Managing the patient experience has become complex, as society and technology is evolving. Customers are overwhelmed in a world full of information and options while they continuously experiencing and comparing how organizations perform with them.

Accenture’s 2015 online survey of 10,000 patients revealed that patients don’t just want pharmaceutical companies to provide services that complement the products they sell, they expect them to do so. The study show patients are proactive, digitally enabled and continuously seek and consume health-related services from a variety of channels and sources. The survey revealed a surprising and significant gap between the services that patients want to get and those that they are receiving.

Pharmaceutical companies have recently understood the importance of reinventing the way they engage with their customers in this changing world and are racing to evolve their traditional “push” sales and marketing model toward a “pull” model that allows engagement of customers, new technologies, in order to discover new ways to create and capture value. Pharmaceutical companies know they must invest in digital, embrace data analytics, focus on outcomes or be patient centric…but how?

Strategies to “patient insight”

A key barrier pharmaceuticals are facing is the isolated and fragmented way in which customer planning is currently done. The following strategies can help deploy a better customer experience:

  1. Multichannel strategies need to be tailored to different customers, but also aligned across brands, functions and other ongoing patient-centric activities, such as key account management or “beyond the pill” initiatives. ‘Welldoc’ has developed the first mobile app prescription therapy for type 2 diabetes. The app analyses current and past data entered by the patient and delivers summarized curated data and analytics to the healthcare team. This provides a dynamic self- management plan that can drastically decrease the complications of type 2 Diabetes.
  2. Accelerating the current business. This relates to doing “more of the same” but doing it better and engaging the patients with information along their decision-making process. Companies should consider ways to involve patients throughout the R&D journey. 50% of people diagnosed with glaucoma were found to be in high risk of blindness by not adhering to their regime 75% of the time. Research found out that the reason for this poor adherence was that the eye drops were difficult to administer!
  3. Adding new services, especially services that help the customer in their daily jobs and support their decision-making — either by directly enabling it or indirectly, by providing services that will create a level of relationship with the company that is not necessarily linked to the prescription and treatment. ‘Spritam’ is the first 3D printed pill to win FDA approval. Levetiracetam, the generic name for ‘Spritam’, has been available for the treatment of seizures for 15 years. But the new brand ‘Spritam’ is the first to use the proprietary 3D-printing process to just create a more dissolvable pill.
  4. Exploring new territories. It means providing services “beyond the pill,” i.e., addressing new business models that can potentially be monetized with payors or patients. Proteus digital health has developed 1mm sensor- enabled pills and a backend cloud service to provide real-time information on a user’s medication adherence, including the exact time of ingesting the pill. It also measures heart rate, temperature, activity and rest patterns throughout the patient’s day. This information is forwarded to a user’s smartphone, with the details eventually ending up being delivered to the patient’s doctor or relatives that have access to the information.


Organisations will need to consider the mix of initiatives that is best aligned with the company’s strategy; delivering a great experience requires new capabilities. Consistency is critical, as experiences are built up over time, with every interaction. True “engagement masters” have the right blend of focus on the technology, business processes, data and insight, and capability development of their people. The careful design of a plan and the road map to develop the right capabilities that allow for effective customer engagement design is critical for success.

Final thoughts

Pharmaceutical companies need to understand what patients truly value in services for their particular health need and how to best deliver them in a cost-effective, meaningful way. This opens up the opportunity to deliver a range of new outcome-based programs for patients through greater collaboration with the broader healthcare system including payers, providers, physicians, and government. Hence, they are able to differentiate themselves from the competition and navigate their way forward to achieve sustainable success in the new health -outcomes- driven ecosystem.