As researchers, we geek out over new digital technologies & make it our mission to trial innovative research tools. Fortunately, we have our Patient Panorama & Digital Teams working in collaboration to ensure that we maintain the humanity needed to engage patients where they are and generate the strongest insights.

Keeping our ear to the ground on what is new, our team participated in a recent Fierce Pharma webinar on ‘Must Haves & Predictions for Patient Engagement in 2024.’ We love that our pharma clients are so committed to ensuring their digital evolution continues to meet patients’ most salient needs in relevant ways.

Our Senior Directors Liz George and Esme Barrow- Williams discuss the key take outs.

“From the session, was there a consensus on the right balance between digital facilitation and human interaction when it comes patient engagement?”
There were some wonderful conversations about getting the balance right.  The bottom line is that there is no replacement for 1:1 human interaction and I don’t think any pharma business is suggesting that digital will ‘do it all’.  It’s a big part of the solution but there was a clear passion to inject a human component into engagements.  This relies on the need to understand what patients need throughout their journeys and for them to encounter truly empathetic language with personal touchpoints.   Jessica Every from GSK put it beautifully when she talked about enabling “digital facilitation of still human interactions” – there will be a time and a place for all mechanism of contact with HCPs and connection with patients. In research, we expect to continue with a range of digital only, virtual face-to-face, and in-person engagements. Digital approaches afford us so many positives but in healthcare, with patients in mind, we need to be careful not to jump to this route as the automation solution.

“What role is there for social media listening in understanding patient needs and how to interact with them?”
We have seen this through our Eavesdrop SML which has been particularly powerful in rare disease and in underserved communities – where it’s hard to hear the patient voice in other ways.  Again, from a balance point of view, it’s important not to over-index on digital approaches because some populations (e.g. the elderly) may be less present in these spaces but overall, SML can be very enlightening.  We have seen how powerful this can be in looking at the articulation of unmet needs, health literacy needs and cultural differences in perceptions of their disease which is often different across markets, thus allowing us insights into groups of people who are difficult to engage in more traditional approaches.

“There are so many new technological developments – what’s critical to bear in mind in this space?”
I think what’s clear is that there are so many new tools and technologies that it can be overwhelming for patients.  As the panel discussed in depth, there is now unprecedented access to portals, apps, and health information, and, in order to benefit patients, we need to create simplicity from complexity.  From our perspective this takes the form of trialing technologies to understand potential and ensure that we’re using the right digital tools in the right ways – and not just for the sake of it.

The other stand out discussion was around the need for connectivity – as relationships and points of care become more disparate, we owe it to patients to leverage digital methods to create more holistic and centralized ways to streamline care and empower patients to advocate for themselves.  We apply this in our research by putting the patient at the center of our methodologies, and creating tools, data flows, and interfaces with the patient in mind. Not only is this central to ensuring a positive experience for patients, but it also ensures that we maximize insight and reduce bias for our clients. .

Overall, the key themes around ensuring patient needs stay at the center of digital design really resonated, as we apply this daily in our patient methodologies.  There will always need to be a balance between digital and human engagements and it’s by putting people at the heart of understanding that we can get that balance right.



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