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Why generating patient insights is vital for pharma

14/03/17 07:30
COUCH Medcomms



Without some insight into patient’s needs, concerns and opinions, new developments or initiatives become increasingly haphazard. As a result, pharma companies are investing heavily in understanding patient perspectives and for the purpose of generating patient insights. Turning the ensuing information into effective communications with HCPs and patients isn’t always a straightforward task, however.

Patient insights serve internal and external objectives

Patient insights can create win/win situations when they are used correctly:

  • On the external front, they can be used to create and support many different initiatives that involve patients, carers, family, and friends. There are also regional and national programmes already in place, in which patient insights generated by pharma can play a useful role.
  • The internal objectives include motivating sales and marketing teams, arming them with a deeper understanding of how the product benefits the patient in meeting their needs. This understanding can have an encouraging effect that enhances external objectives, since communications with HCP’s can be more detailed and pertinent.

Benefiting and informing both internal and external objectives makes the effort doubly worthwhile, and the resulting information exceptionally valuable.

How to generate patient insights

Collecting patient insights can be a more complex process than straightforward HCP research. There are many different perspectives to consider, and a need for heightened sensitivity when presenting or gathering information.

While facts and figures can seem remote and clinical, gathering insights directly from patients offers a real-world view. They can present many different situations, provoking a demand for flexible responses. For example, monitoring a patient’s day-to-day activities, and the ways in which their condition impacts those activities, is a useful exercise.

It is not, however, always useful to approach every patient in the same way. Patients are people, first and foremost, with individual responses to given challenges. For this reason, some may find it easier to create a written diary of their condition, while others may prefer to record video or join an online forum. Yet others will respond best in face to face interviews. 

By creating multiple ways to engage with different patients, it’s possible to build up a more complete picture over time, rather than taking a snapshot during a single interview.

Flexible, adaptive, sensitive ways to go about generating patient insights include: 

  • Spending informal time with patients, allowing time for general chat as well as pertinent interviewing.
  • Using simple language that is friendly and clear, putting the emphasis on listening rather than talking.
  • Involving carers of friends who may have a different perspective and can offer additional insight by filling gaps in information, such as helping patients recall their experiences.
  • Adapting to changing conditions on the spot, taking into account the current needs of the patient. This may mean allowing more time so as not to overtax the patient, allowing breaks if they need it.

Putting flexible methodologies such as these into place involves working harder and smarter at the same time. Information can be lost or missed without the flexibility to spot individual patient’s needs, and having contingency plans in place to deal with all eventualities.

After generating patient insights, the diverse information requires careful sifting and sorting. Developing a bespoke framework based on the Framework Method used in qualitative social research studies (developed by Ritchie and Spencer) helps to organise the information and make useful comparisons between different participants.

Small changes: Big results

Generating patient insights can lead to all kinds of benefits, for patients, HCP’s, and pharma. By listening, for instance, interviewers may recognise a common problem presented by medication packaging. If a patient finds it impossible to open packaging by themselves, would a slight tweak to address this issue put more control into the hands of the patient? Would it give them a heightened sense of independence and reduce the burden of care on professional carers or family and friends? Would it give patients more confidence in their self-efficacy?

Altering the design of drug packaging may seem like a very small thing, but by generating patient insights that reveal the problem, there could be huge benefits across the medical community, including for patients.


Patient Journey


Topics: Patient Journey, Patient Centricity

COUCH Medcomms

At the risk of sounding too pretentious, at COUCH we consider ourselves storytellers first and foremost. And we are passionate in championing this approach to medical communications.

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