No matter what pharmaceutical industry area you work in, written communications play a key role in your success and creating clear, concise, and accurate emails, documents, and reports is essential. As an industry, we have proactively shifted our focus from disease-centered to patient-centered approaches in communicating information. That is, the way that content, powered by clinical and real-world data, is framed and delivered is hyper-focused on the patient and their ability to achieve improved outcomes.
This is important from two main perspectives. The first is in terms of the way those who work in the industry communicate information to colleagues and healthcare providers (HCPs). Though still heavily data driven, the context of these communications is repositioned to focus on patient related outcomes and the aspects of the disease journey that affects patients most. This is especially important to HCPs as they have always focused on the patient and their needs.
Second, in terms of patient-focused materials, our industry acknowledges that today’s patients are more knowledgeable and expect to have their voices heard. Advances in technology have provided patients with easy access to information. Patients are online seeking medical information and busy connecting with peers to exchange experiences and knowledge. They are also involved with advocacy and patient support groups and contribute to real-time data generation. Patients today also find themselves on the hook more when it comes to the cost of their healthcare and have an overwhelming number of options when it comes to different levels of cost sharing on their end. Keeping the patient in mind has forced us to raise the level of our work to a different and higher standard.
Whether you are working in R&D or as a brand lead, below are 5 things to keep in mind when putting patients at the center of all your communications, something healthcare providers are well versed in.
Patients and caregivers are often overwhelmed by their diagnosis, bombarded with complicated information, and facing extremely important decisions. Communicating in a clear and comprehensible style to patients can make a difference to those needing to become knowledgeable quickly. Things to consider when preparing these materials include:
● Making the most important point first
● Breaking down complex data into smaller parts
● Using simple language and avoiding jargon
● Clearly defining all technical terms
● Employing formats that are easy to read
● Writing in the active rather than passive voice
While patient education materials generally provide information about a specific disease or condition, addressing the complete patient experience is often overlooked. This means providing details on how patients cope with and manage their condition on a day-to-day basis. A patient-centered approach acknowledges patient preferences, needs, and values as they navigate all medical decisions as well as provides information on the emotional burden of the disease and where to seek advice. This also means acknowledging the fact that a patient’s disease is just one aspect of their life. The role friends, family, the patient’s job, and hobbies play in their life are all important aspects to viewing a holistic picture of a patient’s life.
For pharma and its agencies to shift from a disease-centered/product led focus to a patient-centered communication strategy, a change in information compilation and dissemination must occur. This means embracing the patient-centric focus healthcare providers have always taken. By doing so, we focus on how the disease/therapy impacts patients with the hopes of increasing audience engagement. This applies to pre-launch marketing where the message focus may be on helping patients better manage their condition and understand themselves and their role as patients or more practical messages after launch when a new product has become available. In any event, more meaningful messages should be designed to help stakeholders identify the information relevant to decision making while filling critical information gaps.
Patient-focused drug development and communications demand a thorough understanding of what is truly important to the patient. For example, which treatment benefits matter most or which side effects can be tolerated in a trade-off for certain treatment benefits. With patient cost sharing, price is also an important factor, especially with newer treatment options. This understanding of the patient’s perspective guides the selection, adaptation, or development of patient-reported outcomes such as which are the critical measures that should be included. By approaching healthcare communication in this manner, people come to understand the implications of novel choices, such as those posed by new technologies, and how they affect patients in real time. As an industry dedicated to improving patient care, acknowledging these implications in our scientific communications is important to continue to evolve and remain relevant.
In the same way healthcare providers are subject matter experts in the clinical aspects of an illness, patients are subject matter experts in the experience of their illness. The patient's views of his or her illness are a primary focus of patient-centered care and thus patient-centered communications. The patient's perspective includes feelings, ideas, concerns, impact, and expectations. Exploring and understanding the patient's illness experience and respecting the patient's beliefs and expectations are at the core of patient-centered communication. Using this approach, our communications are then designed to respect patients as a person in total.
The trend of keeping the patient at the center of all communications encourages all those in the pharma industry to embrace the enterprise-wide approach of embedding patient-centricity into their communication efforts. Healthcare communications should be designed to reach individuals with the information that they need in a form that they can use. Meeting that goal requires collaboration between scientists, healthcare providers, and industry to communicate effectively and to participate in an emerging ecosystem among all stakeholders so that the patient remains as the center focus.
At SAKS Health we are experts at creating these strategic communications and activating across relevant channels all in the name of helping enable Better Healthcare Tomorrow™. To learn more about our journey of enabling Better Healthcare Tomorrow™ check out this blog post or reach out to us!
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