In a world completely inundated with information, where voices struggle to be heard over one another, it has become increasingly common that we marginalize the perspectives that deserve to be the loudest ones heard.
This oversight is prevalent in many forms, across many topics, but what is most relevant to the healthcare market research industry is the limited representation of patients and the narrative of their treatment/journey through a medical condition.
For a long time, the collective focus has prioritized medical qualifications as an indication of the value that should be placed on an individual’s opinions. This prioritization needs to be readdressed and more weight given to the shared experiences of patients.
To say there’s no patient perspective in the research conducted today wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Patients are included in a lot of research, but less often are they the sole focus and target of research. We will often include patients in a sample, so we can say we acquired their perspective, but this is not the same thing as tailoring a questionnaire or a discussion guide to specifically uncover hidden gems in their very unique experiences.
Gaps in the patient experience, while potentially small, is what patient journey research attempts to fill in, and what can ultimately provide a competitive advantage to companies. All conventional wisdom tells us that physicians, nurses and pharmacists are the primary targets of healthcare/pharmaceutical research. But the focus on patients in research allows us to:
Gaps in the diagnosis to treatment journey can present in different forms. For example, a gap in the necessary emotional support that patients with life-altering conditions will need in order to remain strong, or a gap in the sources of information available for patients to understand the types of treatments they’re being given, including a full understanding of short/long term side effects. This gap could also be something more obvious, such as patients not fully understanding how to take their medication, perhaps due to a unique method of application or a complex dosing system, not fully explained by the prescribing physician.
Patient gaps are everywhere in our healthcare system, and the main difficulty is that we usually don’t know that we have these gaps until we find out that we have them. Gaps are often unknown unknowns. A simple solution to this issue is to take steps to proactively dig deeper into patient perspectives whenever we can. If we give them a chance, patients will give us the information that we need to better serve them, no matter what their journey is.
In addition to being the right thing to do, getting a better understanding of the ultimate end customer, the patient, will allow pharmaceutical companies to capitalize on these market shortcomings (gaps) and develop well-informed strategies to maximize patient engagement. Understanding why patients make the decisions that they do is truly information that can set anyone apart from the competition. Why do patients overwhelmingly select one brand over another for an identical product? What are the best ways to reach a certain patient population with important product information? The potential is endless for patient journey research.
In your next research study, don’t be afraid to take the extra step to have a patient-focused phase of research in addition to your typical HCP sample. Very valuable medical insights can be gained from those who do not possess medical degrees, many times in a more cost-effective manner. We all understand how complex the healthcare system is in the United States. This complexity, if not completely mirrored, is present in other countries as well. Understanding how these different markets work together and individually is not only interesting; it’s crucial. As you think about the answers to the next big questions that you’ll face, it is important to remember; the most commonly sought out voices are not always the most insightful.