Patient Engagement: What Matters Most in 2023

Young female doctors talking

By: Cheryl Lubbert

Think about 2022 – what stands out to you the most? For me, it’s how often we heard that things were “returning to normal” after two years of global pandemic. Yes, many events were in-person once again and lots of companies began pushing for people to return to the office, but have things really gotten back to normal? More importantly: do we want them to?

I know I don’t.

To me, normal is the way we’ve done things before. It’s the familiar path. It’s the status quo.

Normal isn’t how we create a vision for positive change. Normal isn’t how we achieve real progress. Normal isn’t how we make things better for generations to come.

The last few years have been anything but predictable and uncertainty still abounds, but if we look closely at what we learned in 2022, several things are clear about what matters most in 2023.

Siloes will sink you.

Those who work in biopharma are often categorized by their role on either the clinical or commercial sides of the business. Each of these areas is essential to developing new treatments and getting them into the hands of people who need them, but this distinction has had an unfortunate siloing effect within life science companies.

Faced with enormous pressure, it’s easy to focus exclusively on “clinical priorities” or “commercial priorities,” but what’s missed is an incredible opportunity for these teams to align with one another and implement strategies that can better support therapies during the development process AND product launch – as well as everything in between and afterwards.

This isn’t just a theory – we met with biopharma leaders at multiple events in 2022, including Pharma & Patient USA, Chief Patient Officer Summit, and Patients as Partners. We asked them to assess the siloes in their organizations and describe the issues that have arisen as a result. When we focused on identifying solutions, a common theme emerged: strategies centered on engaging patients throughout the product lifecycle hold the greatest potential to address these interrelated challenges.

Ask yourself: do patients think about a biopharma company in terms of its clinical and commercial sides? Of course not. They see a single company, that either changes their life for the better – or doesn’t.

Addressing current marketplace challenges requires working across departments and making the patient experience a central focus of every product stage. Companies who expect to succeed will make this a priority in 2023.

Inclusivity is essential.

The belief that every voice matters is a part of our DNA at Reverba, but valuing a person is not the same as including them. Real inclusion means incorporating the needs of diverse groups into your planning and then actively reaching out to engage them at every step along the way.

One of the most encouraging things I saw in 2022 was just how many of our clients share this mindset. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility – the people I spoke with don’t just see these as key tenets to integrate; they view them as strategic imperatives for success. These are forward thinkers who recognize that the right thing to do and the smart thing to do are not mutually exclusive.

And that kind of thinking is backed up by the data from our own research. Over the course of the last year, we reached out to a broad, representative sample of people – including those who had participated in a clinical trial and those who had not. The response data we collected revealed significant differences in the trial experiences of BIPOC populations, compared with Caucasians. These centered around trust, communication, and representation in both trial materials and trial staff.

We linked these ratings to factors that influence the decision to participate in a trial, and the takeaway is that trial sponsors who want to reach key milestones and bring their product to market efficiently must ensure that their materials and communications strategy are infused with inclusivity.

The same holds true after a product has launched. If the people who can benefit from your treatment don’t see themselves in your communications or hear about it from someone they trust, why should they believe that it’s the right treatment for them?

Trust is a must.

Relationships start (and end) based on trust. Establishing and maintaining it hinges on handling sensitive information in a way that demonstrates respect. It sounds simple enough but achieving this in an age where data flows more freely than ever is a serious undertaking.

Major data breaches made big headlines in 2022 – I’m sure you can recall a few. Nobody wants that kind of story to be about them in 2023, especially when it relates to personal health information. Getting the right infrastructure and practices in place to protect sensitive data needs to be a priority for patient engagement programs

Mitigating risk is critical, but don’t forget that a relationship built on trust can provide tremendously valuable insights. People are taking control of their data and becoming more discerning in who they choose to divulge it to. Gain their confidence and give them good reasons to share it with your organization, and you’ll have access to an incredible resource that can make the difference in whether a strategy is successful or not.

Where to go from here.

So ask yourself: do you want to return to normal or do you want to change how things are done?

Figuring out what matters is the first step since it will help determine what to focus on.

The next steps are up to you: do you want this to be a pivotal year for your patient engagement initiatives? If so, I think we’ve got a lot to talk about.