Elizabeth (Beth) Wynne-Evans, Senior Medical Writer and Medical Advisor at Porterhouse Medical Group, discusses the importance of incorporating patient perspectives in pharmaceutical and healthcare communications
After years of examining tumors and other pathologies under the microscope, there came a time when I wondered how else I could apply the specialized skill set of a histopathologist (affectionately known as “docs pink and purple dots” due to the appearance of human tissue under the microscope after the application of diagnostic chemicals) outside of the field. It takes years and quite a bit of “magic eye” power to interpret these points and what the results will mean for the patient. So, focusing on the latter in particular, I made the leap into medical communications, which (though decidedly lacking in pink and purple dots) promised to be a terrific new career. My new career allowed me to deploy my medical knowledge in a different way by interpreting scientific discoveries and determining how these could affect a patient’s life. But as with histopathology, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the patient in the middle of work. Why do we do what we do in any of these areas? We are working to improve this patient’s life – its quality and perhaps also its quantity. To put it simply, we use our scientific knowledge to help people.
In med comms we develop a wide range of activities and materials that will affect healthcare professionals, payers and the patient. We specify the options. We distill our understanding of diseases and enhance it with the latest available data on therapies of interest. The ultimate goal, of course, is to provide effective care to our patients. But is it just science and data?
Surely the people best placed to ask what is best for the patient are the patients themselves? By leveraging a patient’s lived experience, it is possible to integrate their perspectives into the early stages of traditionally “industry-led” efforts, such as research and development and trial design. clinics. This would provide valuable information and results that would resonate with the patient and could help justify new approaches. Naturally, it would be important to adapt the illustration of the sustainability and value of these results to the relevant stakeholders (health professional, payer or patient); however, integrating the patient’s perspective allows for the development of a more patient-centered approach to care.
Of course, this approach is not without its challenges. The industry is required to adhere to strict codes of conduct when engaging with a patient, and collecting information from this target audience can lead to unsubstantiated claims or misinformation. However, could valuable information be lost if we do not consider the patient’s perspective in our work?
We have to respect the regulations, and within this framework, in recent years, pharmaceutical companies have worked more closely with patients in a real effort to move towards greater patient centricity. Patient perspectives and journeys are increasingly integrated into industry communications. At Porterhouse Medical, our internal insights team take an immersive approach to market research designed to capture key patient behaviors and perceptions, which can be used to shape our clients’ medical communications.
Of course, it is important to remember that each patient is unique. However, by opening the door to multiple perspectives, we can move away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to more suitable regimens than current treatments. These more personalized ways of working within the industry could help bring the focus of the patient into treatment journeys and make them an integral and regular part of care.
I now find myself on a different trajectory than histopathology, but one in which science and data are increasingly underpinned by patient-centricity. One that has the potential to drive changes in the processes and approaches taken by the pharmaceutical industry, and perhaps even healthcare organizations, to develop the optimal treatment and experience for a patient. One where I can (like before when I was a doctor in pink and purple polka dots) always have that aspect at the forefront of my job – the patient.