For patients everywhere, the pandemic significantly altered the way they access and receive care. New practices aimed at protecting our health care systems brought inevitable disruption but also drove a rapid transformation of health service delivery. Following from the BHBIA 2021 Conference, it was interesting to see the willingness from different Pharmaceutical companies to adapt to the needs of their patients as a result of Covid-19. In particular, a session by Janssen who reported they implemented Virtual Reality consultations to better helps doctors listen to patient needs. This session has been summarised below.
How can Technology Help us Better Uncover Emotional Triggers to Prescribing Decisions vs Traditional Methods
The paper is a cooperation between Janssen and Adelphia research. The research shows that technology can better uncover emotional triggers to prescribing decisions. They also spoke about the comparison of this particular method to traditional market research methods, and how they impacted respondent engagement
Recruiting patients, especially oncology patients is notoriously difficult and often controversial pharma companies. Adelphia started developing a virtual reality patient avatar, and this inspired us to see what we could potentially do collaboratively to recreate different CLL patients. They thought they could use these virtual patients to talk to the doctors during a market research interview, and understand how the patient may or may not influence the prescribing choice. For example, what if physicians could ask patients questions about things like progression of disease, things like family support about appetite for further treatment even about palliative care, even all without worrying about the impact that it might have on patients? This is how the study came about. It is really hard for Pharmaceutical companies to understand why a physician picks one brand over another, and for certain patient type. And plus, how that patient may influence the actual treatment decision. Pharma have all been in a research interview where a doctor tells you that they’re going to be prescribing a certain drug, but they’re not always able to explain.
The research involved 15 doctors who each had a conversation or virtual consultation with three virtual reality patients. The interviews were all 75 minutes in length and were all conducted in central locations across the UK. The outcome of the patient consultations which were conducted with three different patients was to make a decision, either for the first line or the next line of treatment for each of those patients. After that, Janssen and the agency finish with a feedback interview so this was a chance for the respondents to let them know how they felt the research went, and a way of us being able to evaluate and contrast different research arms.
How The Virtual Conversations Went
Interviewees, who were the physicians were enthusiastic about meeting the virtual patients, and had a conversation with them, even sort of having a laugh and a joke. Surprisingly, they were often reluctant to finish the consultations. When it was finished, they didn’t want to leave they wanted to kind of stay and talk about how the interview was planned and also they were really inquisitive to know how it all worked. Doctors were on average around 20% longer in the virtual reality interviews. Doctors also became more human, they were softer and more sensitive to the patients. They were kinder and more gentle with their responses as well. Janssen and Adelphia research believed that this virtual reality created a patient centric approach to the research. They had no choice but to get to know Linda and Todd and Saffron (VR Patients) and what was really important to them as people. The doctors were looking for clues from the patient make the best treatment choice. It wasn’t all around PFS (progression-free survival is a term used to see how well a treatment works) or adverse events and side effects that were driving their decisions and recommendations in this case, it was really Todd’s wishes and his ability to comply with the treatment. For Todd this meant he didn’t want to be in hospital all the time so complex regimes were out of the question for him.
How Is The Digital Voice of The Patient Changing
Following this Talking Medicines CEO, Jo Halliday and COO, Elizabeth Fairley also discuss the change within Pharma, in a session which reiterates the importance of the Voice of the Patient.
Technology has clearly played a massive role in the move to being Patient centric. Janssen are looking at this from a VR perspective similarly, Talking Medicines are looking at this problem from a different angle, promoting Patient-centricity by allowing the Pharmaceutical industry access to the digital Patient voice. Patient Advocacy groups confirm that during the pandemic people went to find others like them when they couldn’t visit Doctors, social media across society has boomed as a result. So what about the Healthcare Consumer?
Talking Medicines posed several questions to the attendees of the BHBIA session:
1. What do you think are the most popular social platform for people to talk about their health?
In reality all these platforms are important since it is the jigsaw of patient feedback that comes together to provide the full picture. When thinking about where people post also think about gender, ethnicity, literacy, location, all are important considerations and to avoid bias when looking at the patient voice it is important to have the large and small platforms in the equation from diverse sources.
2. Who do you think is the top company in the UK for being customer centric?
John Lewis, Netflix, Visa, Marks and Spencer, Cadbury. These brands all invest heavily in understanding their consumers, in building relationships and have an active feedback loop.
3. What can Pharma learn?
Is Pharma being left behind and can the industry catch up with the adoption of practices and tools that other sectors already enjoy? We have spoken about the Digital Voice and how it is used in other sectors to close the loop with end users. I think we would all agree that the voice is changing at pace, the pandemic has accelerated that change even faster. Patient centricity is a key driver for the industry so how else can the voice be harnessed? Pharma has traditional harnessed patient feedback through a mixture of routes that include feedback from Healthcare professionals in face to face meetings, from research groups alongside engaging with patient advocacy, as shown in the Janssen research. These are all valid routes. We should acknowledge that times have changed, Reps are unable to make face to face visits, Patients are presenting less often in person to HCPs and people have turned to social media an online forums to find advice during the pandemic.
4. What are the new ways of doing things?
Bring in Health Apps, digital pharmacy, online Doctors, Artificial Intelligence, and new possibilities open up that weren’t available before to compliment the traditional ways of harnessing the patient voice. By turning to agile partners and agencies Pharma have an opportunity to quickly gain and accelerate these capabilities. We work in a regulated industry and regulation frameworks need to be upheld. There also needs to be levels of expertise inhouse to be able to utilise and recognise how newer technologies can help harness the Voice of the Patient.
Taking HCPS on the digital journey ‘Primo No Noceri’ – first, do no harm, is not an excuse to do nothing, they are instead frameworks for designing ways of working that overcome barriers and ensure that solutions are designed for the sector.
Artificial Intelligence is many technologies working together to enable machines to sense, act and learn with human-like levels of intelligence. Machine Learning and natural language processing are all part of the AI landscape and they allow us to do things that we couldn’t do in the past. AI gives us a way of capturing feedback at scale in a way that humans couldn’t. Billions of social posts can be analysed, rules for interpreting can be set, the machines can be taught to filter like humans and compliance standards can be baked in. This gives opportunities to listen to patients as never before. There is a huge opportunity ahead to consider how the patient voice has changed and how it will continue to change in the future harnessed for good by the Pharma sector.
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Zeiher, B., (2021) ‘COVID-19 – A Catalyst For Change In Patient Centricity’. Available at: https://invivo.pharmaintelligence.informa.com/IV124730/COVID-19–A-Catalyst-For-Change-In-Patient-Centricity [Accessed 2 June 2021].
BHBIA (2021) ‘Virtual Annual Conference – bhbia2021’. Available at: https://www.bhbia.org.uk/events-courses-webinars/annual-conference-bhbia2021 [Accessed 2 June 2021]