MONDAY 14 OCT 2019 9:39 AM


Richard Jones is managing director at Open Health. He discusses why patient engagement is taking centre stage in pharma.

Patient engagement combines a patient's knowledge, skills, ability and willingness to manage their own care to promote positive behaviours.

Patient centricity has long been a buzzword in pharma with a pleasing feel-good factor around it.  However, commercial and regulatory pressures leave the pharmaceutical industry with little choice but to embrace patient engagement as a core business objective.

We are seeing patient engagement strategies applied to major commercial models from engagement and retention in clinical trials, through to the collection of real-world patient data to support the value proposition of marketed medicines, and everything in between.

Companies developing therapies for use in rare and orphan conditions are well aware of the value of a single patient completing a clinical trial. The application of patient engagement to small study populations can dramatically improve retention. In a recent project, we encouraged children with an extremely rare disease to come together and work with us and a pharmaceutical company to design an app that would encourage retention in a pivotal clinical study.

Their contributions were so significant and recommendations so profound that the company decided to develop a gamified app as part of the study protocol.

Poorly planned patient engagement solutions, however, are less productive.  When not developed from a patient’s perspective, there’s invariably a disconnect with regards to value exchange, and patients rarely see the benefits of engaging.


Why Patient Engagement matters

As the healthcare industry continues to shift toward a more value-based system, patient engagement has gained paramount importance. It’s proven that when patients are engaged in their own healthcare, they are more adherent to treatment and less frequent users of secondary care and emergency services. 

Cost constraints and the drive for affordable care are forcing providers to focus on health outcomes. Those outcomes depend on whether patients are given therapy that they perceive as beneficial – and with which they’re motivated to remain compliant. Avoiding wasteful spending on unused treatment is a priority.

One of our clients recently designed a patient support program for patients living with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML). Initially, the solution was catered to help only patients on their specific treatment - until the plans changed.

The feedback we got was that every patient and carer living with CML should have access to the solution. And that’s why the pharma company modified the scope of the program, launching a pan-European project which supports all patients and carers living with CML.


Harnessing tech to drive understanding

In today’s digital era, it is imperative to understand how technology can be used to boost patient engagement and positively impact data collection.

Theory is all well and good, but our solutions only truly begin to take shape when we co-create them with patients. This rich insight always generates new ideas, identifies fresh challenges and fine-tunes our approach

By actually placing the patient at the very heart of a project, the insights gained are hugely rewarding, thought provoking and true.