Human Experience

The VoP Imperative: Treating Patients as Valued Stakeholders During the Drug Development Process

By Alison Broomall and Alan Susser

As patient engagement has grown in healthcare, it’s also growing in the world of clinical trials. Rather than programs with outreach elements, comprehensive solutions that engage and treat patients as equal partners in clinical trials serve the twin goals of supporting patients and optimizing outcomes. Capturing the Voice of the Patient (VoP)—through consistent engagement with patients, and unifying methods of data capture and reporting—are key to Research & Development (R&D) success.

In tapping into the patient engagement opportunity, the pharmaceutical industry can learn a lot from its healthcare counterparts. Suppose Karen, a 55-year-old woman, has experienced numbness and swelling in her hands for the past month. Simple tasks, like folding laundry and sending emails, are becoming increasingly challenging. She suspects her symptoms may signal arthritis, but wants some initial answers before determining whether it’s time to see a doctor. After searching online, she stumbles upon HealthUnlocked, a website that dubs itself “the social network for health,” prompting users with an empowering call to “join the health movement.” When Karen searches for “arthritis” on the website’s intuitive, consumer-grade interface, she’s instantly plugged in to communities and message boards that provide insight into her potential condition from fellow patients. In the case of rare diseases, these platforms have proven to be an even more vital tool, giving patients the power to engage within communities that had previously been invisible. It’s this engagement vehicle that has elevated the authenticity of the relationship between patients and the individuals with whom they interact throughout the care journey.

In clinical trials, patient engagement takes multiple shapes, with the end goal of providing patients with the needed information and motivation throughout the trial to encourage retention and compliance. These factors are critical to the success of any clinical trial. Patient drop-out hovers at around 30%, but with new tools, patients have more options for engagement to remain in a trial. Digital platforms, much like HealthUnlocked, can accelerate the effort to provide ongoing support and a way for patients’ voices to be heard. Allowing patients to share their perspectives—and empowering them with the information they need to know—is foundational to a collaborative partnership. Giving patients a voice and equal status as a valued stakeholder in the process is imperative to clinical trial success.

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About the Authors:

Alison is a senior customer engagement and marketing strategy professional. As Life Sciences Lead for experience design agency Sparks Grove, she brings over 20 years of experience helping life sciences organizations identify, implement, and sustain the capabilities that drive purposeful customer engagement and marketing excellence across the care continuum. She possesses a consistent track record of providing thought leadership to clients, guiding forward-thinking, data-driven engagement marketing programs that align with business expectations, goals, and compliance considerations. Skilled in achieving consensus in cross-functional environments, she has designed sustainable, transformative customer-centric engagement programs.

Alan has over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, with a focus on Research & Development (R&D). With experience spanning both industry and consulting settings, his primary expertise includes basic research, clinical trials, clinical trial operations, clinical trial agreements, clinical financial management, clinical trial software development, biomarkers, process improvement, and change management. Throughout his career, he has developed a passion for the pharmaceutical industry and driving improvements in patients’ quality of life.

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