As brands in the rare disease category seek to differentiate themselves, they face not only fierce competition, but also a complexity at the patient level that makes experiential learning essential. However, most marketing research methodologies only give us a snapshot of the patient experience when a panoramic view of their daily lives is truly what’s needed. Our approach for one rare disease client was to create a patient community that provided a unique opportunity to understand both the behavioral and emotional nuances of their experience longitudinally in order to identify unmet needs. Here’s how.
Importance of Identifying Unmet Needs for Rare Disease Patients
With a new drug for schizophrenia in clinical development, our pharmaceutical client wanted to explore how to differentiate their brand, and improve compliance, by better supporting patients throughout their entire journey. While there are a number of pharmaceutical brands that treat schizophrenia, they are only moderately effective at controlling symptoms. Compliance is an issue as well in that it’s common for patients to not take the pharmaceutical and/or to not notice the effects of whether it’s working (or not).
To improve outcomes for those with schizophrenia and, knowing the challenges these patients face each day, our client tasked us with identifying unmet needs to help them design patient services that support, not only compliance of the drug itself, but also patients in daily life through:
- Exploration at the strategic level
- Ideating concepts
- Concept testing
Benefits of An Empathetic Research Approach using Patient Communities
With expertise in approaching research with an empathetic lens, experience in the rare disease category, and a research platform that allows for daily (and timely) interaction, we recommended creating an online community with schizophrenia patients and their caregivers. The patient community took place on an online, closed, social network research platform over the course of three months.
The key to our qualitative and ethnographic methodology was the experiential learning it allowed. Day-to-day iteratively, we could pick up on nuances of the patient experience and start to understand unmet needs in order to develop patient services to help them at the point where they are at. The longitudinal aspect allowed an in-depth understanding of emotional and behavioral issues that arise on a daily basis for these patients in a way a traditional research snapshot simply couldn’t have captured.
What’s more, the patient community was moderated by an ICG moderator experienced in live qualitative moderation so we could probe and gain deeper insights in real time. Another benefit of the methodology was the flexibility of our research platform. Not only is it multidimensional, allowing continuous dialogue as an active moderator responded to responses from participants when they occurred throughout the day, but also patients could talk to each other.
The Impact for Pharmaceutical Brands
In our example, over the three-month duration of the schizophrenia patient community, through live, qualitative interaction we were able to bring unmet needs to light and help the client understand how those needs can be addressed with patient support services. This allowed them to create a value proposition for patients above and beyond the clinical aspects of their pharmaceutical.
More broadly, these communities can be a powerful tool for any pharmaceutical brand as a way to continuously learn about and explore daily life for their patients. Because it’s only through understanding behavioral and emotional nuances over time that you can identify the unmet needs that will truly differentiate your brand.
Learn more about how our patient communities can help you differentiate your pharmaceutical brand by reading the full case study, here.