The Patient as a Person

by Tom Haskell | Dec 13, 2016

With the proliferation of healthcare-related sites, online patient advocacy groups, individual bloggers, and general social media discussions, people throughout the world are becoming more and more empowered to make their own healthcare decisions.

Pharmaceutical companies are starting to realize that “patient centricity” will be the key to their future growth, from R&D through commercial. The current proliferation of real-world evidence is the beginning of pharma’s move toward understanding the patient’s true journey through the healthcare system.

But patient centricity will start moving beyond understanding the patient’s healthcare activity. Instead of understanding “the patient,” pharma will need to see “the person who happens to be living with a disease.” That means looking beyond just their trips to the doctor, hospital or pharmacy. It also means being able to understand the person behind the disease – their behaviors, what they consume, and key (potentially non-clinical) touchpoints where can we potentially intervene to help change or modify these behaviors to avoid and/or mitigate the disease.

While understanding all such details would need informed consent from the person and would be cost-prohibitive, aggregated analysis of combined direct health-related and tangentially health-related attributes is safe from a privacy perspective.

For marketing, imagine if you could understand that people at risk for a certain disease ages 40-59 were three times more likely to read a certain magazine (or go to a certain web site or eat a certain food) than their colleagues in the same age range? This insight could significantly increase the ability to reach these people with disease awareness advertising that could make significant changes in mitigating the disease.

In research and development, what if you could find unique new linkages between a person’s disease (or severity of disease) and her everyday lifestyle that would allow you to drive better treatments or support services to people like her?

This would allow for targeting therapies not just on an individual’s phenotype and genotype, but on her lifestyle.

In outcomes research, what if you could better understand quality of life for patients depending on their treatment patterns and even predict how intervening at certain stages of treatment could change their quality of life? What if you could examine their social media usage to understand better the emotional burden of illness to patient and/or the caregiver?

While answers to many of these questions are not attainable today, as more and more healthcare data and lifestyle data become available, researchers will be able to address these questions in secure ways that protect the individual’s privacy, while providing the insights needed to help pharmaceutical companies better support the people suffering from the disease. The end result is a better all-around life for people suffering from diseases.

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