Patient groups top pharma when it comes to providing support, survey says

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Patients rate patient groups as more trusted, unbiased and easier to engage with than pharma companies, says new Accenture paper. (PhotoMIX-Company/Pixabay)

Patients prefer patient organizations over pharma companies when it comes to services. While that may not be surprising on its own, it is evidence of an increasing trend of patient reliance on organizations for emotional, financial and even educational support, according to a new report from Accenture Life Sciences.

For pharma companies, the findings signal work to be done, but can also mean an opportunity—or maybe even a mandate—to build relationships with these influencer organizations. The Accenture survey defined patient organizations broadly to include traditional advocacy groups but also online communities.

The survey found 67% of patients in the U.S. said patient organizations understand financial, emotional and other support needs, versus less than half (48%) who felt pharma understood those same needs.

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That actually syncs with what pharma companies think of themselves. A previous Accenture survey of 60 pharma chief marketing officers or commercial leaders found that about half said they don’t have a good understanding of what patients want or expect from them.

“What this research starts to demonstrate is that there is further opportunity to partner and collaborate in service of the patient. We do know of pharmaceutical manufacturers that are partnering with patient organizations, but it’s inconsistent … and the effectiveness of those collaborations are inconsistent. So what we’re saying there is a need to step back and rethink the collaboration opportunity with the patient at the center,” Keena Patel, managing director for patient services for Accenture Life Sciences, said.

The reason people chose patient groups? They trust their information more, find it easier to engage with them, appreciate being able to engage with other patients and, overall, describe interactions with the organizations as “great experiences.”

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Accenture isn’t the only one advising pharma companies to work on partnerships with patient organizations. Patients think the same thing—almost half (47%) of U.S. patients said pharma companies would understand patient needs better if they did, and, in turn, they would increase their level of interaction with pharma.

“There is a growing confidence in the support that’s provided (to patients) through patient organizations, and as patient organizations become more a part of the patient’s care, how do pharmaceutical manufacturers think about that from a trust and engagement standpoint? I think there are so many opportunities to do that still,” Patel said.

One example noted in the report is Allergan’s Frames of Mind campaign, on which it worked with the American Migraine Foundation and other advocacy groups to solicit original art from migraine sufferers to visually depict how symptoms affect them physically and emotionally. In doing so, it spread awareness about the often crippling symptoms of the disease.