Intellus Philadelphia 2018: A report from the inaugural conference

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A fresh angle on customer centricity… featuring empathy and deep understanding.

At Intellus in Philadelphia this May, the PMRG and PBIRG attendees focused almost exclusively on patients, offering an even deeper understanding of patients’ needs, their varied contexts and their experience as participants in research. The conference was an hour-by-hour reminder of the reason why we are in this business: our patients. And they were featured prominently in keynote addresses and discussion groups. A new “demo zone” featured bite-sized vignettes of technology and analytics that apply to patient/caregiver feedback, with many having clear application to physicians and payers as well.

What it takes to put patients at the center

It is easy to talk about putting patients at the center. Intellus actually did it. The main sessions featured patients, with the “Advocacy of Hope” keynote, featuring and moderated by rare disease patient advocates (themselves either patients or caregivers). We heard the perspective of patients, as well as gained insights into the dynamics of creating and leading patient advocacy forums. Over the last three decades, we, as marketing researchers, have learned from customer-centricity success stories (many of which are non-healthcare) about what it takes to become sustainably customer centric: It requires leadership that cares about the customers. Leadership must develop true empathy and a deep understanding of their customers’ needs. While pharma companies have always cared about the patients, what is new is that they have started to place them front and center in their strategies. We had proof of this at Intellus, as we heard patients talk about their personal challenges, how their disease impacts their lives and the role that support organizations play in managing the diseases.

Understanding patients with rare diseases

As researchers, we also heard the perspective of rare patient advocacy leaders — information that can help us recruit rare patient populations to studies, and gleaned tips (e.g., transparency) for the best way to conduct research in their communities. We want to learn without doing damage, and the conference delegates shared tip after tip on how to do exactly that. Some delegates led a deep-dive discussion into the needs of patients with rare diseases, with a clear message on how empathy helps them harness patient panels.

Enabling patient centricity with technology, analytics and insights

Technology and analytics from the “demo zone” revealed new techniques, such as GfK Health’s virtual reality tool that taps System 1 reactions (Daniel Kahneman’s behavioral economics) in patient-expert interactions. Virtual reality emerged elsewhere as well, with HRW sharing results from an R&D study comparing different approaches to measuring reactions to patient profiles. Analytics ranged from dashboards mapping patient types, to social conversation dashboards, to generalized influence networks.

What next steps need to be taken

Pharma is focusing again on digital and customer centricity. We saw an early phase of this in 2008-2010 that included quick investments, followed by the rapid refocusing of assets. The current phase is, for at least some companies, exhibiting features of this two-pronged approach that has been proven to work. Customer centricity is focusing on the most relevant customers, including patients, as featured in Intellus, but also extending to providers and payers – with a spotlight on creating true value that will lead to the commercial success needed to fund the customer experience (CX) focus. This season’s conferences have once again pointed the world of health in the right direction. Now we will see if they follow through, and include the requirements for CX success in their initiatives.

This article was co-authored by Cheryl Mulherin

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