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Understanding the Patient Journey and its Implications for Life Science Companies


Patient Data

Taking the patient’s perspective into account has been an innovative trend in the life sciences sector, with clinical trials increasingly focusing on being more patient-centric, and the healthcare system as a whole moving towards value-based care.

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June 1, 2017 | by Sarah Hand, M.Sc.

From the moment a patient seeks medical care for an injury, or makes an appointment with their family doctor to determine the cause of their recent symptoms, the patient has begun a journey during which multiple stakeholders will be involved. Hospitals, physicians, nurses, and other providers, insurance companies, pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies may all be, at one point or another, involved in this patient journey.

Taking the patient’s perspective into account has been an innovative trend in the life sciences sector, with clinical trials increasingly focusing on being more patient-centric, and the healthcare system as a whole moving towards value-based care. While market research has always been important in positioning the launch of a new pharmaceutical product, real world evidence from patients is now becoming more relevant in such a competitive marketplace.

“When we think about patient journey, we think about the process an individual goes through when they seek health care and work to resolve their health issues,” said Lou Brooks, Vice President of Commercial Consulting for health services company Optum. “For us, it's not just about understanding what the patient goes through, but also what impact this journey has on all of the various players that are involved in helping that patient navigate the health care system.”

So why is it important for life science companies to consider the patient journey? The data that makes up this picture not only allows these companies to better engage with patients and understand their individual needs and challenges, but it can also help drive much of the decision making within that organization. For example, insights from patient journey analyses can help companies implement new drug discovery projects and explore additional commercialization strategies to help patients meet their own health goals, while creating more value for themselves.

“Our life sciences clients look at their marketplace and the patient journey through a variety of lenses,” said Shelli Field, Principal Consultant in Commercial Consulting for Optum. “We believe that real world evidence is one of the most powerful lenses because it provides an accurate picture of physicians’ prescribing behavior, treatment regimens and what that patient treatment flow looks like.”

“The information you can gain from a patient journey can impact how a life science company interacts with all stakeholders, including patients, providers and payers. This information may also inform how they set their marketing strategies, how they develop their messaging, and how they explore new markets. There are broad applications for this type of work,” said Field.

Information used to build the patient journey can be pulled from any number of sources. Some of the most commonly mined sources of patient data – as well as those just starting to be explored – include:

  • Electronic Health Records – These contain everything found in a patient’s paper chart, including medical history, lab results, diagnoses and medications prescribed.
  • Claims Data – These contain information on insurance claims for tests, prescriptions and procedures.
  • Social Media Data – These include posts on social media sites, blogs and online communities in regards to health care and medical conditions.
  • Wearables Data – These include biometric data, such as heart rate, collected from wearable medical devices.
  • Patient Reported Outcomes – This is the assessment of care from the patient’s perspective, and perhaps one of the most overlooked attributes of the patient journey.

But Brooks and Field warn that more data is not necessarily a good thing. While all of these data sources can be used to build a patient journey, the accuracy of the resulting analytics will depend upon the integrity of data assets used.

“The first challenge life science companies often face when collecting or deciding on data for patient journey analytics, is to clearly define their objectives,” said Brooks. “Companies need to ask themselves why they are doing the analysis, what it is they hope to gain and what metrics they are trying to measure.”

Brooks explains, “For example, if you're looking to understand and evaluate the cost of a patient’s journey through the health care system, but you select a data source that doesn't include cost information, you're not going to be satisfied with your analytical results. It’s also important to consider a company’s capabilities in conducting these time-consuming and data-intensive analyses. If you're not prepared, you could quickly find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data that you have to work with.”

The availability of real world evidence is certainly driving the development of patient journeys which can be used to identify actionable insights. However, Brooks and Field say research questions should be narrow enough to avoid getting lost in the data.

“Some people want a patient journey to be the Swiss Army knife of analysis, and while we believe that patient journey is a foundation on which many other analytics, interventions, implementations and decisions can be built, it's still not the be-all and end-all,” said Brooks. “Organizations have to be disciplined in the way that they approach these analyses to ensure they address the specific questions they’d like the patient journey to answer.”

To learn more about potential data sources used to build patient journeys, and how this type of analysis can be leveraged to positively impact your brand’s performance, view Optum’s recorded webinar titled, “A Holistic Understanding of the Patient Journey Using Multiple Data Sources.

Are you using patient journey analytics to inform brand management decision making? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Keywords: Patient Journey, Life Science, Real World Evidence



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