Patient 2.0: The digital-savvy patient has arrived

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Patient 2.0: The digital-savvy modern patient has truly arrived and industry must be ready.

The modern patient is here. The digital revolution has prompted the biggest communal reboot since 1948 and patients are increasingly likely to go online for access to health information, to liaise with communities and study treatment options. Consequently, self-care is on the rise – indeed, there are currently 500 million people worldwide accessing healthcare apps, while iTunes offers 43,000 health-based applications.

Our panel of experts – from patient advocacy, health communications, support forums, healthcare solutions and big pharma – talk about the potential of the empowered patient to make decisions, take control and add essential input. 

They will also focus on the challenges that industry and wider healthcare face in providing worthwhile digital engagement.


Get smart?

Too much time on smartphones has been linked to weight gain, sleep deprivation and depression, while too much reliance on information has caused misdiagnoses, dangerous approaches to self-care and an unwillingness to access ‘orthodox’ healthcare.


Engagement parties

Rebecca Galbraith is Practice Area Head, Patient Support and Adherence at QuintilesIMS


A goal of any patient-focused support programme is to engage patients, helping them to take action to improve their health; to be involved in decisions about their healthcare and have useful discussions with healthcare teams about the care they receive.

With some groups – like younger patients, those with chronic illnesses and people with higher incomes – there is a strong trend towards increased engagement.

The use of digital channels including mobile and wearables, to connect with patients, provides tailorable resources that can be incorporated into daily lives. These devices help track symptoms, encourage positive behaviours and improve adherence.

There will be patient populations, however, who exhibit a lack of engagement, and may not be able to interact with digital tools. This could be due to demographics, symptomology or psychological challenges associated with their condition.

Our experience shows that one size does not fit all patients. A multichannel programme, providing the right mix of both digital and in-person interactions with – for example, a nurse – can dramatically improve patient engagement.


True lives

Marc Boutin is Chief Executive Officer of the American National Health Council


The digital era has simply accelerated a fundamental truth – and made it harder to ignore. Patients want to be listened to and have their say. They don’t want the development of health ‘solutions’ that do not meet their needs.

After decades of frustration, patients are taking to the digital arena, and this pressure is beginning to see results. The pharma industry has begun to make changes – for the benefit of both patients and companies.

No matter how ‘good’ your product, it is useless if the patient doesn’t value it. The industry must co-create health solutions, not for patients, but with patients.

Right from the start, we need to ask patients which outcomes matter most and base our approach on data. The National Health Council is a founding member of the global coalition ‘Patient Focused Medicines Development’ (PFMD) for that very reason.

PFMD runs a crowdsourced online tool which aims to bring together diverse stakeholders – including patient organisations, industry and regulatory bodies – and embed the patient voice throughout the medicine lifecycle.


The influencers

Emma Morton is Senior Media Strategist at Ruder Finn UK


Modern patients research their condition online, where they can find the latest news on clinical trials, research and treatments.

Numerous platforms now offer robust medical information and reliable advice, as well as support from those experiencing similar symptoms. Many value the experience of comparing their lives with fellow patients, detailing highs and lows.

Our digital team at Ruder Finn have constantly monitored online consumer trends, observing that ‘influencers’ are one of the greatest changes to the healthcare landscape. Patients are frequently turning to posts made by ‘real people’ and medical experts for updates on treatments.

This reliance on the web means that industry needs clear digital strategies to consolidate their online presence. They must engage with patient groups and online influencers – whether they are peers, healthcare professionals or company voices – through appropriate channels.

And, crucially, they should ensure their sites carry jargon-free medical information. Details such as product usage instructions and contraindications are vital as increasing numbers prefer to self-care, particularly for minor conditions.

Strong visuals are a must for patient sites, with online images providing a clear picture of certain conditions.

Public health communicators have long been aware that the young patients are more likely to look at their smart phones, rather than posters, and are developing campaigns with this in mind.

As it grows stronger, on a daily basis, the impact of digital influencers needs to be explored in more depth by the pharmaceutical industry.



Era defining

Deborah Wyatt is Founding Director of talkhealth Partnership Ltd.

There’s little doubt that the 21st century patient is very different to the 20th century patient of my era. Much has changed and technology has been the key driver.

Today’s patient is more informed. The internet provides access to a wealth of information, enabling patients to better understand their condition. They talk with like-minded patients in online communities and engage across social media. They are open about their symptoms, share information and support each other.

As for the future, research has shown that informed patients are more proactive in making decisions about their health, often leading to improved adherence and better health outcomes. Patients should be at the centre of what happens next. Pharma needs to engage with patients, providing them with what they want and need.

At talkhealth we have helped thousands of patients to interact online with health professionals, charities, fellow patients and carers. This allows them to take control over decisions about their condition and approach their situation positively.

There’s much talk about ‘patient centricity’. Now is the time for healthcare and pharma to involve them at the very start and the very heart of everything they do.


Case study: Boehringer Ingelheim

Breathing new life


Boehringer Ingelheim has over 90 years of heritage in respiratory disease, having launched several treatments in areas of high unmet need.

As part of its commitment it is looking ‘beyond the pill’ to provide platforms which support patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals.

The patient activation campaign ‘Think. Act. Breathe’, for example, aims to help people with asthma to identify if they are still symptomatic and, therefore, at risk of an asthma attack. 

Go to

Also, in light of the increasing global health burden of COPD, the company is running a COPD awareness campaign – ‘COPD Your Time to ACT is Now’. The goal is to help patients and the healthcare community to challenge management of the disease, giving patients the best chance of maintaining a good quality of life. Go to

Meanwhile, for healthcare professionals working with patients who have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is a global on-line portal, which provides resources on IPF diagnosis and management. 

Boehringer Ingelheim seeks continuous dialogue with patient advocacy groups to deepen our understanding of their needs and inform future developments. Our focus has always been on improving the quality of life of patients and, for us,  delivering value through innovation means coming up with new and better ways to improve their health.

Allan Hillgrove is a member of the Board of Managing Directors at Boehringer Ingelheim with responsibility for the Human Pharma Business Unit.


Web of intrigue*

50% of the UK population self-diagnose online

75% search the web for health info

2% have reported a digital interaction with the NHS

96% GP practices have digital clinical records

4% Offer online patient access to records

90% Of patients would use an online appointment**

13.7 million people in Europe will use a connected care system by 2019

*Sourced by the Nuffield Trust

** From a survey of 7,000 people