The importance of patient engagement

Vital child health information to be made digitally available

The trend for true patient engagement can only be good news for pharma and for patient outcomes.

It is notoriously difficult to predict how patient engagement trends within healthcare and the related policy landscape will evolve to shape the future of healthcare. However, the engaged and empowered patient has been increasingly discussed in the policy landscape for the last decade at least1,2 – and this is a trend which is only going to continue growing as technology continues to advance, offering the pharmaceutical industry opportunities to engage.
To begin with it is worth considering the definition of patient engagement, of which there are many. However, all share these underlying themes: the facilitation and strengthening of the role of those using services as co-producers of health, and healthcare policy and practice3,4.

“For 2019, the trend of patient engagement is only likely to become more important with the continued desire for the patient to be involved in their own care”

Active partner

As we consider the trends for 2019 and beyond, it should be noted that the engaged and empowered patient is not a new concept. A wealth of information on treatments is available on the internet from various sources, including the pharmaceutical industry, and via social media, meaning that patients have increasingly been seeking to be treated as partners when it comes to decisions about the services/treatments relevant to their condition.
As technology continues to rapidly advance, the way people interact with both healthcare services and their own treatment in order to manage their condition is changing. We now firmly live in a digital age, where people manage much of their lives through their smartphones – a trend that both the pharmaceutical industry and NHS are keen to harness.
Looking from the pharmaceutical industry side, there is definitely now a two-way street of industry- patient dialogue. The last few years have seen a genuine move toward patient centricity as the industry has realised the benefit of the informed, educated and motivated patient. There’s a real opportunity for a future of patient-centricity where the patient is empowered and is an active partner in their healthcare through the digital medium. In 2018, a PM Society Patient Engagement Interest Group Report5 highlighted how the empowered patient can improve outcomes:
‘Through patient engagement, our industry needs a more holistic approach that makes the great science we do more relevant for people living in our society today. If not a patient today, we all will become one in the future: patient empowerment will help us to manage our illness more effectively, adhere to our medicine and improve our outcomes.’

Tech support

From a provider perspective over its 70-year existence, the NHS has been transformative in tackling widespread diseases and pioneering advances in surgery, screening and gene therapy, amongst other notable successes. As it seeks to modernise, one of its key current strategies is around utilising technology to drive innovation, as digital health can help it to better track, manage and improve patients’ health, empowering them to live more independently and productively. Digitally-enabled monitoring and targeted outreach will also free up healthcare capacity for face-to-face care where it’s most needed.
For example, a recent Kings Fund report on technology highlights how patients are embracing new technology and increasingly expect their care to be supported by it6. As an example, the majority of people say they would use video consultations to consult their GP about minor ailments and ongoing conditions, which would radically alter the face of healthcare provision in the UK.

Collaborative care

The engaged patient also means that the traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach we’ve had to healthcare needs to evolve, with personalised and targeted interventions that meet the needs of the individuals likely to become increasingly common. Technology-supported self-management can help to empower patients to better manage and understand their condition, supporting improved behavioural and clinical outcomes.
Alongside all this there are opportunities for better and more efficient use of data in the UK via the engaged patient utilising technology, from data reporting, evaluating treatment outcomes, and increasingly creating targeted approaches to treatment. There is also great potential for the generation of effective value-based real-world evidence. All these themes offer great collaborative opportunities for the industry, NHS and the empowered patient!
For 2019, the trend of patient engagement is only likely to become more important with the continued desire for the patient to be involved in their own care, the need for the industry to continue to engage and demonstrate value, and the NHS to create efficiencies. This should lead to increased opportunities for engagement across these groups.
At the PM Society we have a range of Interest Groups, run by experts in their field, related to the issues highlighted, aiming to advance knowledge, share best practice, and recognise excellence in the industry – including Digital, Market Access and Patient Engagement itself; check out the PM Society website to get involved and join the conversation yourself!

Craig Bradley is Product & Business Lead (Associate Director) at Shire Pharmaceuticals and Chair of the PM Society.

1 Coulter A. and Collins A. Making shared decision-making a reality: No decision about me, without me. The Kings Fund 2011. Available at: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/making-shared-decision-making-reality (accessed on 07 December 2018).
2 Department of Health (2012). Liberating the NHS: No decision about me, without me. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-response-to-the-consultation-on-proposals-for-greater-patient-involvement-and-more-choice (accessed on 07 December 2018).
3 Patient Engagement: Technical Series on Safer Primary Care. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2016. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
4 Carman KL, Dardess P, Maurer M, Sofaer S, Adams K, Bechtel C, et al. Patient and family engagement: a framework for understanding the elements and developing interventions and policies. Health Aff. 2013;32(2):223-31.
5 PM Society. 2018. PM Society Patient Engagement Interest Group: Empowered patients improve outcomes. Available at: https://pmsociety.org.uk/article/empowered-patients-improve-outcomes [accessed on 07 December 2018].
6 Castle-Clarke, S (2018). The NHS at 70: What will new technology mean for the NHS and its patients?. London: The King’s Fund. Available at: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/nhs-70-what-will-new-technology-mean-nhs-and-its-patients (accessed on 07 December 2018).