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Advances in personalized medicine enable HCPs to select treatments based on the genetic makeup of specific patients. And yet when it comes to services to help patients manage living with cancer, too often there is still a one-size-fits-all approach.

Just as personalized medicine can improve outcomes for specific patients, customized patient services can contribute to better engagement, greater adherence, lower costs and improved outcomes. 

Manufacturers have traditionally focused oncology marketing on only HCPs, noting that cancer patients usually abdicate choice of treatment to their physician. While this is generally still true, patient participation and influence in that choice is rising. We are seeing increasing savvy in patients regarding available tests and treatment as information becomes more widely available, thanks in large part to active and vocal patient advocacy groups.

And although therapy recommendation is still primarily an HCP decision, where there are alternatives available, physicians are increasingly engaging patients in the decision process. Regardless of the patient role in treatment selection, treatment success ultimately depends on patient acceptance of and adherence to therapy. In oncology, manufacturers haven’t focused on long-term adherence to therapy and broader treatment. However, with increasing numbers of targeted therapies being launched in the market, oncology is becoming more of a niche market serving smaller populations of patients, so every patient becomes that much more important for the brand. Also, competition is increasing as more treatments targeting similar populations become available, so these brands will need to find new ways to differentiate themselves and support patients for the entire length of treatment and condition management. Finally, given the high costs of these treatments, manufacturers need to demonstrate value with more than just scientifically advanced molecules.

Oncology patients and caregivers have unique needs. The educational, emotional and logistical needs ebb and flow throughout the patient journey, and they also differ greatly depending on tumor type and stage. New therapies for some cancers that are extending patient survival are also creating new patient needs: how to live well while treating cancer as a more “chronic” disease.

So how can manufacturers better support oncology patients? In order to deliver experiences that are meaningful and sensitive to patients’ evolving needs, it’s important to start with insights that come directly from patients themselves. Manufacturers should provide services and support for patients—including testing, diagnosis, treatment and ongoing support—specifically focused on living with cancer. This support should extend beyond transactional services like access and onboarding to include more complex and individual support services, which help patients find common ground with the people in their day-to-day lives so that they don’t feel so isolated.

Helping patients navigate the complexity of cancer means not just focusing on the interaction between patients and your brand, but on the totality of their treatment. It encompasses helping MDs and office staff with the administrative burdens of accessing medications and identifying ways to pay for treatment, so that HCPs can focus on providing support for patients when patients may be the most vulnerable and shaken. It means treating each patient as an individual whose life is changed irrevocably. 

Success in oncology patient services depends not only on delivering outstanding experiences for patients and HCPs, but on differentiating your brand/franchise so that patients and HCPs identify your brand/franchise as a comprehensive partner in managing life with cancer. A key component of this objective is to make personalized medicine more personal: to deliver personalized medicine through personalized experiences. 

Topics: customer experience, oncology, Jinan Martini, Seth Goodman, personalization, personalized medicine