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1 May 2016… For me, a new day, a new title and new responsibilities as Patient Engagement Director across Ashfield Healthcare Communications. And on day one we were already talking to clients at several pharma companies who had immediate needs for our services and support on their top priorities in patient engagement in 2016.

So before long I was on a plane to begin planning in earnest for the patient-focused strategic support they wanted to commission and to be delivered immediately (no settling in time then!). I was really excited to be helping our clients shape their patient engagement strategies and plan how they can deliver now and in the future.

A month into my role
We’ve had some really productive meetings with multiple internal teams across our agencies to discuss client needs across many disease areas, working to identify how we can engage with patients throughout the drug development life cycle. We’ve also agreed to sponsor the eyeforpharma Patient Summit taking place in London in October this year, and we’re already starting to think about what we can share with the audience during our plenary session to add value to the event and the wider patient-centricity conversation.

I spent a valuable day at the EUPATI patient conference, with the added bonus that I had some ‘thinking time’ on the train which allowed me to start drafting our first white paper ‘From Ideals To Execution’, exploring the realities of patient-centricity and what’s next for pharma.

Finally, it’s been great to spend time working with colleagues at Ashfield Clinical developing a series of high-quality patient materials to complement one of their patient support programmes – it was inspiring to work with a group of dedicated and professional Ashfield nurses who work with patients every day with a focus on improving patient outcomes and experience.

July 2016
With further updates going live on the guidance surrounding the EU lay summaries requirement, we’ve been discussing best practice and health literacy, and highlighting options with clients. As summer approaches, July has been another busy month with training for new starters and our internal cross Ashfield Healthcare Communications summer ‘best practice fete’ – this gave me an opportunity to talk to colleagues about what patient engagement delivers for patients, clients and for us.

Excitingly, we are collaborating with one of our clients on a Kollider ‘hackathon’ innovation event, ‘Partnership Initiative’, assembling eight teams of six people: experts from Ashfield and our client, including our best innovative thinkers, business specialists and creative brains. An exhausting but exhilarating two days at the hackathon.

July will also see the publication of our patient-centricity white paper, and our first patient-centricity webinar ‘What’s next for patient-centricity? How do we know when we are truly patient-centric?’ with pharmaphorum. It’s still available on demand if you didn’t catch it the first time around.

Holiday season
Typically a month for holidays, but there was no down time for me this month! With three client meetings in one week and a visit to our colleagues at Pegasus in Brighton to learn more about how they ‘inspire healthy decisions’ with the work they do in behavioural change.

I’ve also been busy with preparation for a patient advisory board in September, so August has flown by. The same client has approached us to support on two further patient meetings to be held before the end of the year, making for a busy summer identifying optimal ways to collaborate with patient group attendees and multiple meetings discussing patient engagement in many different disease areas.

The beginning of September saw the delivery of a patient advisory board resulting in vital insights and opinions for our client, helping them to approach their pre-launch phase with real patient insight woven into their planning. This month has also seen us expand our ‘patient champion’ network across our group of agencies, so that we have patient engagement specialists embedded across the business, and I was proud to finalise and deliver a patient engagement strategic framework for one client – a work in progress since May and a real milestone for our client. We’ve been planning in earnest for our session at the Patient Summit next month, and it will be great to collaborate with ViiV Healthcare, Findacure, and our colleagues at Ashfield Clinical to share tangible examples of effective engagement with patients throughout the life cycle.

As winter approaches
I’ve had a busy final quarter of the year starting with our plenary session at the eyeforpharma Patient Summit in London. Last year I attended this meeting and was happy to meet so many like-minded people. This year, it was fantastic to see how much progress pharma companies are making, with great examples of patient engagement with real tangible results and outcomes and to have so many interesting conversations with peers.

We also attended the Patients First conference hosted by the ABPI and AMRC. What a great event! If you didn’t get chance to attend you can read my highlights here.

As we wind down for the Christmas break, we’re spending some time evolving our patient engagement marketing tools so that we’re ready to hit the ground running at the start of January! The close of the year remains a busy one with delivery of more patient advisory boards and a range of patient content, and to finish off with – a trip to our US offices to roll out our patient engagement plans.

A flying start for 2017
And hit the ground running we did – flying out on 3 January to attend a client workshop to discuss patient barriers and challenges to participation in clinical studies. The client was keen to understand patient needs more clearly, in order to put optimal support in place at recruitment and throughout the study and beyond. It’s fabulous to see companies embedding patient engagement across their organisations so that it becomes part of the fabric of our industry.

In February, we ran our third Kollider hackathon, this time solving challenges from five patient groups. Once again, our teams worked into the night to develop solutions that got to the root of the patient challenge. With great feedback from the patient groups, we know we’re really making a difference with this initiative.

Time to catch a breath…
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months that has been a fantastic new challenge. It’s been a privilege to be part of the evolution of our company, and to ensure that through truly collaborating with our clients and understanding the patient experience, we develop solutions that make a difference. I’m really excited, looking ahead to the next 12 months with continuing momentum towards better patient engagement.

If you’d like to know more about how we can help you on your patient-centricity journey, you can contact me here.

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