What I Have Learned from Working with Patients

By Chrissie Hannah, Senior Account Executive

It’s one of the key buzzwords in pharma – patient-centricity. All companies say patients are at the heart of what they do; if they don’t, they certainly strive for it. The online space is rich with articles on how this can really be achieved and how it’s measured, but ultimately there is nothing more valuable than that face-to-face time with the patient, getting to know them, and genuinely caring about helping them.

Over the last year, I have had the privilege of working on a particularly inspiring project, partnering with patients, for patients. On behalf of one of our clients, we aimed to develop an awareness campaign that showcases the lives of six women from around the world, to highlight what survival means to those living with terminal breast cancer.

What first struck me was that patients really want to get involved. I had imagined there would be difficulties finding someone willing to share details about their difficult journey and terminal diagnosis. However, the ladies involved not only agreed to take part, but were very passionate about the campaign. They wanted to help us spread the message of positivity to others suffering with this terminal illness.

We interviewed them over the phone, then spent time in their homes for a photoshoot. As we listened to each of their stories, and got to know them the more time we spent with them, I realised I had started to become emotionally invested in the work. The campaign objectives had already been established, and were still being met, but after speaking with these patients I started to have an additional purpose. I could see that the project was really helping them. As they talked openly about their diagnosis, life, family and the future, they seemed to find it healing, almost therapeutic.

The finished product was a beautiful bound book of each patient’s photos and stories. The feedback received from the women involved was overwhelming – they loved seeing other stories alongside theirs, and felt more motivated than before to share their own story. Although the full project is not yet complete, it shows this first part of the campaign achieved results on many levels.

Of course, this is just one disease area with a specific audience. However, I have learned so much from this wonderful, inspirational group of women. By connecting with patients at this level, you can really get to the heart of their thoughts, hopes and fears – and could end up helping them in more ways than one. Working this closely with patients on such an emotive and powerful project reminds us of the greater good in our work, and why we do it.