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The journey to adopting a more patient centric mindset

All pharma companies have now proudly labelled themselves ‘patient-centric’, or ‘patient-centred’, or some other variation of this value that recognises the fundamental importance of the end-user, or ‘customer’ in any other universe, but are they, really?

I went to EyeForPharma, London to find out…

If you don’t work at a pharma company you are probably wondering why this is even a point of discussion? You are probably wondering how they could be anything but patient-centred? And you would have a point, but this is not something that all pharma companies wholeheartedly embrace yet, not by a long shot. That a more holistic (medicine together with valuable services) offering must be provided is, I think, a given, but the full transition to a patient-centered mindset has been slow.

Consequently, patient-centredness is a claim that for some rings a little hollow. One pharma company presented the challenge as one of thirds, where one-third of the company believe it, one-third think it sounds good but practically is a huge challenge (“we can’t talk to patients!”, I hear them cry), and the remaining third that it is just hype!

But, whilst there are challenges, distilling the two days at the Patient Summit to a singular aspiration from those working on all sides is actually pretty straight forward. It’s simply to work together, with a shared purpose, in order to bridge the gap to healthier lives.

Expanding that out a little, I have some key takeaways and recommendations for pharma. The recommendations are also relevant to other organisations with health as a focus. In fact, if you look at this macro scale it applies to organisations, their employees and customers, so the themes whilst specific in places, have a degree of wider relevance I believe- just swap the collective nouns around!

1. Accept, and then embrace that the balance of power is shifting towards the patient
2. Enable internal change and structure to orientate around the patient
3. Involve the patient right from the start of the drug discovery process
4. Think of the patient as a person, not just as a patient
5. Co-design and co-create the services and solutions that they need
6. Think patient experience first, not patient engagement
7. Make it easier for patients to connect with you

Accept that the balance of power is shifting to the patient.

Just like the with the customer in FMCG, the power of social media and other forces is slowly gravitating away from the product, and towards the patient. The power still flows from pharma to HCP, to patient group and finally to the patient, but this is becoming much less rigid.

As the pressure to transition to more outcome based payments for pharma is applied then perhaps patients become the king, as they are front and centre for the industry? Some believe a failure to listen to them will result in poor outcomes and potentially financial penalties. So, instead, embrace this change and listen and learn from patients and strive to meet their needs to create solutions that genuinely improve their lives.

Enable internal change and structure to orientate around the patient

Okay, easily said, but not so easily done. This requires organisational change, which the big consultancies would love to help with, of course, but I believe can be accomplished organically as well as with less financially burdensome solutions. There were some great ideas here to start shifting employee’s perspectives that I’ve listed out below with increasing challenge and complexity:

1. Add a ‘red chair’ to meeting rooms where someone must speak in the interest of the patient
2. Enable patient advocate ‘missionaries’ at every level and discipline of the business whose job it is to evangelise the patient’s perspective
3. Bring patients into every part of the business and listen to them; consult them right from the start (see below)
4. Break down silos by creating cross-functional participation in patient work
5. Implement patient value KPIs at the very top of the business
6. Consider frameworks, SOPs, policies and standards and operational models that help to guide at every level
7. … and last but by no means least, ensure/hope/pray that the CEO and leadership are fully bought in. If not, it might be time to organise a petition, or maybe a revolt?

Involve the patient right from the start of drug trials

There are now many examples of companies involving patients right from the outset of drug discovery, bringing them in to help with every element of the design and delivery of the trial. The patient, it is believed, should be able to critique every element of the interaction to make it better for them. Remember, that they will probably be spoilt for choice in some of the big therapeutic areas, so nothing should be off the table for discussion. Apart from the drug itself, of course; this is not a marketing exercise.

Think of the patient as a person with a condition, not just as patient

This was a recurring theme, a constant throughout the two days. Patients are people first and foremost. In fact we all are, or will be, patients or carers or more probably both in our lifetime. We want respect, support, care and love, and not to feel that we’re in an unbalanced relationship, or in one where we might be being exploited. The contracts used in patient interactions were mentioned as just one such bugbear. Patients are not waiting around for your call, they are trying to live their lives, and if you want their input and to produce better solutions for them you will need to take into consideration them and their needs. Further, patients don’t measure their outcomes clinically, they simply care about their ability to live their life. Oh, and obviously, use common language that can be understood by everyone…

Co-design and co-create the services and solutions that they need

This applies to all industries now really. This is about taking a ‘design-thinking’ approach to providing services and solutions. Simply put, if you don’t know what the ‘user’ wants or which of their problems you are trying to solve, you can’t hope to provide solutions that they will actually want to use.

Understanding the patient problems and opportunities requires deep understanding in order to really contextualise the patient’s life; we’re not just talking about the medical aspect, but their personal circumstances, and the broader psychosocial environment. This can all (okay, well, mostly) be accomplished through interviews, workshops, diary studies, observation, and other techniques such as analysis of structured and unstructured data. Capturing the subconscious is admittedly trickier but that is why building a solution should be an iterative, ‘build, test, learn’ process that continually improves satisfaction through collaboration (see my colleague Jules’ post on Growth Driven Design for more).

Note on adherence

If you are thinking of designing a service for patients, adherence is never far from mind here, but be warned you will need to do more than simply engage them briefly to get the information that you need. You will need to have awareness of all of a person’s life, provide support for behaviour change (adapt a solution to the person rather than expect the person to adapt to your solution) and design for the provision of ongoing support. An analogy that was used here was that ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’- a longer term view must be sought.

Consider the wider ecosystem of assets and services that you can provide, and partners that you can work with to provide best in class digital and non-digital services. Awesome digital is, unfortunately, also a bit like a dog, as it needs continual attention!

Think patient experience, not patient engagement

Both these terms sound a little ‘buzz-wordy’ but if you are thinking about how you should be engaging patients, that is good, but it shouldn’t be a one-off. Instead, you should consider how you can design the patient experience. Patient engagement has a sense that it is perhaps not being done for the patient’s benefit, or that it is tokenistic whereas your committing to create an awesome patient experience is a win-win. Be human, demonstrate value, treat with compassion, dignity and respect, listen, give a voice, give control, provide support, and work hard to develop trust.

Make it easier for patients to connect with you

This came up a great deal. Patients want to share the good experiences as well as the bad with pharma, but where can they do it? Where can they go? It’s unclear to them because, well, it is very difficult to get in touch, because pharma has made it difficult. Okay, to be fair, the regulations have made it difficult, but regardless, there is a clear desire from patients but a wall between you. What can be done? What about one place for all patient feedback, staffed by trained medical staff or with live chat (of even A.I . deployed at the frontline)? What about helping patients to connect with other patients? I am not naive enough to think that this is easy, but if the demand is there, and it’s in the patient’s interest, what is really stopping you?

So, it seems, things are moving in the right direction. After spending two days at the patient track at EyeForPharma, you could sense the appetite for change and collaboration in the air.

What is clear, is that companies that fail to adopt a patient-centred mindset will be left behind. And the consequences in a world of rising healthcare costs, personalised care, barely differentiated product, and digitally connected stakeholders, probably don’t bear thinking about.

If you’re just not seeing the benefit of a more patient-centred approach, what about considering the following?

1. Better patient solutions, delivered more quickly will mean more patients accessing value-adding services -quicker!>
2. Which means more patients managing their condition and taking their medication, with less burden on front line services
3. Which in turn means more doctors thinking about your solution for their patients- and patients talking to other patients too (about the value-added services, that hopefully, you have designed for patients like them)
4. Which also means the acquisition of data, learning, collaboration and continual improvement
5. And a whole lot of love to go around.

I listened and chatted to some amazing people; with patients and carers talking about their experience, their hopes and aspirations, and absorbed all I could from them together with the all the other presentations and discussions, from industry to patient and everything in between. I’m fired up and keen to also help us transition towards a more patient-centred company too.

Working in the healthcare space we see the problems, and get out of bed in the morning to do what we can to help improve lives. Our purpose at Nitro is literally ‘bridging the gap to healthier lives’ which we accomplish by, for instance, closing the gap between Pharma/industry and HCPs, HCPs and patients, and pharma/industry and patients. Working collaboratively with our clients for shared positive long term outcomes we look to create a win, win, win for the patient, for our client and for us.

If you’re looking to see how you can build a path to future health for people why not get in touch with us?

Xmas Blog Post

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!


A large group from the Polish and a few of the NYC team flew to London to celebrate in style at the company Christmas party, where fun was had by all and the drinks did flow.


Our Pakistani and Italian teams each celebrated with a lovely meal, and the NYC team has plans to continue to celebrate during the Chinese New Year at the end of January.


The London staff raised £60 for the charity Save the Children by participating in the daylong event last Friday, and the company is matching this amount. Check out the team gathered in front of the office Christmas tree showing off their festive garb.


The whole Nitro team has got into the holiday spirit: from mince pie Fridays and Christmas jumpers in the London office to Christmas lunches and dinners in our global offices.

Happy Holidays everyone from all of us at Nitro Digital.

programmatic for hcp marketing

It’s Time Pharma Realised the Potential of Programmatic Media Buying to Reach HCP Customers More Intelligently


Programmatic is alive and well. It has cemented itself into the daily process of digital communication practices across the world and there are the numbers to prove it. In the UK alone, it is estimated that the programmatic display ad market will be worth £2.67 billion by the end of 2017, up 44% from 2016 (source: emarketer)

There are industries where programmatic has become standard practice, but there are some, such as pharma, that have been slower to adopt automated media buying to deliver their marketing campaigns. Whilst there is a lack of understanding on how the technology works, the concerns around regulatory risks have prevented pharma marketers to take a chance on programmatic technology. Adoption, however, rather than being technological or legal needs fundamentally to be focussed on customer delivery. If as a brand marketer all you want to do is deliver product messages, programmatic will not help you (for now, at least).

Why won’t it help you?

  • Because the vast majority of medical publishers and communities do not serve programmatic advertising;
  • Because, as a pharma marketer, you are probably still too focused on marketing the product features and benefits rather than delivering value to your customers and wider stakeholders, where programmatic media can be served. 

The world has moved on from features and benefits, and you need to too. However, we are now seeing a shift in consideration taking place. We know the landscape for targeting healthcare professionals is narrow and expensive. But the modern customer journey has become increasingly complex. We live in an age where customers are always connected, engaged and want to see relevant messages. In order to deliver a seamless experience to customers, pharma is recognising that it has to catch up and embrace the shift towards customer experience and with it the latest in responsive technology to deliver on their needs cost effectively.

Marketing starts with understanding the customer, and what programmatic advertising has to offer is a rich layer of audience insight on top of what we already have. The door is open to target precisely and verify advertising exposure to a defined list of healthcare professionals, and this is what is now attracting pharma clients’ attention. It means we can reach audiences outside the standard environments whilst adding greater intelligence to the media we buy to ensure we are connecting with the right people and at the right time.

Programmatic advertising is not just about satisfying top of the marketing funnel either. The ability to build and reach new audiences, on top of retargeting existing and engaging existing customers proves the value of programmatic in delivering both top and bottom of the conversion funnel.

At Nitro Digital we believe in and champion the many benefits programmatic advertising can deliver for pharma and we have highlighted the top advantages for why programmatic buying should be integrated into pharma digital marketing strategies:

Greater transparency
Greater visibility on media performance means campaigns can be better refined and optimised. In the past, when working directly with publishers we were completely reliant on the limited insight they could provide. We now can see what is delivered, and where, whilst learning what is working and what is not.

Greater data and insights
Data is at the heart of the programmatic process. So, not only do you minimise wastage from purchased inventory by targeting the right audiences, but you are also getting greater insight to better understand your online customers. And those learnings are happening in real time, which means campaigns can be optimised throughout its duration and the value of this can also increase a return on your investment.

Improved tracking capabilities
With programmatic technology it is easier to track and analyse data more efficiently from advertising views, to interaction through to website visits and actions. Audiences can be intricately segmented, which makes targeting messages in the right context, and at the right time far more effective.

Consistency across multiple channels
Programmatic can be thought of as a centralised buying platform. What this means is that we have the ability to combine the power of data to deliver effective communications where the audiences are active – across desktop, mobile, tablet, video and social channels.

Our conclusion

At Nitro Digital we have proven the value of running programmatic campaigns for our clients in pharma. We have successfully delivered greater exposure, at lower price points to highly targeted healthcare audiences. And the quality in targeting is demonstrated in the increase in responses we are seeing. Because, ultimately, we are delivering the right message at the right time and to the right people.

Brexit: What Does It Mean for Science?

A few days after the vote that will lead to the UK’s departure from the EU and Cameron’s resignation, the articles about consequences of Brexit are numerous. Journalists, politicians and even celebrities such as J.K. Rowling  have underscored the effect Brexit have.

tweet rowling

The author J.K. Rowling expressed her shocked by calling the magic of the fantasy world she created.


The vice chancellor of Germany Sigmar Gabriel was quick to tweet his dismay and the result saying: ‘Damn! bad day for Europe!’

Besides politicians and former pro-Remain voters, there are other people who fear the future outside the EU: scientist and researchers. Indeed, as The Guardian reports, this vote may have a big impact on how the pharmaceutical industry works. explains that the physicist Stephen Hawking and more than 150 fellows of the Royal Society called the Brexit a “disaster for U.K. science” in a letter to The Times.

Most scientists voted ‘Remain’ according polls, expressing concern over how Brexit would harm science in the UK, and in the EU at large. They argue that one of the strengths of British research is its worldwide scale, and the welcoming of researchers from foreign countries. The European Union was a great means to enable free exchange between the UK and other nations. It allowed the UK to benefit from a network of new people with new ideas… which is the best means to innovate, to move forward.

Brexit is probably not going to condemn the research area in the UK, given that the country is one of the top leaders in this field. But there is no denying that its new status will certainly imply some readjustments, if the Union wants to keep this asset.


Meet Leka, the First Toy Designed Specifically for Children With Autism

That sounds futuristic, and yet it is true! A French start-up has designed a rolling robot capable of engaging children with special needs, particularly children on the “autism spectrum”.


The future is coming

Shaped like a ball, it has an endearing ‘face’ that changes expressions, and uses sound, light and colours to interact with users through adaptable games that improve cognitive and motor skills. More than a tool for caregivers and educators, Leka is described by its developers as a “robotic companion”. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), connecting with others can be challenging.  The robot is able to guide children through a range of activities, helping them to improve their communication skills and ability to learn.

Leka may also help parents and caregivers, by providing data on how children interact with the device and enabling data sharing across a social network. It will provide understanding on the type of guidance that is more helpful to the child to complete a task. All of this information is displayed in graphs in the shared interface and parents or caregivers can comment on them, communicate with each other or share notes on a child’s use.

How can a robot change things?

ASD affects about 70 million people worldwide. In order to develop an efficient toy, Leka’s developers worked closely with children with ASD, parents and educators, to determine their needs and the role that the robot could play. The developers realised that children with ASD respond especially well to robots. Why? Because for these children, repetition and predictability are essential. Performing the same activity over and over can be hard for parents or educators.

Doing the same thing over and over is proper to robots. “The robotics help by repeating the same thing every single time and providing the child a sense of safety” – Ladislas de Toldi, Leka’s CEO and co-founder.

The rolling robot may also help child development by being controlled via Bluetooth and programmed through an app (available for both iOS and Android). Leka responds to a child’s participation in games, supplying positive images and sounds — for instance, showing a smiling face — to reward progress and encourage confidence. Currently programmed with three educational games, Leka will offer a total of seven activities toward 2017.

Adaptability is the key strength of this rolling robot. Caregivers can adjust the level of stimulation to fit each child’s needs – by changing the settings – , allowing the child’s progress to be tracked over time. Meanwhile, handling the spherical Leka provides children with a uniquely tactile interactive experience that they can’t get from a touch screen.

“Our mission is to help exceptional children live exceptional lives by reducing the learning inequalities that many children with different developmental disorders currently deal with” – Ladislas de Toldi.

Both these features justify the Leka’s cost of $699, say its developers. The robot is priced between an iPad Air and the iPad Pro… which are not exactly cheap, however the Indiegogo campaign (152% funded)  would enable mass production of the device and make it more affordable.  Besides, the start-up claims that the developers are looking for a solution for parents who can’t afford such a price but do need a Leka.


The initiative highlights how a robot could enhance our way of living. Do you think robotics can change lives too? Do you like the article? Leave a comment then!


Digital Customer Experience in the Life Sciences Industry

The importance for Life sciences to communicate across digital channels has been clear for a long time, but whilst the benefits of engaging on ‘social’ channels is increasing, internal company approvals for this activity is far from simple and does not seem to be getting easier. So, we would like to help you learn how you can take advantage of these channels both creatively and compliantly for brand and company.

We’ll be producing a series of content focused on social media and digital experiences that will include real world industry examples to help demonstrate that it can be done. But, before we start, we would really like to get your input into our quick social media survey so that we can tackle the key issues that you face together with our partner Zinc Ahead.

Executing across digital is no longer a box ticking exercise, it’s key to nurturing relationships and driving advocacy for you. You now need to deliver compelling experiences that make a difference to your users.

You’ll be expected by your customers to deliver compelling experiences that help bring them (and your wider stakeholders) closer online through engagement and ultimately conversation and collaboration. If you don’t, your competitors will, and as your customers flood to use online channels and rep forces are streamlined, you’ll be edged out of the conversation. It’s time to start engaging online now.

We get it though, as soon as you start talking about engagement and using the words, ‘social media’ the barriers go up. Approvals can be hard, and require willpower and commitment to get initiatives through medical, legal and regulatory. This is why Nitro Digital is delighted to be partnering with Zinc, the leading provider of world class compliance for content and rich media experiences in the life sciences industry, to help our customers and the wider industry deliver innovative, exciting but crucially compliant customer experiences through ‘social media’.

Nitro Digital has been pioneering the use of engaging and collaborative platforms and communication for our clients to enhance their customer communication over the last few years, so have learnt how to help others who also want to take advantage of digital in a more engaging way to create compelling customer experiences in the new normal for web users.

So, if you aren’t sure about how to engage with your customers on digital platforms, think it’s too risky, or just cannot persuade your management to participate, then you really should take part. You might be surprised what you can achieve.

Click through to the Survey now.