It is a known fact that the ‘atopic dermatitis’ disease can cause severe emotional implications which can last days, months, and years. Patients, as advocates and experts in living with atopic dermatitis, were critical to work with to understand the nuances of the emotional ramifications of the disease they were enduring.
The Pharma company needed to collect insights on patient end users, to drive future patient support tools.The challenge was to bring together patients from across the globe for a focus group session, discussing and collecting insights within a short time frame. Rather applying the usual approach of identification of patients via Patient Advocacy Groups, contracting and coordinating a physical gathering with all its logistics and travel reimbursements considered, the biotech company asked Vertic to execute a virtual advisory board with patients from both US and European countries.
There was really no reason to be worried about getting deep enough insights through a virtual Ad Board – we got plenty of insightful stories and participants asked to be part of future Ad Boards as well.
With the objective of collaborating with patients in all countries, yet to meet the tight timeline set by the Biotech company, Vertic recommended a virtual to execute a virtual advisory board with patients from across the globe.
Vertic partnered with Within3, who provides an online discussion platform allowing organizations to engage small or large groups of physicians, nurses, payers, and patients. A pre-defined schedule of topics, questions, follow up questions and moderator responsibilities were aligned on before kicking off the virtual advisory board which lasted 12 days. All conversations were held online and structured according to topic while still allowing participants to comment on each other’s replies, as would have be done in a F2F setting.
We asked patients to share stories, and specific events in their lives where the disease, atopic dermatitis, had affected them and to understand how those events made them feel.
The goal was to cover “all” aspects of the patient’s life with atopic dermatitis. Therefore, we started by defining a series of topics that could inspire the patients to tell their stories. To empower and encourage them to dive deeper, weintroduced them to the “5 Whys” approach; a method to help them uncover the emotional implications of living with atopic dermatitis.
We kicked off the virtual advisory board with a webcast where we introduced all participants to the schedule, the topics, the concept of “5 Whys” and the participation rules. The topics and questions at times would be very intimate, therefore to ensure the patients felt comfortable and secure, we had two designated moderators (one male and one female) who engaged with the participants over the course of the virtual advisory board.
We prepared for possible barriers of a virtual focus group before we kicked off the project, one of them being “expect superficial replies due to it being conducted online” or “less personal responses to be expected when you have a computer screen in between”, yet surprisingly enough we were proofed wrong. The output covered more than 700 replies from 16 participants.
Analysis of the qualitative research output provided us not only with insights on the emotional impact of living with atopic dermatitis, but also enabled us to choose the appropriate and relevant tactics and channels for communicating with each of the below audiences:
• Patients: to minimize the difficulties in expressing and discussing the emotional implications of suffering with very visual physical condition
• Physicians: to provide assets that empower and help them conduct a productive dialogue with their patients regarding emotional challenges and quality of life situations when time is minimal