Editor’s note: Dinisha Cherodian is an associate at Incite Marketing Planning, London.

The pharmaceutical industry has recently faced a major shift in focus. Critically and deliberately, it has moved from product-centric to a more holistic approach that aims to put the patient at the heart of business. Companies now dedicate specific resources to patient support, patient advocacy and patient engagement, focused on improving patient outcomes. These initiatives have their own commercial value but it is the value to patients that is most significant.

Marketing research has played a pivotal role in this evolution. Pharma has needed a deeper understanding of the patient beyond the clinic walls – their daily lives, experiences, hopes and goals – to deliver true value to patients. Research techniques are evolving to meet this need and unearth the insight necessary for the task at hand. Yet as we delve deeper into the world of the patient through their eyes, we must be careful not to develop tunnel vision.

There is a broader ecosystem surrounding the patient that is often overlooked. Certainly, the caregiver is part of this (and they are increasingly considered in marketing research), but there is a world of support beyond that one individual. Traditional marketing research skims the surface – picking such insight up anecdotally or via set questioning to reveal the importance of other sources of support.

A 360-degree approach to patient research is critical. Only with this matrix view can we fully understand how to best support patients to improve specific outcomes. Patient research needs to build in a broader lens that provides the patient with support through sources such as patient advocacy groups, multigenerational family members and online mediums.

Patient associations and advocacy groups play a critical role in the patient ecosystem. There is no doubt these are powerful and highly respecte...