The hidden power of understanding the Patient Journey for a successful product launch

Meet the Launch experts at Trilations

Launching pharmaceutical products is not an average undertaking.  It takes a lot of skill and knowledge to match the latest breakthrough in medical science with a financially and economically sound business concept for a successful launch.  But even then it is not sufficient to understand the medical value of the new product and have your maths right about market size, product value and competitor offerings to be assured of a good launch.

A whole range of customers and stakeholders, each with their own perspectives and needs, form a complex decision making environment that will define success or failure of a product launch. That is why Trilations works with research data based customer insights -mapping believes and attitudes of HCPs, payers, patients, pharmacists, KOLs, Medical Societies, Government agencies, HTA bodies etc- as the building blocks for a successful launch.

The “Patient Journey” as part of the launch plan.

In this article, we would like to illustrate the value of the patient Patient Journey for a successful launch plan: what are the symptoms of the patient?  Where does he seek information and help first?  How and when is he/she diagnosed?  Who does he/she interact with?  What is the role of other stakeholders at each step?  What do the social components of the disease look like? What does the existing treatment path look like?  How is the selection made of different treatment options? … By carefully mapping the Patient Journey prior to launch, a pharma company can clearly identify when different stakeholders make their critical decisions and which hurdles for a quick launch uptake need to be addressed.

At Trilations, launch experts Leen Helsloot and Kurt Arco have been helping clients with the integration of Patient Journeys into their overall launch plan. They believe unlocking the value of customer insights in the Patient Journey is key for success. Time for some questions on how this works.

You say understanding the Patient Journey is important for any launch plan for pharmaceutical products. Could you explain why?

Kurt: It’s the difference between building a military battle strategy without looking at the map or grounding your strategy in sound knowledge of the surroundings. Customer insights are so important for a launch, the insights into the Patient Journey are obviously part of this. It’s important to know the disease area dynamics and drivers of stakeholder behaviour and resistance and certainly that of the central stakeholder: the patient.

When you have that information available early enough, it can help shape the product during development to counter the effect of existing resistance. Companies can refine their product development process based on discovered insights. In some cases we have seen companies redesign Phase III clinical trials to incorporate patient and physician insights in the product design. Clients have also used Patient Journey insights to request price adjustments to payers. Sometimes the resulting strategy includes early marketing efforts to address perception issues and decision parameters.


It’s important to know the disease area dynamics and drivers of stakeholder behaviour and resistance and certainly that of the central stakeholder: the patient.


Leen: A well-built Patient Journey based on Care Pathways -which therapeutic trajectory will be followed by the patient?- can provide the foundation for far richer and more useful forecasting models than the “market and share growth” financial models that companies typically use. The Patient Journey framework supports insights driven forecasting for which the underlying drivers can be tested. It also explicitly links forecasting to commercial strategy.

Kurt: The Care Pathway approach also provides valuable insight for senior leadership. Knowing where the greatest growth opportunities exist across the company– by therapeutic area and product- provides new intelligence to management about how to prioritise its strategic initiatives and investments.

What does a launch based on a Patient Journey look like?  What are its key elements?

Kurt: First and foremost, it is a process that needs to be embedded early in the development cycle. Ideally, it should start when phase 2 studies are designed and the launch teams are being created. It requires highly interactive and cross-functional participation of all teams that are involved in the development. Trilations has a proven methodology and process maps to capture valuable insights buried in existing data. It brings out hidden gems. Quite often, it also reveals overlooked capabilities and knowledge in the organisation.


It’s a process that needs to be embedded early in the development cycle.


Leen: But it’s certainly not all about internal collaboration. True, internal alignment has to be established first but then a broad range of external stakeholders needs to be involved. At a minimum you should consider all stakeholders that are present in the different stages of the patient journey. For example, what we see in a lot of cases is that payers are missing: ‘Who pays what at each step in the patient journey?’ , ‘What are the payers paying for?’, ‘Which HCPs see most of the patients?’ It’s important to quantify these elements. The Patient Journey includes customer insights to create a comprehensive, strategic view of disease areas, and to identify the key moments when pharma companies can accelerate Patient Journeys on the path to best care.

Kurt: An important modality here is to facilitate communication cross-functionally within the organisation. The process of constructing the Patient Journey helps breaking down the organisation’s barriers to collaboration and stimulates knowledge-sharing. Communication between global and the regional or local affiliates is necessary to align global planning with local realities. Again, ideally this should happen at an early stage, around phase 2 & 3.


Facilitate communication cross-functionally within the organisation.


Leen:  Through this collaborative process an insights-based narrative about patient behaviours is created for use both internally and externally. The organisation gains a common language for productive dialogue across functions. When people across the company understand the Patient Journey it becomes far easier for them to align around a few critical opportunities, reduce complexity, increase efficiency of commercial and R&D resources, and align the brand and product teams around goals that can be clearly articulated to senior management.

The Patient Journey: a tool for strategic decision making in product launches.

Trilations’ concept for mapping out the Patient Journey helps companies to make tough decisions about product development and shape the data generation strategy to ensure the specific market needs can be addressed.  By this they will be able to plan for a successful launch.

In essence, Trilations’ Patient Journey Process map is a research-based and data-driven method helping the launch teams to anticipate how the market will evolve and understand the changing environment throughout the drug’s life cycle. Combined with a collaborative cross-functional process, set up at an early stage, it will generate a powerful launch strategy in a common language.

Launch Team experts biography:

Top experts from Trilations, a strategic marketing consultancy that has been involved in major drug launches in over 40 countries and over 15 therapy areas.

Leen Helsloot has 10 years of experience in advising major pharma companies on global and European launch programmes for strategic brands.

Kurt Arco was formerly with MSD (Merck & Co), where he led several major brand launches internationally. Kurt has 20 years of launch experience within big and small pharma/biotech companies. He became part of the C.E.L.forPharma expert panel and delivers a 2-day course on Launch Excellence jointly with his colleague Dr. Joeri De Haes.