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How Medical Affairs Professionals Are Effectively Engaging and Educating Patients in Social Networks
On today’s “Elevate” podcast episode, we’re speaking with Eric Peacock, co-founder and CEO of MyHealthTeam about Medical Affairs work with patients in social networks. This episode, sponsored by MyHealthTeam, will address the following questions:
Garth Sundem 00:00
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series: “Elevate”. I’m your host, Garth Sundem, Communications Director at MAPS. And today we’re speaking with Eric Peacock, co-founder and CEO of MyHealthTeam, about Medical Affairs work with patients in social networks. This episode is sponsored by MyHealthTeam. So Eric, we have chatted before for written articles, but I am looking forward to hearing from you in this format, about patients and social networks and what Medical Affairs can do to help these patients in these networks. But first, I think our audience knows more about Instagram and Facebook than they might know about patients in social networks. So what are we talking about here? What are social networks for patients?
Eric Peacock 00:57
Great question. And thanks for having me, Garth. Today, when we’re talking about patient social networks, we’re talking about social networks that are designed built and dedicated for patients with specific chronic conditions. So MyHealthTeam is a company that creates social networks that are individual for each condition, we’ve actually launched in 43, different chronic conditions, everything from my MS Team, which is our social network for people with multiple sclerosis, to my SMA team, for the rare spinal muscular atrophy to all sorts of cancers, and autoimmune and respiratory, you know, there’s quite a few, quite a few conditions here that you can launch these for. And each of them is password protected, is monitored, all the content that is written on it is medically approved. So we’re avoiding some of the problems that traditional mass market social networking has had in the health space, namely, misinformation, lack of privacy, all that kind of stuff, everything we’re doing is behind the firewall. And we never share the PII of our members. So it’s a safe place to be with others who get it who understand it. And it’s a safe place to find medical information that is not Dr. Google, but is in fact, you know, reviewed by a specialist in that condition.
Garth Sundem 02:18
Well, that’s interesting. One thing I hear a lot about is Medical Affairs wanting to involve patients, you know, not just communicate to patients, but to really involve them in the drug development process. And the I’ve heard our members saying that one way to do that is to work with patient associations. And this is kind of like having a patient association or it’s like a group of patients that are in one place, you know, do you see these patients social networks, presenting that opportunity to listen to the patient voice?
Eric Peacock 02:58
Absolutely. That’s probably the place we always start. You know, we’ve been in business for 10 years, and the very first pharma partner or client we had was in Medical Affairs for just that purpose. They’re like, look, we’re designing clinical trials, we want to understand what outcomes patients actually care about. Yeah. And that’s this is a really important point, because so much of development and investment in the pharmaceutical world is based off of the opinions of key opinion leaders, you know, doctors who are representing what they think the priorities of patients are. And what we found over the last 10 years with lots of research, many, many published articles with our Medical Affairs partners and different pharma companies, is that what patients say our priorities to them, and what doctors say our patients priorities, it’s not a perfect Venn diagram. It’s, it’s they’re different, they’re different. And you have to go to the patients to get that information. Not only that, in this day and age of trying to address health equity, if you’re trying to understand the needs of a black or African American or, or Hispanic or whatever population you’re looking to serve, then the research you’re doing needs to be with those people. And so social networks for a chronic condition have been really effective in that way. And they tend to just be at a much larger scale, right? Because, like, for example, in multiple sclerosis, one out of every eight patients in America with multiple sclerosis is on my MS team. So it’s pretty massive for that condition. And you can find any kind of MS patient you want from just diagnosed to, you know, secondary, progressive and bent on five different disease modifying therapies, different gender and race and background. So it’s the place to, to crowdsource that information and get them involved early on in In the design of trials, and the understanding of the burden of disease for the regulators, and then designing the ways you’re going to help them when you launch your drug.
Garth Sundem 05:09
Okay, cool. Well, for many Medical Affairs folks, in the realm of patient engagement, I think the elephant in the room is compliance. Can Medical Affairs engage compliantly? In patient social networks?
Eric Peacock 05:24
Yes, absolutely. So there’s usually two big questions that come up. One is around, you know, adverse events, what if people read these articles, and then they share adverse events. So quite simply, we report those for you. So you don’t have to we report them to your pharmacovigilance group and do that with you? That’s really important. That’s a great problem. By the way, when people talk about side effects of your drug, yeah, more often than not, they’re they’re doing two positive things. One is they’re talking about how they cope with it. Yep. And the second is, they’re letting everybody know that like, Hey, you’re not alone in dealing with this. This is part of the process. When you’re in a complicated autoimmune condition or an illogical condition, you’re taking these immunosuppressive therapies or whatever they are, like, there are going to be some side effects. The benefits are worth it. Here’s how I cope with it. So that’s, that’s a good thing. And of course, documenting that is good as well. It’s, I can’t say that we have a whole lot of those those not usually what people are talking about. The second thing in compliance is okay, if we’ve done research that identifies these patient education gaps that our Medical Affairs teams want to fill, yeah. You know, we can’t provide personalized medical information, but or advice, but we can provide good detailed, medically approved medical education. And so that means we get it medically approved. Typically, we’re writing it our medical register writing it, we have it medically approved. And if it goes through medical, legal and regulatory, it’s kind of pretty smooth process and that way, because it was all written by that process.
Garth Sundem 07:13
Okay, cool. So I’ve heard our members say that, you know, they don’t think they can go direct to patients, that they still need to be working through HCPs and KOLs, to provide best practice that then filtered down to patients to affect outcomes. But but I’ve heard them say they can’t go direct to patients, but we can through these formats. What we’re where we’re not, you know, calling a patient directly on the phone, but we’re putting approved resources out there in front of them, is that the way to reach patients
Eric Peacock 07:45
directly, I think the first off Medical Affairs professionals can and do reach patients directly every day, we’ve been doing this for you know, seven years with our Medical Affairs partners in just about every major pharmaceutical company, we’re working with their Medical Affairs group. In the past two years, we’ve published more than 20 peer reviewed articles, in fact, based off of research we’ve done with them. So the way to do it is you partner with people like us or others who have a big first party database, a big access, you know, a trusted connection with patients. So if we’re doing research, then it goes through us, we partner with you, we help design the survey, but then we share it with our members who trust us and know us and we say, Hey, we’re partnering with Abby, or we’re partnering with Janssen or Biogen whomever it is to do this research, and we’re going to share the results back with you. So we’re being transparent, we collect that research, and we’re able to share that back. It never shares their personally identifying information, though, it’s always the identified. And then when it comes to doing patient education, solving the problems that we’re discovering in the research, that’s something where, you know, we write it, if the client wants to shape it in any way it needs to go to medical, legal and regulatory approval for them, which we do. But if they want to leave it to us to do the writing and us get it medically approved, which which many do as well, then they don’t control it. It’s all on our hands to do that.
Garth Sundem 09:23
Okay, well, compliance is certainly a gateway, but I don’t want to spend 20 minutes just talking about Yeah,
Eric Peacock 09:28
it was a gateway. Like for us. It was a gateway about six years ago and our first one or two years and that’s but now we’ve, we do it all the time with our partner. So it’s pretty thriving. True. Well, so
Garth Sundem 09:39
you recently wrote for us and I’ll link this from the map site. You recently wrote a framework for us on how to engage with patients living with chronic conditions. Can you take us through how Medical Affairs should engage with these patients?
Eric Peacock 09:55
Yeah, you know, I had a good chance and thinking about this And recently speaking about it to some Medical Affairs professionals to kind of go back over the last 10 years and say, so when is it been wildly successful, what’s been the characteristics of what’s really, really worked? Yep. And if I were to boil it down to one sentence, it’s this. When it when you have the chance, fall in love with a patient’s problems, not your solution. They’ll fall in love with their problem, not your solution. And I can tell you that I’m guilty, and every company is guilty of falling in love with whatever their solution is their pill, their injection, their website, their tool, whatever it is, you know, this is the best thing ever you do this, in a, you’re not using it the right way, use it like this. But if you can stop and listen, and really hear what their biggest problems are, and solve that, you build authentic relationships. And I think that is the key ingredient for making a strong connection and building authentic relationships is that you’re listening and solving a real problem. And that’s where Medical Affairs people are having homeruns over the last few years doing this,
Garth Sundem 11:07
this is a huge transformation for Medical Affairs. And it shows up across so many of our actions. You know, we used to be data dissemination rig, right? Where we were taking company information out into the world, and that was the purpose of Medical Affairs. And it is, you know, we’re still communicating, but across all functions, you know, across all departments in Medical Affairs across all teams, we’re learning how to listen. Right? Yeah.
Eric Peacock 11:38
And and tend to be better at it. If you’ll forgive this, then then the commercial folks, right, because because they’re curious, a lot of these folks are PhDs and MDs, and they’re just totally passionate and curious to understand these things and want to understand how to improve the real world experience. So it’s, it’s pretty exciting.
Garth Sundem 11:59
So you’re talking about, you know, to bring up the word insights, you’re really talking about? Insights from patients social networks. Yeah. Okay.
Eric Peacock 12:12
That’s right. So how do you the question after that is great, Eric, I’m supposed to fall in love with the problem. Well, how do I do that? Yeah. What we’ve done with all of our partners is we follow a pretty simple path. It’s called Lipson, LP SL, yeah, I saw that. You start by listening. So you listen. With our partners, we do surveys, and we do de identified social listening of all the conversations, and you figure out what are the problems they’re facing? A great example for the last two years was, you know, the CDC is telling me I should get a COVID vaccine? Well, do they know that I’m on an immune suppressing therapy? Yeah. And I have Crohn’s disease, or I have MS or whatever. Like, I want to hear from a specialist that was there pressing problem. Yeah. And so we solve that for them. If the L is listen, the P is the problem. The S is the solution. And we solve that for them by going out and interviewing the experts and their disease and saying, what should patients you know, on these types of drugs, be thinking about and doing it safely get this vaccine, and they answered it. And then the L, the LP s, l at the end is language, when you communicate it back, it has to be in the language they’re using, not the language that clinicians use, it has to be understood by the layman. And that those four steps seem obvious, but almost all four of them is where the hurdles come from Medical Affairs. I was just gonna ask. Yeah, yeah. Okay. Start with that first one. Yeah. Are too often Medical Affairs, people will go to the KOLs and say, what do patients experience and what do they care about, as opposed to getting the research directly from, you know, I’m talking 1000s of patients? Yeah, that’s all our published articles recently have been on that where we do this great research and surveys and that type of stuff, because it’s really meaningful and helpful.
Garth Sundem 14:10
Okay, so there’s an action item for Medical Affairs. Let me put a peg in that. So, listen, you know, listen, with empathy to patients. Okay, Wiles and HCPs. Okay, so, what are the what other action points or hurdles and recommendations would you make as we go through lips all?
Eric Peacock 14:28
Well, then as you think about the problem, your hearing your product may or may not have anything to do with it. Right? Your drug may not have anything to do with the question they’ve got, but you know this for sure. If you don’t address the problem they’ve got they’re never going to go on your drug or stay on your drugs. So it could be that a problem is I’m just too scared to go to the doctor’s office right now. Or, or the or the problem is, or the problem is You know, I’m a person with multiple sclerosis, I have erectile dysfunction, and I’m miserable and depressed about it. And but I’m not bringing that up to my doctor. Yeah. You know, so you got to identify what are the burning questions for them and the problems they’re facing? If you provide educational information on ethics, oh, gosh, these folks understand what it’s really like to have this disease. And they’re, you know, they’re getting me to go have a good conversation with my doctor who’s probably going to understand, like, in that case, oh, maybe you shouldn’t be on that first line therapy for Ms. Maybe you should be on this one instead. Right?
Garth Sundem 15:35
Cool. And I’ve heard people say, you know, list of problems is patients, they just want to sleep. They just, they just can’t, and that would be their biggest pressing, concern, pain,
Eric Peacock 15:46
pain, insomnia is a big one across a lot of conditions. And then that other part about communicating it right is, you know, bring the experts to them. This has been the biggest opportunity for Medical Affairs people is then we go interview the world’s expert on stress management in Ra, or whatever, it is cool. And we video them and we blast it out to 190,000 people with that condition. Yeah, that’s just incredible reach. And so I think those are, those are kind of the big aspects of this, and then just post launch. It’s about listening and identifying what are the hurdles, what’s what’s causing people to not get on that drug, or stay on that drug and figure out how to add that impacts your access and, you know, kind of other support services.
Garth Sundem 16:37
It’s interesting when you talk about communicating in their language, you know, you’re talking about putting experts in front of them. And it seems that a piece of that communication language is also trust and credibility. So it’s not just what we’re talking about with publications with, you know, with plain language summaries, or something, we’re talking about providing it in the language from the trusted source in the trusted community. So so they’re being communicated to in a way that that that is impactful.
Eric Peacock 17:13
Yeah. Like I think about a recent. Ask the Expert Panel video thing we had on my vitiligo team, that Lego is one of our social networks. I actually am a member of it, because I had vitiligo myself. But but some of the questions we were having were, are these treatments the same if I have dark skin versus if I have light skin? How do I think about this differently? And to be able to ask those questions in that in their words, and ask them of Dr. Rich Huggins, who’s an African American expert, and vitiligo, who works at Henry Ford, and one of the kindest, nicest men just so great with his patients like, and he just put it out there in layman’s terms and explained it. Like there’s instant credibility and honesty. And people feel like, Oh, I can’t go on and have this conversation with a doctor.
Garth Sundem 18:07
All right, well, Lipson will will link it from the, from the map site. And let’s, let’s leave it there for today. I feel like Clipsal might be a condition that we would need a social network for. Yeah, really?
Eric Peacock 18:21
You know, the key thing in the article, I tried to provide three very real and recent case studies, right, there’s Oh, cool. Let’s go there. Yeah, there’s two with AD V. One we did in rheumatoid arthritis and the other end psoriasis. And there’s one with UCB that we did in hydrogenated super Teva. Okay. And, you know, you can go read these, but just to give you a sense, yeah, one, one of the issues in rheumatoid arthritis is people feeling like, I don’t want to even go out of my house, I don’t want to, you know, I don’t want to try new things, and it kind of ends turns into this vicious spiral of things, where you stop seeing friends, you know, depression mounts, weight gain happens, you’re feeling worse. And we did this thing called an RA challenge 14 days to feeling better with RA. And, you know, it was pretty simply kind of sign up for it. And we regularly hit, you know, with the messaging over the 14 days, about new things that you can try, like eating habits, movement and exercise that you might not have tried before stress management that you can deal with going out and things you can try. And we were, you know, it was all medically approved. But we were really surprised by the huge response it got. So 88% of the people who looked at these articles said like this was really helpful and I’m going to try something different. Yeah, cool. And that, you know, that really helps. You can’t have good outcomes with a drug. If you’re depressed, not going out not exercising, not eating well. So that’s that was an important one that that really struck a chord.
Garth Sundem 20:07
Well, right. And for Medical Affairs professionals, I don’t think you can have good good compliance. People aren’t gonna stay on treatment. If if
Eric Peacock 20:15
it’s awful. That’s right. And I think this common theme in Medical Affairs, a bunch of your listeners, no matter what condition they, they treat, they know this is going on with their, their patients. It’s, we call it the upstairs and the downstairs. Sure you have symptoms from your disease, but the up there’s or the mood memory, depression, anxiety, that sort of thing. Those are also issues that are comorbid with this condition, and regularly not treated. And then the down, there’s our erectile dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, bowel bladder issues, that people are just embarrassed to bring up with their doctor.
Garth Sundem 20:57
And so they don’t bring it up. So when we just talked to the HCPs, we don’t hear about it. And that’s right, with patients off treatment, and we end up with worse outcomes. And that that, you know, that is such an important point, like here’s how to link Medical Affairs actions directly to patient outcomes.
Eric Peacock 21:14
That’s right. That’s right
Garth Sundem 21:17
All right, cool. Well, hey, I’ll link the article, everyone who’s listening, go find it. And take a read, you can get a little more in depth in depth on some of these case studies. And Eric, thank you for joining us today. To learn more about how your organization can partner with MyHealthTeam, visit MyHealthTeam.com. MAPS members, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast. And we hope you enjoyed this episode of the MAPS podcast series: “Elevate”
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© 2023 Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS). All Rights Reserved Worldwide.