Successful campaigns are underpinned by a deep understanding of customer needs. This customer insight is a key component of all great marketing ideas; without it, a campaign may struggle to achieve the desired level of engagement or conversion.

In the pharma world, insights can be drawn from various places, but those drawn from patient data are arguably the most powerful. 

As well as giving pharma brands valuable insight into their disease area, patient data can ensure that drugs are administered correctly, in turn reducing the cost burden on national health services.

Moreover, brands that are seen to put patients first – by taking account of their preferences, behaviours and treatment experiences – naturally tend to enjoy a stronger reputation.

As such, closer engagement with patients can deliver insights that lead to more effective treatments, better health outcomes and more impactful marketing. But how can pharma brands go about attaining these insights? 

Effective patient insight strategies 

There are various ways that pharma companies can uncover valuable insights on the dynamics and demographics of their disease area. 

These range from traditional methods of market research such as focus groups and in-depth interviews with HCPs, patients and carers, through to identifying and engaging with scientists, academics and other key opinion leaders (KOLs). 

Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) also provide insightful data on all hospital admissions in England, from clinical information on operations and diagnoses to patient data such as group, gender and ethnicity. 

Some of this data can be quite complex, but with the help of analytics solutions such as Meditrends, NHS or pharmaceutical professionals can better understand and leverage the data for the benefit of patients. 

The Information Services Division (ISD) and Patient Episode Database for Wales (PEDW) provide equivalent data on patients residing in Scotland and Wales respectively. 

Building a strategy 

Once a pharma company has analysed the data at its disposal, it can be used to inform campaign strategy. This strategy is essentially an articulation of the insights uncovered by the data. Rather than hypothesising that the strategy will work ‘because it should do’, the insights provide a base for success. 

The key to interpreting data is understanding which data represents meaningful insights, while ignoring misleading facts and figures. Just because the data says one thing on paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s written in stone. Further interrogation will draw out the real meaning behind the data, which brands can then use to shape a campaign. 

Provided all stakeholders understand the rationale and data behind a strategy, a brand can be confident in its execution. 

Measuring the impact 

The importance of data and insights doesn’t stop upon campaign execution. Any diligent marketer will keep a close eye on the metrics, analysing how patient insights are impacting campaign performance and whether a company’s therapy is changing patient behaviour. 

Equipped with this data, pharma companies can continuously review, tweak, and ultimately improve their marketing campaigns. As new patient insights emerge, the messaging may become redundant, thus losing its resonance with the target audience.

By embracing the notion of ‘continuous marketing improvement’ – inspired by the Japanese term “kaizen” (change for the better) – pharma brands can become better at anticipating and meeting the needs of patients, thus leading to better health outcomes. 

At Dice, our specialist team has the expertise and experience to uncover patient insights from HES and other data sources. Please get in touch for more information on Meditrends and our Pharmacohesion® approach.  


Patient data from hospitals is incredibly valuable to the NHS and other healthcare providers, not to mention pharmaceutical brands.

In the UK, Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data provides some of the most compelling data and can be used for a variety of purposes, but principally to improve health outcomes. 

How is HES data collected?

NHS Digital collects the HES data, which is a record of all hospital activity in England – comprising inpatient, outpatient and A&E data. HES data records approximately 16 million episodes of care each year.

The HES database ensures commissioners, analysts, clinicians and NHS staff have access to patient-specific data, helping them improve the quality and efficiency of patient care. The data is also used for statistical analysis and making sure providers are accurately reimbursed for the care they have provided. 

Because HES records every ‘episode’ of patient care, it can help identify when a patient has had more than one episode of care during a single stay in hospital, as well as which consultant/specialism has provided this care. It also captures information relating to co-morbidities, length of stay and any procedures a patient has undergone whilst admitted, as well as any treatment provided by a private provider under contract, outpatient or emergency care encounters.  

How does the NHS ensure the quality of data? 

Data quality and accuracy is crucial, especially when it comes to healthcare. As NHS England states in its data quality guidance:

“High quality information leads to improved decision making, which in turn results in better patient care, wellbeing and safety. There are potentially serious consequences if information is not correct, secure and up to date.”

NHS Digital uses six key characteristics to measure the quality of healthcare data:

1. Coverage – has data been received from all expected data suppliers?

2. Completeness – does the data include all the expected values?

3. Validity – does the data collected satisfy the standards and business rules governing the permitted formats and values for each individual field in a dataset?

4. Default – to what extent have the default values specified in applicable standards and business been used in the data collected?

5. Integrity – does the data satisfy the set of business rules that govern the relationships between fields, records and data assets?

6. Timeliness – this reports the time between data recording and delivery of the product using the data. It must be reported at the supply, processing and product delivery stage. 


New standards of data quality

In October 2018, the Department of Health & Social Care published its Vision for Technology, which laid out plans to ensure:

  • Truly joined-up health and care, designed around the needs of patients and their care networks, where we integrate physical and digital services, and achieve better, safer, more targeted care
  • A safe and secure data infrastructure that protects the health and care system and patients
  • Local organisations are able to make the right technology choices for their own area, while also maintaining high quality systems than can communicate across the entire NHS

Central to this vision was a new framework setting out the core standards on technology and data by which all IT systems and digital services in the NHS must abide.

The aim is to create a joined-up system which provides safe, efficient and cost-effective infrastructures that connect all aspects of patient care, thus delivering better outcomes for patients and the NHS. 

However, with cost pressures making it harder for the NHS to access and analyse its own data, there is also an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to interrogate this data on behalf of the NHS via platforms such as Meditrends, and share it with NHS treatment providers and other HCPs. 

The opportunities within NHS data 

HES data is collected primarily for Payment by Results (PbR), but the wealth of diagnostic and outcomes information captured provides powerful support for NHS commissioners and planners, helping them to commission and plan new services and resources. 

NHS organisations are unable to make significant improvements to their services without a detailed knowledge and understanding of how they are currently performing, and where problems and inefficiencies exist. Solutions such as Meditrends provide these insights, enabling organisations to benchmark their services against other parts of the NHS.  

HES data provides insights on everything from disease burden and health outcomes to the geographic distribution and characteristics of patients. In turn, this can help HCPs understand patient pathways, the impact of certain treatments, and how different diseases affect patients within different cohorts.

Introducing Meditrends 

Here at Dice, we have partnered with Meditrends, an online real-world data business intelligence platform that provides HES data in a suite of easy-to-interpret therapy area reports, as well as access to ICD10 and OPCS clinical browsers for all disease areas and procedures. Meditrends also contains mortality data from the ONS database, and this is linked to the HES data.

Where there is a benefit to health outcomes, these data insights can be used by NHS stakeholders, including pharma and device companies, to engage with NHS bodies and inform cases for change in relation to a specific disease area, patient pathway or health outcome, and especially in these times, to help the NHS save money.

Please contact Sarah Brooks if you are interested in finding out more about Meditrends, or to arrange a demo. 

The concept of the ‘Big Idea’ isn’t a new one, but it still holds as much weight now as it did when first used by the likes of David Ogilvy and George Lois. 

To quote Ogilvy;

“It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”

While some may argue that the ‘idea’ is less important in an age where consumers are exposed to innumerable forms of media, there’s a stronger argument that says the advent of digital makes the ‘idea’ more important than ever.

Idea first, execution second

It can be easy for a brand – whether in pharmaceuticals or any industry – to jump at the opportunity to harness cutting-edge technology such as virtual reality (VR), in an effort to enhance its marketing. 

Similarly, an agency that offers multiple services yet specialises in one discipline – for example, social media or email marketing – may naturally veer towards its ‘comfort zone’ when devising a strategy for clients. 

However, discussing tactics before nailing an overarching campaign message or ‘idea’ is the definition of a back-to-front approach. 

Yes, VR is really cool, but unless you have a great idea that VR can help bring to life, it will be a significant waste of marketing spend. The worst thing you could do is put out something average that doesn’t land with your audience. 

You’ll immediately be on the backfoot, which is not where you want to be in an age when first impressions are everything.

The DNA of a good idea

At its core, a good idea is one that resonates with the end user, builds a brand and solves the problem that it was created to solve. 

It’s the overarching message that all elements of a campaign should hang off, and should be easily communicated across multiple channels. In essence, it’s the glue that holds a campaign together – without it, the whole thing falls apart. 

The success of an idea relies on investment from all stakeholders – the brand, the agency and, of course, the customer. As such, alignment on campaign objectives and target audience is essential before the ideation process can begin. 

In the name of keeping things simple, a successful idea tends to comprise three key elements. 

Impactful insight

A compelling insight is one that uncovers an unequivocal truth for the customer, or a problem that needs solving. In the pharma world, insights could be anything from a challenge faced by patients with a certain condition, to new data that demonstrates a change in the therapeutic sentiment. 

It can take extensive research to find an insight that resonates with customers – HCPs or patients – but the investment of time will be worth it for the sake of a successful campaign. 

Brand Connection

An insight is only powerful if a brand can offer a genuine solution to the problem it uncovered. Provided the initial research took account of a brand’s industry, positioning and target audience, there should be a clear correlation between its product and the insight. 

Clear Articulation

The final test of an idea’s strength is whether the insight and brand connection can be distilled clearly and succinctly into a single page – or preferably a sentence. Consider the initial strapline for the iPod: “Say hello to iPod. 1,000 songs in your pocket”. This later evolved into “60 million songs. On your wrist” for an Apple Watch campaign. 

In less than ten words, Apple communicated how it helps people access their music library while on the move. It was also a message that could be successfully executed across all channels, both online and offline. 

Helping you find your idea

At Dice, we always like to remind our clients that how they talk about their brand is just as important as where they talk about it.

Our Pharmacohesion® process is the epitome of an ‘idea-first’ approach to marketing. We don’t even consider execution until we have taken a deep dive into the data, allowing us to build an understanding of the disease area and how your treatment can improve lives. 

Armed with these insights, we will develop the idea that sits at the heart of your overarching differentiation strategy, and which can be executed across the appropriate channels. This helps us convey your brand in a meaningful way, ensuring it resonates with the right people. 

To discuss how we can find your ‘idea’ and execute it across a multi-channel communications strategy, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team.