Insights Into the “Why” Behind Patients’ Treatment Decisions

Pharmaceutical companies often put a tremendous amount of effort into connecting with prominent oncologists. These key stakeholders can indeed offer a wealth of information. Oncologists, in particular, can provide pharmaceutical companies with valuable insights into what factors guide their treatment decisions.

However, many clinicians are now withdrawing from these discussions. Heavy caseloads and tight schedules have prompted numerous oncologists to focus solely on their practice, skipping large conferences or marketing meetings. This shift can make it difficult for pharmaceutical companies to get insight into the factors that drive treatment decisions.

Yet clinicians aren’t the only decision-makers during the treatment process. Patients also play an increasingly important role. Their needs, preferences, and concerns often guide their oncologists’ decisions. Well-informed patients can help guide their clinicians toward new treatments and more comprehensive care. However, gaps in the patients’ understanding can interfere with effective cancer care.

To bridge these gaps, pharmaceutical companies must take steps to gather information about patients’ experiences during treatment. Focusing exclusively on decisions made by physicians allows valuable data to slip through the cracks. Pharmaceutical companies who dig deep into patients’ data can quickly identify the psychological factors that guide patients’ treatment decisions.

These factors are many and varied, but often include:

Likelihood of Treatment Success
Cancer patients are often anxious to achieve a “successful” treatment. However, the definition of “success” may be mutable. Even among researchers, benchmarks for success can vary. Among patients, parameters for success are often highly individualized.

Some patients plan to settle for nothing less than full remission. Others may be satisfied with adding a few more years to their lifespan. Here, too, demographics play a crucial role. Younger patients may be willing to try promising new experimental treatments, while older patients may prefer to stick with tried-and-true strategies. Extending longevity can also be a particular concern for younger patients, especially those with growing families.

Throughout the treatment process, oncologists speak with their patients about their long-term goals. Together, the doctor and patient decide on a treatment that seems likely to meet these goals. Pharmaceutical companies are wise to take these goals into account as they share information about new treatments or recent clinical trials.

Likelihood of Side Effects
Cancer treatment can save lives, but most treatments come with significant side effects. Clinicians have long been aware that different demographics tend to have varying physical responses to treatment. Psychological responses can vary, too.

Some patients may be willing to endure aggressive treatments and grueling side effects, as long as the treatment offers a chance at a cure. However, other patients may prefer treatments less likely to cause pain, fatigue, or other unpleasant side effects.

Newly diagnosed patients may not realize that cancer treatments have advanced dramatically in the last few decades. These patients may have watched a parent battle cancer 20 years ago and witnessed the harsh side effects of treatment. Pharmaceutical companies can address these fears by ensuring that patients are aware of the medical advances made in recent years.

Ability to Work or Stay Active
For many people fighting cancer, keeping active is a priority. Patients may shun treatments that could keep them off their feet for weeks or months at a time. Once again, patients may be basing their decision on outdated data or unfounded fears about cancer treatment.

As they confer with their oncologists, patients often ask whether they will be able to work while receiving care. Active athletes may also want to understand how different treatments may affect their performance. Pharmaceutical companies can play a role in these treatment decisions by understanding which demographics are most concerned about staying active. They can then reach out to oncologists who serve these populations, and provide relevant data.

Tried-and-True vs Cutting-Edge
Often, patients choosing their cancer treatment are split into 2 camps. One group may be eager to try the latest cancer treatments. These patients may see significant benefits in selecting the most advanced cancer-fighting techniques. Other patients, though, may prefer to stick with familiar treatments like chemo or surgery. These patients may fear that newer treatments haven’t been thoroughly tested or that these drugs carry certain health risks.

Pharmaceutical companies can work to address patient anxiety and to correct misinformation. Demographics play a key role in this part of the decision-making process: age, gender, race, and religious background can all affect patients’ level of trust in the medical industry. Different demographics also have varying priorities, fears, and personal beliefs.

Companies must take these factors into account and work to establish trust with prospective patients. Outreach efforts and patient-focused marketing help patients feel seen and heard. When patients believe their concerns are factored into the company’s decision-making, they are often more willing to explore new treatments.

Community Access via Scientific Engagement Strategies by Aptitude Health
CASES events bring together physicians and key thought leaders in the field of oncology or hematology. During the events, peers and experts connect, share, and discuss the latest information, and review factors that influence current treatment approaches.

The conclusions from these meeting discussions are summarized in CASES reports. Pharmaceutical companies can gain critical insights through this intelligence. With CASES, your company can better understand the factors that drive treatment decisions. You can analyze treatment patterns and gaps in patient understanding, and better comprehend the cancer care market. In addition, your company can easily spot areas where clinicians’ knowledge may be lacking, and this can guide your outreach efforts.

When physicians, patients, and pharmaceutical companies work together, everyone achieves more in the fight against cancer.