Second Opinion - 2023: What Should We Be Prepared For?

2023-02-03 |  Shrinivas Anikhindi

Second Opinion in 2023!

Hello and welcome back to Second Opinion, where we’re embracing the trend of new year, new us.

We covered some incredibly exciting topics last year, from the cutting edge, with innovative pricing and decentralised clinical trials, to the fundamentals, with transformation principles and partnerships.

The trends that dominated last year around the cost of care, availability of data, and the influence of patients are only strengthening, and we are seeing organisations continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of healthcare and patients.

Against this backdrop, we at Second Opinion are sticking to our mission statement of staying relevant. Relevant to the industry, relevant to the challenges you are facing, and relevant to our expertise. In this vein, we’re kicking off 2023 with a bang, by spotlighting our experts to inform you on exactly what you should be preparing for within your organisation this year.

Through our work within the Life Sciences industry, we have spotted a range of opportunities for pharma to step up and improve their relevancy to the healthcare industry. The most competitive of organisations are already beginning to invest in many of these but in two areas most of all: Patients as Individuals, and Data Availability.

Sitting at opposite ends of the human-digital spectrum, both areas will be incredibly influential on the success of pharma companies, touching every part of the value chain from R&D to Sales.

On the one hand, we have the increase in patient choice and the need for the industry to provide them greater value. This vital movement is inspiring crucial value drivers such as patient support programmes, which help patients manage the emotional and social consequences of diseases like cancer or diabetes as well as morally imperative strategies around health equity, which is about helping patients from all backgrounds access equal quality of healthcare.

Meanwhile on the other hand we have the explosion of data which is allowing pharma companies to learn more about their customers and their patients. This in turn is reducing unnecessary costs through calculation and automation and further improving the value delivered to healthcare systems, an all-around win.

In the centre of this spectrum, there is a complex challenge to manage competing priorities as emotions meet facts. An increasing understanding that patients’ overall quality of life is as important as clinical outcomes must align with the efficiency improvements offered by automation. In this issue, you’ll hear from our experts how they actually complement each other, how the key to success in patient support is data, and how the smartest approach to data is a human-centred one.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in, and hear from the experts about what should be top of your 2023 wish list. Remember, if you want to listen to this instead you can find us on Spotify, Apple and Soundcloud.


First, let’s look at the human side of the equation. Executives, thought leaders, and even out-of-industry commentators have been talking about the growing agency of patients for years. Recently however, a more important trend emerged – the individuality of patients.

What does this mean? Well as much as patients are becoming more powerful, their needs are also becoming more distinct, and understanding the manifold nuances that make up a single patient has become more important than being able to group patients into boxes.

On this topic, I sat down with Jalilah Gibson, an Associate Partner at PEN. Jalilah has spent the bulk of her career working in the pharma space seeking to find new ways to meet the complex needs of patients and customers alike, particularly through the use of new channels, technologies, and strategies. Working on a full range from digital health strategies to brass-tacks implementation across global markets, Jalilah has seen it all for different therapies and approaches to solving the question of the decade: How do we put patients and customers at the centre of our business? 

SHRINIVAS: So, Jalilah, let’s start at the beginning. Why is it so important that we look at patients as individuals? 

JALILAH: I’ve always wondered why we don’t look at patients as individuals. I understand that it’s easier to think about patients in terms of their therapy area or disease, but increasingly we see patients taking ownership of their disease and wanting to be seen as individuals. When we start asking ourselves if we really understand the patient, we can find new and different ways to support them that can differentiate us from the rest. 

 SHRINIVAS: What do we see as the advantages that this will make on our business? 

JALILAH: This is an important question. There are two things; firstly, when we start thinking about individual patients and how we can better serve them, it opens avenues of innovation, which then give us an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Secondly, this provides us with data to confirm how we can better support, how we can further support, and how we can differentiate our offering to add value. 

 SHRINIVAS: When we look at patients from a more human angle, how do we notice pharma acting differently on the ground level? 

JALILAH: I’ve seen some great examples relating to how pharma can start to differentiate its value streams and communication by thinking about patient diversity and choice. We have seen evidence of companies thinking this way by asking for support in areas such as clinical trial diversity and improved PSP design so that they can support different types of patients, activities for which we can also start to measure the value. 

 SHRINIVAS: Do you think that only teams and patient services in non-commercial teams should be looking at this? Or does this affect far more of the business? 

JALILAH: Really interesting question – ultimately, it will need to get to the rest of the organisation. What drives me, and quite a few people in pharma, is the desire to be more patient-centric. This means that every part of the business needs to be really clear on the patient experience and their role in making their experiences smoother and easier. Equally, we need to start asking ourselves how much value we are adding. 

 SHRINIVAS: What are the brass tacks of patient engagement and what should pharma be doing in terms of operations? 

JALILAH: How much time do we have? First of all, we need to really understand the patient by having honest conversations with them. We need to think about the policies and SOPs in place, and try to reimagine them so that we can really engage with patients without filters. The second one is being really clear about the data we are collecting, its purpose, and how freely it’s available back to the patient. It’s never owned by pharma, it’s owned by the patient. We, therefore, really need to think about the consent language and where it is stored, which is also increasing trust. Thirdly, we need to harness digital when it matters. By saying “when it matters”, I mean that there are elements of digital that make it easier for us to deliver messages to different types of patients in a really simple and effective way. It’s not “digital for the sake of digital”, it’s digital where it makes it easier. 

Pharma companies often want to simplify their operations because it’s easier for them. But actually, the opposite is true. We need to hyper-segment to better personalise and this is where the enhancement of digital and AI will help us. We have to get started and allow for some flexibility based on the reactions of people you are trying to interact with. 

 SHRINIVAS: Are there any pitfalls or challenges you can warn us about? 

JALILAH: When I’ve faced challenges trying to progress internally, having a clear vision and mission based upon the patient and communicating it widely has been very helpful. This way, you’ll find that people will help you face the barrier rather than put more barriers in your place. 

 SHRINIVAS: Is there anything you’re really excited about or want to see more about in 2023 when it comes to patient focus? 

JALILAH: I want to see pharma asking more questions around understanding what the patient really wants and then activities to drive that understanding. Currently, we make assumptions based on the patient’s treatment or disease, but patients tend not to want to be segmented by their disease or treatment. 

I love this idea of how instead of discussing the end of segmentation we instead move towards hyper-segmentation – allowing us to view patients as nuanced individuals while still benefitting from the scale efficiencies offered by digital and data.

It’s a perfect segue into our next topic, which is around exactly that, how to build data literacy into your organisation at a time of data inundation; but remembering to keep thinking about the human element. Our industry is, despite all the complexity, ultimately at its centre a human-centric one – and being able to tie value to this is crucial – value for patients and healthcare of course, but also value for us.

In 2023 we expect to see an advancement on the patient-centric shifts of the last couple of years, moving from simply patient-centric thinking, to actually informing and driving decision-making with patient data. 


‘The Data Explosion’ sounds incredibly grandiose, but I can think of no better way to describe the proliferation of data as a resource we have seen throughout the pharma value chain in the last few years.

As an industry, we are, of course, intimately acquainted with data and its importance within Clinical Research, but recent evolutions have brought data into customer engagement, treatment delivery, and even internal operations.

The ability to use data to hone operations and improve the service delivered to both physicians and patients will be invaluable in the coming year, and it’s vital that pharma companies are appropriately equipped to leverage it. We’re not talking about how to collect, store, and govern data – that’s the lake. We’re more concerned with how to incorporate data into decision-making and strategic processes – building the aqueducts.

I can think of no better person to speak to this than Nick Reynolds, an Associate Partner at PEN who specialises in everything Data & Analytics – from a 19-year career at Pfizer within Strategy & Analytics, to now serving as an expert adviser supporting companies to look at data with an end-to-end angle: what are you collecting, how, and why? 

SHRINIVAS: Why is this explosion in data availability so exciting for pharma? 

NICK: It’s not just about the explosion in data availability, but also our ability to do something with it. If data is the new oil, we need a new engine to benefit from the oil as well. Data might be the new oil, but with the scale we’re talking about, companies must have a plan for using data efficiently and effectively otherwise they will not be able to harness it. 

The data exists and the tech exists, so the explosion is only about the human factor that will enable companies to have an impact through better understanding of diseases, of us as people and what we do every day. It’s about the impact on our health, of treatment decisions, of patient outcomes, of the customer experience, of engaging with pharma companies and, what we do that helps or doesn’t help. The data can tell us a huge amount about all of this. But only if we are forewarned and forearmed to be asking the right questions and using the right data to generate those insights. 

SHRINIVAS: Have you noticed pharma companies starting to recognise and take action about the complexity of using data to make decisions? 

NICK: Totally, I think it’s a key part of what we need to do going forward. There was a huge hiatus in face-to-face interactions with HCPs during lockdown but at the same time, a 500% increase globally in remote engagements. Remote engagement creates data we never used to have when our CRMs were just collecting data about when representatives meet a physician. Now that the data and tech are set up right, we can know not just what a customer has clicked on in an email, but what content they viewed on a website, how long for, what they reviewed, whether they went on a third-party site, what email was sent to them afterwards, what webinar they attended, when the representative or account manager comes in, and what content was shared. 

SHRINIVAS: What do you think that the people in these positions will be focusing on and thinking about over the next year to address this challenge? 

NICK: I’d like to think that there are 2 pieces. The first piece is adaptive planning, starting to think about decision-making in different ways. Rather than being in a situation where you have all the data and you have a fire drill, so you have to respond with the data that’s in front of you, it’s about making decisions when you have time, so you can be objective, and then using the data to enable you to take the decision at the right time. 

On the other hand, it’s really important to make sure that data is integrated in ways that allow that to happen. We’ve seen some companies that have been doing it for years with master data management and really bringing things together in a way that has a profound impact and understanding of customers. Yet, if you don’t know which customer was doing what and where and you can’t link it all back together, then you haven’t got a journey, you just have a bunch of data across a bunch of channels. By getting those customer masters in place, you can follow the customer journey. That connection is where the real power of data comes from. 

SHRINIVAS: Are there any pitfalls that you think organisations may fall into? 

NICK: People need to really spend the time to stop and think about the question they really need to answer, what they need to learn, and then generate the measurement from the back of it. You need to have the right data to answer the right questions. If that data doesn’t exist, create that data, instead of falling back on old-school metrics. 

Furthermore, we must be wary that with more data, comes more complexity. In fact, a Gartner survey of senior executives earlier this year stated that 65% of respondents felt decisions were more complex than they were 2 years ago. More data improperly used is more noise, more things to review, and more work. But if you start with the end in mind and consider the required data and information to make the decisions and identify the best choices, your decision-making can become more consistent. 

SHRINIVAS: What is the first piece of advice you give when approaching a subject that feels far larger than we are ready to think about? 

NICK: Pause – and just think about it. Spending the time to understand the data you have, and its use is critical. Even before the pause, cataloguing the data, its use case, and other potential use cases, alongside the key business questions or strategic dilemmas that the company will be monitoring for and making sure what you build enables that to happen, will set you up for a much higher chance for success. 

As we’ve seen across a range of industries, not just ours, data is a new currency that is the baseline for a cornucopia of change. Given the scale of it, how do we get specific and tangible when there’s so much that we can consider?

As Nick has just captured, it comes down to thinking about infrastructure, not the data itself. With the advent of online banking, the volume of money being handled was irrelevant, it was innovation in payments systems that changed the way we handled money across the globe.

Similarly with data, it’s important to not be paralysed by the weight of data that needs to be handled but instead to think about the decisions that need to be made, by when, and with whom. In short, look at governance, processes, and capabilities to build the aqueducts, then the water will flow. 


In the last couple of years, we’ve seen waves of innovation in the way patients are served, in the way we are paid for medicines, and even in the way we work with each other day to day.

I believe wholeheartedly this rate of change will only continue in 2023, as new technologies emerge, and new entrants seek to play a role in the healthcare environment.

Pharma organisations will need to evolve to continue to be seen as critical components in the delivery of care, raising the bar for the quality of health outcomes they deliver, and finding new ways to support healthcare systems with growing and diversifying patient populations.

From the human to the digital, everything is up for grabs when it comes to transformation, so don’t run the risk of being caught flat-footed about change that excites you. Whether it’s something you’ve heard today or one of the many other trends we have covered here at Second Opinion, we’re always ready and looking forward to talking about the future of Life Sciences, and how we can help you be a part of it.

So from us to you – thank you for continuing to subscribe to our thoughts and perspectives, and we’re excited to keep pushing the peanut forward. 

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