Better Insights Management: Q&A with Lance Hill, CEO of Within 3

Pharmaceutical Executive interviewed Lance Hill, CEO of Within 3, about crucial insights - garnering insights from the right channels to make vital decisions.

Within3 provides an innovative solution that helps life sciences companies around the world make faster, more informed decisions. Their focus is on improving the efficiency of insight-gathering throughout the product development process and across every channel – for pharmaceutical and medical device organizations.

Pharm Exec: What is the insights gap, and how does it hold pharma back?

Lance Hill: For life science companies, an insight is a key market signal that allows them to better understand their disease community - including the health care professionals and the patients they serve. Insights can be gained from a wide range of sources, whether it be a payer, patient, or healthcare professional.

Without insights, and more importantly, the wider context around those insights, pharma companies are flying blind with their business strategy. With them, they can build KOL and patient relationships, identify new opportunities and crucially, accelerate product development.

COVID-19 increased pressure on drug development and clinical trial execution in two ways: by creating an urgent need for new medicines and pausing or slowing down other research. Against the backdrop of historic difficulty in taking drugs to market in a complex post-COVID landscape, life science organizations need the right insights to make the right decisions.

What are the major insight problems when selecting KOLs?

Finding the right experts can take time, money and energy that already stretched teams can more effectively apply to other work. But as people who work in clinical development, medical affairs, and marketing will tell you, who you speak to is critically important to the outcome of a project.

In the drug development process, this really is the foundation. If any corners are cut, the whole process can slow down as a result. So what corners are we talking about?

Due to time pressures and the sensitivity around preserving important relationships, the industry operates on an ‘old is gold’ rule. So, for example, KOLs who already have good relationships with Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) get prioritised. The problem here is that engaging the same KOLs repeatedly can limit the insights gathered.

Sometimes, up-and-coming HCPs might be the answer, or there might be people who are exploring previously untapped areas. Maybe it’s a nurse who is on the front line of patient treatment, or a researcher with a hugely influential following on their social channels. We’re trying to get companies to think with an insights-first approach so they’re not always relying on information that might be outdated, not relevant, or also in the hands of their competitors.

What stages of the drug development process are most impacted by the insights gap?

The insights gap can happen throughout the development process. Life science organizations are facing a situation where they are getting insights from multiple channels – from the broader disease community, as well as from KOLs. So, everything from using social listening to monitor online conversations to one-to-one discussions between an HCP and an MSL can yield insights. When this is multiplied across lines of business or different regions, it can become a huge volume of data very quickly.

We’ve discussed the importance of expert selection. But even if you’re speaking to the right people, the challenge becomes making sense of all these information streams. And once insights have been gathered, the difficulty can be translating them into actions. A 100-page transcript from an over-time session contains a lot of data, but how does that translate into business value? How does it keep work moving along the continuum, and how does it roll up to a strategic goal?

For example, our platform uses AI-powered natural language processing that surfaces prevailing sentiment from asynchronous sessions, and lets teams see the impact of expert insight over time. It’s a significant difference from the more fragmented process teams may be used to, but can save a lot of time by getting the best out of the work they’ve already put in.

We’ve found that helping teams approach insights management as one tech-enabled process rather than many different, distinct, disorganized processes helps them get much more value from their insight-gathering and be more equipped to make better decisions.

What impact can insights management have on increasing diversity and inclusion in pharma?

Better insights management can change everything - from the KOLs you engage, and the patients you recruit, to your understanding of a disease community. How diverse is the experience of the KOLs you talk to? Are you only engaging physicians, or would you also benefit from talking to nurses or researchers? Do you only engage with patients from one region of the world, or could you learn more by going global? What could you learn from knowing what patient advocates are saying? And are you limiting your knowledge by relying on engaging people in one specific type of venue?

Insights management helps life science organizations have more confidence in the picture they’re getting – of a disease, a therapy, the patient experience. They can tap into expertise that wasn’t previously available to them.

When it comes to gathering insights, asynchronous discussions tend to increase diversity because they lower the barriers to engagement. For instance, patients have a variety of reasons why they might not participate in a live virtual or in-person meeting. Work, school, family commitments, or health reasons are all barriers to participation. But being given the opportunity to contribute on their own schedule, from their own home, when they’re feeling up to it, means more patients can share their perspectives. And that’s very valuable to most pharmaceutical organizations.

The same goes for doctors and other HCPs – we know that when people can take time to focus and do deep work, they provide both a higher volume and higher quality of insights, which enables life science teams to make better business decisions.

What is the biggest challenge for pharma companies in solving the insights gap?

Like many problems in the life science space, companies are facing a multitude of factors, from industry-wide challenges like accelerated timelines and cost pressures to more mundane things like outdated systems, communication issues, and work silos. These are areas where the insights gap can thrive.

What encourages life science organizations to view insights management as a single issue, and one that’s best handled by a single solution? Not only does this build in more efficiency and save more time, but it makes them better at their jobs by allowing a higher degree of precision and more currency in terms of new, relevant data. And better insights management results in the ability to be more strategic and get more value from the insights they’d collect anyway.