The phrase ‘hard to reach’ feels simultaneously like a clear description of a marginalised community and an imprecise attempt at grouping millions of people. In a recent industry webinar, reaching ‘hard to reach’ patients was described as “the holy grail” and is one of the next great challenges for those working in healthcare.
So, what is ‘hard to reach’?
We will be exploring what ‘hard to reach’ means for different audiences throughout 2022. While there isn’t a set industry definition of ‘hard to reach’, some groups of people come up time and again as those who do not actively engage with the content we produce. However, ‘hard to reach’ isn’t just about the patients; the term could also be used to talk about healthcare professionals or even teams within pharmaceutical companies.
Our experience with ‘hard to reach’ groups
Over 17 years, we have, in many cases more by luck than judgement, ended up trying to understand how we engage and activate a specific ‘hard to reach’ audience, including:
- Raising awareness and understanding of symptoms in people who are potentially living with complex underdiagnosed rare diseases
- Improving engagement in symptom control in people living with common, previously considered fatal diseases
- Engagement of healthcare professionals in the differential diagnosis of diseases so rare, they may only see one case in their career
- Allowing peer-to-peer support for patients living with rare diseases who may never have spoken to someone else living with that condition
- Creating engagement across internal audiences when complex and challenging business decisions need to be made
This breadth of work has given us extensive experience in changing systems, increasing engagement, and ultimately changing people's lives who were previously unengaged in a specific problem. But we know the problem is much bigger than this.
Whatever we want to call it or however we want to categorise these groups is not that important. Fundamentally, engaging ‘hard to reach’ audiences is about equity. Be that in diagnosis time, treatment access or decision making. We are trying to ensure equity for everyone living with a specific disease or condition to live their best life.
Over the coming months, we will be discussing more on reaching, engaging, and activating specific ‘hard to reach’ audiences. We will even begin to explore some new definitions that have helped us define how to best support these groups (or those trying to reach them). For now, we’ll leave with one final thought: what is it about these groups that make them ‘hard to reach?’