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True North

True North is a Cambridge, MA based Medical Affairs consulting firm which works with emerging biotech and pharmaceutical companies, helping with AI-driven insight generation, digital biomarkers, digital health, and stakeholder planning. One of the services offered by True North is ‘Voice of the Patient’ research, which helps ensure that patient perspectives are represented in research & clinical studies.

Meltwater enables True North to:

Better understand Asian consumers

Improve their understanding of mental health in APAC

Inform new treatment development

When the consultancy was asked by a client to assist with evaluating patient insights related to diagnosis, Quality of Life measures, outcomes, and treatment management, Meltwater was used to help analyze over half a million social media posts about four different medical conditions:

  • Cardio-vascular disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Multiple Myeloma  

While these conditions have been studied heavily from a clinical perspective, patient gaps remained which could be addressed using social media.

Focusing on Korean Patient Voices

True North hypothesized that analyzing English language discussions around these topics would be ineffective since western attitudes would be inconsistent with those of Asia patients, so it was critical to use a platform that offered comprehensive Asian social data. Colin T Baughman, Managing Partner at True North explains why the platform was chosen - "Meltwater had the highest quality data, coverage of Asia-based platforms, and a solid interface to review content.  Also, all content was exportable."

The team at True North deployed its data analysis expertise to design a taxonomy that would help classify this huge volume of unstructured social media data, and to use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to review all that content. The goal of this was to understand patient views on reimbursement issues, diagnostic challenges, quality of life measures, mental health status, misunderstandings related to clinical guidelines, communication challenges, and treatment expectations.

As well as helping to improve the client’s scientific and medical strategy, the findings of the research can be shared with external advisory boards and patient advocacy organizations to inform their own work.

In this instance, Meltwater was primarily utilized as a data repository, with True North’s own team using their experience to draw insights from the analysis. All of the analysis was carried out in the Korean language, to ensure no nuances were lost in translation.  

Over 130 New Insights

True North was able to identify 135 actionable insights from the research. A key example of this was a deeper understanding of patient perspectives on the mental health challenges of chemotherapy for lung cancer. Clinical research has not focused on this aspect of chemotherapy, while the research shows that patients believe mental health issues, such as depression, contribute to worse treatment outcomes.

Researchers realized that the majority of prostate cancer patients were older men, who were less likely to use social media, so instead they were able to use Meltwater to understand the voice of their caregivers. This gave them an alternative insight into discussions around cancer care from the perspective of those looking after sufferers.

Another finding was that while clinicians are primarily focused on patient survival when administering cancer treatments, the main concern for patients is rapid progression of the illness, since that has an impact on their quality of life. A better understanding of the difference in patient and clinician priorities can help improve treatments and communications.

The study also revealed some insights on the prevalence of misinformation around the featured conditions, such as a widespread falsehood that a ketogenic diet can cure lung cancer. Armed with this kind of insight, the medical community can more effectively address misinformation and ensure patients are given facts.

Insights with Impact

The research carried out by True North will have a very real, positive impact on patient care and the development of new treatments. "Since we completed the research, the project has continued longer than expected because clinicians are keen to discuss the findings in great detail with us, to ensure it’s all being used to improve patient care as far as possible." Throughout the process, True North was supported by the Meltwater team, to ensure the platform delivered everything they needed for this important project. "Meltwater has an amazing, dynamic, and flexible approach. Of all the social partners we have worked with, Meltwater is the most innovative. The platform works well for pharma which is a difficult industry related to use of social media."