The Secret to True Patient Centricity

It’s clear that pharma companies are working to embrace patient centricity and figure out where it best fits into their organizations. How this concept will be integrated into the structure of a company remains to be seen.

For the past couple of years, patient centricity has been a major buzzword in pharma. And these companies need to make a concentrated effort to ensure its new approach was more than just lip service. Sometimes the term is “patient-focused” or “patient-centered.” But because it is being used in so many different areas, the term “patient centric” has become a broad, almost catch-all term. Does it mean longer doctor visits, personalized gene therapy, big data collection and analysis, interactive electronic health records, new clinical trial designs?

It’s clear that pharmaceutical companies are working to embrace patient centricity and figure out where it fits into their organization. Many pharma companies have actually changed its structure, creating the role of Chief Patient Officer. Responsibilities of the CPO include elevating the perspective of the patient and finding better ways to incorporate the unique priorities and needs of patients and caregivers. So what can the biopharmaceutical industry draw from this spectrum of patient centricity concepts? What are the core principles?

  • Regular Contact – Relationships are not built in a day; they require long-term contact and trust built over time. There is no time limit on patient centricity. Industries must deeply invest in health consumers, meet them where they are, provide the information they need for adherence and progress and ensure an exchange that feels authentic.

  • Patient Perspective – Research has shown that we learn from stories that our brains are actually hardwired to remember. To be truly patient-centric, we need to emphasize the experience of patients, individually and collectively, not just the numbers they represent.

  • Open Innovation – This approach requires listening to patient’s needs and wants and solving the problems they present in the best ways possible for them.

Where can we look for inspiration to apply these concepts? In the consumer space, we see great examples of patient centricity’s close cousin, consumer centricity. Working with the principles outlined above, innovators have created new markets, launched successful products and programs, built brand loyalty and increased consumer engagement, all based on what their consumers want and need. Anyone who has ever needed a cab but had no cash or desire to stand in the pouring rain trying to flag one down knows why Uber is growing at such an explosive rate.

So integrating patient centricity is really about listening to the experiences of customers and internalizing them throughout the organization to create better products and services, better engagement and adherence, and relationships that last. We undertake these efforts to improve the lives of our customers and the health of our businesses. While pharma has progressed substantially in its efforts to become patient-centric over the past years, the industry hasn’t yet reached the tipping point – where it becomes a growth platform. Being patient-focused should not be limited to specific initiatives or programs for patients; it’s a way of thinking, believing and acting.

When patient centricity is seen narrowly as a cost of doing business, it will not be prioritized, measured and cascaded throughout the organization. Patient-centric growth will require companies to take a significantly big leap, which involves holding employees responsible for delivering on patient outcomes. Pharma needs to get into the business of exceeding customer's expectations. While pharma is saving and improving lives, we still have not been empowering our people with this sense of purpose.

While pharma is creating a patient-focused culture, a key ingredient is teaching their people how to find the sweet spot’ - the place where everyone wins; patients, HCPs, healthcare systems and their organizations. Unfortunately, most employees do not know how to find the sweet spot or are conflicted between what management is saying from a corporate philosophy perspective and what they are being measured on. The key challenge for leadership is to train people on how to achieve the right balance of value or hire people with a talent for it. Moving forward, pharma needs to gain back our trustworthiness by authentically being patient-focused in everything we do. While there is no single bullet to address patient centricity, there needs to be steps to help companies reach their goals.

Conquering diseases requires pharma companies to first regain the trust of industry partners and redouble their efforts at building new and meaningful partnerships. All of this is points toward a future in which the focus is truly on patient centricity, empowering patients and improving their outcomes. The bottom line is to know that in order to customize patient services and solutions, deep insights must be developed. It is not just one survey, one session or one focus group. It’s an organizational commitment to gain patient insights over time and over a variety of different patient groups.

Jeff Parke Research Project Coordinator, Site Management and Therapeutic Delivery Unit, QuintilesIMS