2114_Walking_the_Walk_blog_img-605907-editedThe pharmaceutical industry has been talking about patient centricity for a long time, but despite having been a topic of great interest for more than a decade, there remains a lot of uncertainty about what being a truly patient-centric organization means. What does it mean to walk the walk and, more importantly, how can organizations ensure that a focus on patient centricity not only benefits patients but also drives business success?

Walking the walk of patient centricity is a journey and requires continuing leadership commitment and ongoing investment in capabilities, infrastructure and measurement to operationalize various initiatives. Think back to the time when banking was very physical, before ATMs and online transactions. You had your passbook and had to go to a branch location to make a deposit or withdrawal. If you were traveling, you had to pick up traveler’s checks in U.S. currency and then find a bank at your destination to exchange the currency. Fast-forward 30 years, and now you can walk down the street in many countries and easily use an ATM machine. The infrastructure and analytics requirements to make this happen are huge and took time to develop.

Many industries, like banking, have committed to investing in and delivering transformed, simple and easy experiences for consumers. Pharma companies are trying to imagine how they can create this experience for patients. Several weeks ago, I presented at eyeforpharma and introduced the following four key steps that pharma organizations need to take to deliver patient-centric experiences:

1. Engage with patients. First, organizations need to have an ongoing commitment to engage with patients to deliver better experiences. This requires an enterprise-wide patient centricity vision across R&D and commercial operations with a cultural shift and strategic road map. 

We took a poll at the conference and asked the audience, “Does your organization have a written, overarching goal or vision for patient centricity?” Responses showed that 35% stated, “No, we agree it’s important, but it hasn’t been formalized” and another 39% indicated that they are just starting to operationalize that vision. It’s very apparent that most organizations haven’t fully established their enterprise-wide culture and vision around patient centricity. 

In my presentation, I reviewed the organizational models that are typical and recommended for mature patient-centric organizations. On the commercial side, we see two models that are common: a center of excellence (COE) model and a brand-led model. The COE model typically leverages a standalone team, often called the patient experience or patient centricity team, and their initiatives are focused in areas that benefit multiple brand or therapeutic area teams. The brand-led model is fully embedded in the marketing function by brand or therapeutic area, and the initiatives usually focus on the specific challenges of the brand or category. On the R&D side, we see a model typically led by teams or functions as opposed to brands. ZS often recommends the federated model, which includes some centralized governance and capability, but functions and teams are given flexibility in how they engage and use the team based on their needs. This model seeks to find a balance between centralized capabilities and functional implementation. All three models include specific roles dedicated to ensuring that patients are considered during the development and implementation of solutions.

2. Connect with patients. In order to connect with patients directly, organizations need the infrastructure and analytics capability to collect patient feedback and data from multiple sources and use that data to uncover trends, predict behavior and provide experiences that are relevant and appreciated.

When asked, “Do you have or are you developing an organizational patient-data strategy and technology required for patient analytics?”, 49% responded, “Not there yet.” This is a foundational element required for achieving true patient centricity that can’t be ignored.

Organizations need to think about an overarching patient data strategy, which may include an integrated patient database, analytics to understand what the data is telling you about patient needs and desires, and the technology platform to manage the data coming in and to drive execution of specific program elements based on analytics. Scalability and flexibility are very important.

3. Meet patients' needs. The patient experience needs to clearly deliver value to both patients and to the business. One of the key reasons that some patient centricity initiatives don’t succeed is that while they drive value for the patient, the linkage to brand or organizational KPIs and metrics is unclear. Having organizational KPIs connected to patient-focused initiatives is key to ensuring ongoing commitment.

When asked, “Are your organization’s KPIs connected to patient experience or outcomes?”, 47% responded, “We’re not there yet.” In my presentation, I used AbbVie as a great example of an organization that clearly linked its investment in Humira’s patient support program to business impact. AbbVie demonstrated that participation in its patient support program improved adherence and decreased discontinuation by 14%, according to an article in the Journal of Managed Care and Specialty Pharmacy. Disease-related medical costs were 22% lower for patients in the support program than for those not in the program. AbbVie was able to serve patient needs while also creating business impact for the brand and reducing costs for payers.

4. Understand patients. Listening to the increasingly strong and educated patient voice requires an ongoing effort to collect and integrate patient insights. This is what allows organizations to deliver experiences that address specific patient needs at the right time. 

We asked the audience, “Does everything you do tie back to patient insights?” Although most organizations talk about the importance of patient insights, 58% of respondents indicated that they’re only tying back to patient insights “sometimes.” 

To uncover patient insights that can drive better experiences, it’s critical to understand patients as individuals and have the capabilities to leverage a wide range of techniques. For example, a mobile ethnography solution could enable research that spans multiple days, times and locations, and captures video, audio and text-based responses. Mobile devices are highly embedded in patients’ daily lives, and we find participants sharing deeply personal elements of their lives through this channel, which we don’t see them sharing in more traditional research settings. 

Patient centricity is not easy or quick, but it’s becoming even more crucial in our healthcare system. It requires a cultural shift and an enterprise-wide vision that carries through all parts of the organization. There needs to be a data strategy and an investment in building the proper infrastructure, with a technology platform to ingest data and analytics to produce and execute based on patient insight. Accountability is key for success, and organizations should tie their patient-centric efforts back to their KPIs. Last but not least, we need to remember and truly understand patients as individuals with unique needs, attitudes and behaviors. Trying new engaging and immersed methods beyond the traditional market research approach can help companies collect and understand that deeper level of patient insight.

Good luck on your patient-centric journey.


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Topics: patient centricity, pharma companies, Pharma, patient experience, business outcomes, insights, eyeforpharma, Patient Engagement