shutterstock_569794060.jpgRobert Selman and Ausrine Vaisvilaite co-wrote this blog post with Giorgio Lentini. 

Are we already patient-centric simply by talking about patients? Do patients define themselves by their medical conditions or by their roles in life as parents, family members or colleagues?

These were just some of the many questions discussed amongst participants at ZS’s European Summit, which took place in Basel, Switzerland, on Oct. 12.

In the smart, cozy atmosphere of the Orangerie, a picturesque venue in the heart of the city, the ZS team led by Robert Selman and Sarah Jegasothy welcomed senior pharmaceutical leaders from across Europe to debate the value of patient centricity and the tangible things that the pharma sector can do to improve it. The discussion included a panel of influential healthcare experts, including Ian Banks, president of the European Men’s Health Forum (EMHF); Eric Rowinsky, executive chairman, president and head of the clinical advisory board at Rgenix; and David Cavan, health consultant and former director of policy and programs at the International Diabetes Federation.

During panel interviews, plenary discussions and breakout groups, participants discussed a wide range of patient-centricity-related topics, starting with the importance of understanding patients’ needs and pharma’s role in improving their quality of life. As possible reasons why achieving patient centricity is still a myth in the industry, participants cited issues such as the increasing complexity of treatments, the expanding patient population, the conflicting interests of stakeholders within increasingly conservative pharma organizations, and the increasing restrictions due to compliance. One participant stated, “We claim to have 360-degree programs focused on patients when, in my view, even calling them 50- or 60-degree programs would be optimistic.”


After the panel discussion, guests were invited to break into small groups to identify tangible actions that pharma companies could take to address these challenges. The ideas included greater attention to patient demographics, improved communication at a physician/patient level, and a greater focus on listening and less of a focus on assuming.

A great part of the discussion focused on the benefits of involving patients throughout the whole product life cycle, especially in the R&D phase. To support that point, presenters shared concrete examples of co-creation from other industries. Companies like Apple, Amazon and McDonald’s have proved the importance of customers’ involvement in the development of their value propositions in order to achieve great payoffs.

According to Banks from the EMHF, the pharmaceutical industry is missing out on the opportunity by seeing its products simply for generating profits. Interacting more with patients whose lives are changed thanks to the industry’s research and development could provide job satisfaction in pharmaceutical companies and improve workforce retention overall.

Attendees also identified another missed opportunity: the potential of using real-world evidence.

According to Cavan, the health consultant, pharma companies used a number of excuses to avoid really committing to the use of real-world evidence, including the heterogeneity of regulations across countries, the inaccessibility of data held by governments, and compliance. Nonetheless, some participants discussed the low level of technology in many hospitals and scarce human resources in pharma companies, which lead to missed opportunities for acquiring, processing and analyzing big data. Simple organizational efforts and multichannel cooperation are tangible actions that would help boost the use of big data and prevent us from filling the current vacuum of patients’ information with dangerous presumptions on what they really want, Banks says.

The great power of events like this comes from having a network of colleagues within the industry, all struggling with the same issues, and helping carry them forward through immediate and actionable steps. Simply by considering patients more holistically as human beings, involving them in teams, and sharing and using all of the data that’s carefully collected on the way, pharmaceutical companies will start to make sure that patients have a seat at the table, eventually turning patient centricity from a cliché into reality.  

See you next year.


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Topics: Pharma, Pharma Industry, healthcare, Europe, EU, patient centricity, RWE, real-world evidence, patient centricity in R&D, ZS European Summit