Patient-centricity has been a buzzword in pharma for more than a decade.
As a concept, the term sprung from a desire to bring patients right into the heart of the industry and ensure that their views and experiences are baked into the development of drugs, as well as the support material around them when they are approved and in market.
However, a key problem remains that there is still no consensus on what exactly Patient Centricity means. Research by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions among a group of life sciences companies and patient advocacy/disease research organizations, concluded that it was easier to define what it was not rather than what it was.
So, given this challenge, how should Pharma and its agency partners be thinking about Patient Centricity?
Firstly, it is not one thing.
Patient centricity is an overarching concept or mindset that runs across and through an organisation, from drug discovery to market access and all the way through to the commercial launch of a brand. The patient and their needs and those of their families need to be considered at every step of the brand journey.
If you are a patient or someone caring for a loved one with a condition, you know all too well the challenges that you are facing on a day-to-day basis. You are the expert in your condition and have a deep understanding of what you want from your therapy or what a win would be. You also know what you don’t want and you find ways to mitigate against side effects or treatment challenges.
These experiences are invaluable for the life science sector to understand and ensure that the direction of travel for each brand is congruent with the hopes of patients and their families. All too often, however, we select the target, design the trial, and go to market without fully understanding those hopes and desires.
Yes, there is regulation and compliance considerations that we have to consider, but this should not be an excuse to avoid exploring possibilities. Progress will also require us to think about how regulation needs to evolve. Just as medicine is having to evolve in an increasingly information rich space and take a patient-centred care approach, pharma needs to do the same thing. It’s no longer enough to say we are the experts, so we know best! We must strive to better understand the experience of those living with a condition, wherever those conversations are taking place.
I have seen first-hand how the impact of an apparently “patient-centred” medical decision can be totally misguided, due to a lack of time taken to explore what’s important to the patient and to understand the potential challenges. The one-sided solution resulted in a traumatic experience that undermined the trust between person and physician. This could have been avoided if proper care and attention had been paid to discussing the patient’s needs and wants.
Arguably trust between patients and the life sciences industry is not on the same level. The industry must work much harder to earn trust through doing the right thing by its most important stakeholders, its patients.I’ve talked about the challenges but what are some of the potential solutions to the challenge facing the Pharma industry. For me there is one very important thing we should be doing.
LISTEN! And when you think you have listened as much as you can, keep listening.
What are your patients telling you, what’s hard for them? It might not be just about the drug or the condition they are living with. Holistic understanding of the lived experience is enormously important.
It’s about how people live around their condition and the treatments they take. People are not defined by the conditions they live with. Our approach, if we want to be patient centred, can’t be so narrowly focused. It must look at the whole.
Health is increasingly becoming consumer-driven, as people use online resources to understand their condition, seek insight into how others live with that condition, and get information on the treatment options available. People are people first, then patients. The consumer behaviours they are accustomed to in other walks of life will also be relevant to their healthcare.
Understanding how people navigate this world and being in a position to provide trusted information and resources could be a valuable place to start when building trust and a patient-centric approach.
Every small act that makes it fractionally easier for someone to live with a condition is a win.