A crisis of trust: How lack of sector confidence is threating patient centricity

patient centricity confidence

People who trust pharma are more interested in using the industry’s services – making building confidence in the sector key to realising the potential of patient centricity.

Just 13% of people completely trust the pharma companies they interact with, 68% say the interactions feel transactional, and only a third agree that organisations know their communication preferences.

These were among the main findings of a survey of 12,000 healthcare consumers across 13 countries, published in Salesforce’s Connected Health Consumer Report. However, according to Jennifer Turcotte, pharma advisor in the company’s healthcare and life sciences division, there was also some good news.

Speaking at a Reuters Event webinar, Trust: The missing link impacting pharma’s patient services, she said: “While trust in pharma is very low, 66% of consumers want to receive more support from pharma companies… clearly there is an opportunity to better serve patients.”

“Consumers who trust pharma are more interested in using their services and, in turn, will also provide more non-medical information that might help their treatment.”

Trust “greases the wheels of engagement”

Outlining the results, she said that 51% of those who completely trusted pharma would be willing to find out how to enrol on a patient support programme, compared to 15% of those who did not trust pharma.

Likewise, 60% of the “completely trust pharma” group would be interested in receiving medication adherence support, compared to just 17% of those in the “do not trust pharma” group.

Interestingly, 92% in the “completely trust” group were willing to share non-medical information with pharma companies. Among those who selected “do not trust”, however, the figure was 53%.

“From this data, it seems as though consumers who trust pharma are more interested in using their services and, in turn, these will also provide more non-medical information that might help their treatment,” said Turcotte.

Communication and transparency

Communication and transparency are key to building trust, and this necessitates a shift away from established methods of interaction.

“Traditionally, pharma has tried to build relationships at the brand-level,” said Scott Bradley, cross-portfolio vice president of patient and speciality services at Novartis. “We now have new models that set a higher bar with common design standards and expectations.”

Laurie Hughes, head of US patient services for Biogen, said this was the right approach, adding that the linear patient services of the past no longer held any value.

“We are really trying hard to go beyond the Biogen patient and think about the consumer experience, about what individuals are seeking at any particular time and place, and what their needs are,” she said.

“We really are challenging ourselves to not only meet the patient where they are, but also bring value to the experience that we give them, and perhaps even surround them with other people like themselves, advocates, and other types of providers who can help them on their journey. We want to create an ecosystem that supports the patient.”

There are, of course, challenges to this way of working, not least the degree to which greater personalisation of communications affects regulatory compliance.

Hughes said: “Patient services is a very scripted part of the business. But we are working hard to become more conversational and to insert more empathy and value, because that’s what people are seeking from us.”

Novartis is attempting to be “more dynamic” in the way it communicates by “mixing and matching” segments of appropriately reviewed to the person’s individual needs. However, he admitted there was still room for improvement. “That’s something we can learn from outside of our industry,” he said.

Still work to be done

Essentially, the patient centricity revolution is a paradigm shift – and pharma must change the way it works, the speakers agreed. Bradley said that there was “no silver bullet” on how to do this.

“No one thing will solve this problem, but we are making significant progress,” he said, adding that the industry needed to keep measuring and keep improving.

Customer experience, he went on, was “probably the closest we can get to a surrogate for trust”, making it an important key performance indicator (KPI).  “Trust and customer experience are very closely related,” he said, explaining that Novartis analyses all the outcomes and success rates generated by its patient services.

“It is this kind of real-world evidence that helps you see if one solution or design is better than another, and really supports you to make improvements as you go forward,” he said.

Time to act

Ultimately, the Salesforce survey demonstrates that pharma’s trust issue could pose a significant barrier to the creation of a patient centric future.

“The value of trust within healthcare and life sciences industries, where trusted relationships can make the difference between being vaccinated or not, wellness or illness, and even life or death, is especially high,” Turcotte said. “We are in the midst of a crisis of trust and every organisation must act.”

About the author

Amanda BarrellAmanda Barrell is a freelance health and medical education journalist, editor and copywriter. She has worked on projects for pharma, charities and agencies, and has written extensively for patients, HCPs and the public