EFPIA: Partnership is the key to healthcare’s biggest challenges

The European pharma body’s new Health Collaboration Guide hopes to inspire greater partnership working across healthcare, showcasing award-winning collaborations involving Pfizer, Janssen, Novartis and more.

Partnership is the key to unlocking the solutions to our major healthcare challenges, and “no player has a monopoly on good ideas”.

That’s according to the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), which has detailed the organisation’s 2021 Connecting Healthcare Awards winners in its fourth annual Health Collaboration Guide.

“Some problems are too great to solve alone,” said Elisabeth Kasilingam, acting executive director of the European Patients Forum, and EFPIA’s director general Nathalie Moll in a foreword to the document.

“Today’s healthcare challenges are complex and require the skills and perspectives of diverse stakeholders. If there was any doubt about this, the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the value – indeed, the necessity – of partnerships and collaboration.”

The most striking example of this, they said, has been public and private researchers, regulators, healthcare providers and policymakers, with the support of the public, working together to develop several safe and effective vaccines in record time.

“Partnership is also the key to unlocking solutions to the challenges that we must solve together in the years ahead, including those that stem from an ageing population and rising rates of non-communicable diseases,” added Kasilingam and Moll.

“By working together, healthcare stakeholders can ensure that their priorities are reflected in how services are planned, funded and delivered.”

The Health Collaboration Guide also sets out the details of the winning entries to its Connecting Healthcare Awards in a bid to “showcase what can be achieved when partners pool their energies and work towards a shared goal”.

“Along with healthcare actors, the contribution of local authorities, civil society organisations and technology companies shows that no player has a monopoly on good ideas or solutions.

“Indeed, sometimes new partners can be found where we least expect. Provided the principles of transparency, trust and mutual respect are followed, we must remain open to fresh insights from wherever they may come.”

Winner: The International Map of Axial Spondyloarthritis

The overall winner at the Connecting Healthcare Awards was IMAS, or the International Map of Axial Spondyloarthritis (axSpA), which, with 4,000 participants and counting, is the largest survey of people living with the condition ever conducted.

“IMAS started in Spain through a pilot initiative led by Professor Marco Garrido-Cumbrera, a Spanish axSpA patient representative working at the Health and Territory Research group of the University of Seville, supported by the Spanish Federation of Spondyloarthritis Associations, medical experts, and Novartis Spain.

“Together with ASIF, the University of Seville and Novartis, the survey was then expanded to 13 European countries. In Europe, it was overseen by a Pan-European steering committee made up of patient representatives from ASIF, Agora, CEADE and nine axSpA experts, including rheumatologists and psychologists.”

The project, which generates insights into the real-life experiences of people living with axSpA in a bid to better provide for their needs, will soon be rolled out in countries across North and Latin America, Africa, and the Asia Pacific region.

“Incorporating the patient’s perspective into clinical practice facilitates shared decision making between patients and physicians, which improves disease management, increases patient participation in their care, ensures greater therapeutic adherence, and generates better physical and psychological health outcomes,” said the collaboration guide.

Winner: The Dreamcatcher

The Dreamcatcher, winner of the innovation category, is a digital tool and app that enables young people with rheumatic disease to record their ambitions and then work with their healthcare team to “make their dreams come true”.

“This flips the traditional model of care on its head. Rather than focusing on symptoms and limitations, The Dreamcatcher prioritises health and possibilities – enabling a more patient-centred approach.

“Using behavioural design, nudging and social tools, (it) sets goals, facilitates follow-up, and puts the patients’ wishes at the heart of the patient/healthcare provider relationship,” said the guide.

“Provided the principles of transparency, trust and mutual respect are followed, we must remain open to fresh insights from wherever they may come”

It describes The Dreamcatcher as a “unique collaborative project between patients, healthcare providers and the pharma industry”, with stakeholders including the Karolinska Institutet, Pfizer, the advocacy group Unga Reumatikers, and Stockholm’s Academic Specialist Centre for Rheumatology.

“The project is characterised by collaboration, openness, and a whole new type of partnership. We believe this can inspire others to curiously explore and experiment together, in order to move society forward.”

Winner: Breaking Depression

Breaking Depression, a pan-European disease awareness campaign which aims to improve understanding of major depressive disorder (MDD) and encourage more open and honest conversations, won the prevention and awareness category.

Two artists were commissioned to create eight pieces of art based on the stories of people living with MDD. The content was then shared via a dedicated website, a social media campaign, advertising, and an art installation at a medical congress.

The project saw pharma giant Janssen working with patient-driven mental health advocacy group GAMIANEurope, a public affairs agency, a media partner, and artists.

“All materials and assets were produced with input from patient advocates to ensure appropriate language and resonant content. Clear and frequent communication was to the fore throughout the collaboration, helping to build a project which provided a foundation for further expansion,” said the guide.

“What united everyone involved was the belief that collaboration is the best tool to help break miseducation and misconceptions, break stigma and, ultimately, break depression.”

Winner: Conectados

Conectados, a Janssen programme developed in partnership with clinicians and delivered by patient organisation AEAL, won the service delivery category.

It was built for people on, or about to start, oral treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and their caregivers, connecting them to a psycho-oncologist who discusses issues such as motivation, nutrition, exercise, and wellbeing.

Patients also receive structured worksheets to support their journey and have access to continued telephone support.

“Since the beginning of the programme, there has been an increase in participation of 95% each year. The haematologists have noticed an improvement in the communication, quality of life, and state of mind… and 100% of participating patients have communicated their satisfaction and interest in continuing with the programme,” said the guide.

• For more information on these and other colleague project case studies read the full Connecting Healthcare Guide 2021

About the author

Amanda 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