A blueprint for building a patient-centric pharma company

While the industry appears united in its commitment to patient centricity, the practicalities of embedding the ethos into everyday work is still hotly debated. A new whitepaper claims to hold the keys to action.

Sharing the vision, aligning around the ethos and understanding unmet need are pharma’s three fundamental building blocks in the successful shift to patient centricity.

That’s according to the authors of Optimising Patient Centricity – An Actionable Guide, a whitepaper published by a partnership of healthcare consultancy firms led by Concordance Worldwide.

It says: “Most pharmaceutical companies define their vision and mission in terms of improving people’s lives. However, historically, product development has taken precedence over other defined targets.

“Now, the healthcare sector is rapidly changing. Patients are increasingly engaged in their own healthcare decision-making… and regulators are encouraging patient involvement in clinical protocols.”

A recent survey from the PM Society revealed 100% of respondents felt pharma could do more to engage with patients – and the guide acknowledges that industry had an appetite to do better.  The roadblock is not a lack of willingness, but a gap in understanding how to make it happen, it says.

“Patient-centricity is not a destination, it is an evolution requiring the regular re-evaluation of priorities and strategy”

“We don’t believe you need to be further convinced that patient-centricity is important. We think you need a practical guide for competing and thriving, where nothing matters more than ensuring the best outcomes possible for patients,” says the paper.

Blueprint for change

It describes a patient-centric company as one in which stakeholders across all business functions were strategically aligned towards better patient care through improved R&D and better products and solutions.

“Understanding the common themes within patient centricity and how to empower everyone from the boardroom to the break room to internalise a patient-centric focus in their day-to-day life is the key,” say the authors.

A cultural shift towards placing patient care at the centre of an organisation’s vision and mission was the imperative first step, but it needs to start at the top.

The paper, a joint publication from US and European companies including Alfa Consulting, Horváth & Partners Management Consultants, North Highland, and Oresys, said that there were many different approaches to doing this.

It might involve the creation of “chief patient officer” role, or the establishment of a “P-suite” group of leaders who stand outside of the company’s commercial function, for example.

But regardless of the job title or chosen structure, leaders must be chosen based on “specific competencies that would enable patient-centric strategy to be driven forward”. Namely, they should be change facilitators, strategic thinkers, and empathetic relationship builders, the partnership suggests.

“Leaders must be able to listen to and understand patients’ expectations and needs. These… must then be clearly communicated to the organisation. Leaders must also be able to form partnerships with payers and care providers to drive better patient outcomes,” the authors explain.

Being agile

They went on to say that poor patient centricity often stemmed from a disconnect between different teams and functions within organisations, meaning that internal alignment was vital.

“Align everyone — from your executive team, to your entry-level employees and then implement agile ways of working,” they recommend.

Cross-functional teams that include a diverse range of representatives from different departments can share knowledge and integrate the data that is traditionally held in siloes in order to further the common aim.

It’s about making sure that everyone in the company is aware of, and focused on, the importance of this new “beyond the pill” way of working.

“In order to be truly patient centric, organisations must undergo an organisational makeover, aligning themselves in a way that makes patient engagement and collaboration easy.

“The creation of cross-functional teams rather than the traditional approach of having departments that work without collaboration can encourage creativity and innovation.”

Continuous improvement

These cultural and internal structures are the necessary foundations to gathering the knowledge and data needed to understand what their customers want and need.

“Understanding patient behaviour is crucial for any organisation. They need to know why patients make certain decisions and interact with their business to provide excellent experiences,” say the authors, recommending that companies map existing patient journeys to identify “opportunities to deliver real, lasting enhancements”.

A digital engagement strategy and utilising existing assets such as surveys, social media channels, and even complaints, is a good starting point to this process. But it’s also important to test and measure projects and initiatives in order to improve them.

“These building blocks are a foundation, but they are not the end game. Patient-centricity is not a destination, it is an evolution requiring the regular re-evaluation of priorities and strategy,” says the guide.

“The experience economy is not a passing trend. It is part of a shift in the marketplace in which nothing else matters more than your ability to deliver a superior experience.”

True, sustained success, the authors say, will rely on a company’s ability to turn patient insights into improved experiences that are delivered seamlessly by empowered employees.