Spotlight interview: 15 minutes on patient-centricity in pharma

Written by Sumira Riaz on Wednesday 4th September 2019

Sumira Riaz, Health Psychologist at OPEN Health Patient & Brand Communications, takes 15 minutes to answer some key questions on patient-centricity in pharma.

1. Still working in clinical practice, why do you work in an agency group like OPEN Health?

For me people matter the most and I find that within OPEN Health individuals are well rounded and can push boundaries with innovative solutions. OPEN Health allows you to develop and grow whilst going into spaces that you may not be able to in the NHS.  

2. How do your roles differ?

Both roles are very different in terms of day-to-day activities, however, I find a lot of the goals and objectives are similar. In the patient engagement team at OPEN Health we look at the populational group within a particular disease area and focus on developing patient solutions. The NHS is fast-paced with long days and a high work load and my role is considerably focused on individual patient’s needs; for example, I regularly work with people who are going through difficulties with mental health, living with chronic condition, pain management etc. I enjoy both the clinical and the strategic side, both roles have immense responsibility but are fulfilling, challenging and rewarding.

3. Is OPEN Health patient-centric?

OPEN Health is patient-centric, and everyone strives to support people living with various conditions. Within the patient engagement team, we focus on developing solutions based on the narratives and the research we do with patients, families and carers. The top line definition of patient-centricity is that we put the patient in the centre of our solutions and OPEN Health does that well. However, there is always scope to do better and make OPEN Health more patient-centric than it is; we’re always pushing to be our best.

4. Is pharma patient-centric?

Pharma companies want to be patient-centric and are doing their best to bring patients' perspectives into their way of thinking. However, pharma companies are often led by science, so their challenge is finding that balance; do they go with what the patient is saying or what science is saying? Moving forward there are a lot of patient-centric workshops available in pharma and they are trying to develop above-brand campaigns which is a positive step. It’s a spectrum; some are doing it well and some are not, but they are all working towards the same goal of being patient-centric.

5. What are some examples of the most exciting projects you are working on?

There are so many good examples I don’t know where to start! We have recently developed an above-brand app called “CML Life” which is for patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia. The idea is to support wellbeing by providing mindfulness sessions based on cognitive behavioural therapy; the aim is for them to relax whilst undergoing treatment in hospital, or for those at home (for example before going to bed, or before going out). This is a good example of incorporating health psychology into a solution for patients.  

Another example was a project we did for Gaucher disease type 1. This project involved training nurses on patient activation. The nurses felt they lacked the in-depth connection with their Gaucher disease patients so were unable to make the most of the consultation time. The programme provided a way of assigning different levels to the patient (using the patient activation measure) which allowed the nurses to be able to target the consultation appropriately to the individual. For example, someone feeling very overwhelmed and disengaged would be assigned to level one and would therefore need a bitesize consultation. It also incorporated elements of motivation interviewing techniques, this helped improve the conversations the nurses were having with the patients, and ultimately led to empowering them to be more involved in their own healthcare.


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