Putting patients first

Written on Wednesday 23rd September 2015

Putting patients first

Working closely with, and being attuned to the needs of, patients remains just as valid as when that near-ubiquitous term ‘patient-centricity’ was first coined.

But, while terms are all very well, it’s in the real world that pharmaceutical companies need to be able to make a difference with their patient-focused strategies. Without this a company’s promise to be patient-centric not only risks looking like hollow words, it could cause real reputational damage too.

Given that PatientView’s recent study of how patient groups view pharma saw the industry placed a lowly sixth among the eight healthcare-industry sectors ranked, ahead of only not-for-profit and for-profit health insurers, it’s not an area in which pharma can afford to take too many more hits.

Senior roles in the patient space

For pharma companies to appoint, as Sanofi did last year and UCB have done before them, a chief patient officer is a fantastic statement of intent. But once the intent is there, how will you ensure you walk-the-walk, as well as talk-the-talk, of patient-centricity? What will you do that will make a real-world difference to the care and support of patients?

From involving patients in clinical trial designs to harnessing digital channels to expand communications with patients, from involving patients in the design of the medical devices they will use to listening to their thoughts on the impact of drug side effects, these are all areas that pharma is already actively engaged with at some level.

The challenge is to keep doing these sorts of things but also, as patient-centricity matures, for companies to push themselves to take a broader approach.

The big issue here is to be able to show that your patient-centric strategy can not only benefit patients themselves, but also augment the wider healthcare system it is being designed for.

One of the ways it might do this is to connect systems or services in a seamless patient-orientated manner.

Connecting healthcare professionals (HCPs), the delivery channel, carers and the patient through one seamless ecosystem can start to break down silos in patient management and drive improvements in patient care.

Underpinning this is an increasing focus on real world patient data, which can play a vital role when it comes to guiding and informing solution design.

So, what do we do at Engage?

In projects we have worked on we recognise the importance of a robust service design process that augments seamlessly into the real world patient pathway. The benefits that emerged were programmes that not only looked good in theory but work in the real world. HCPs support the programmes as an extension of patient care as they understand why and how they fit into existing clinical practice. For patients it creates a seamless brand experience, aligned and uncluttered by competing information sources.

Finally, the importance of measuring the real-world effectiveness of any patient engagement strategy put into place cannot be overstated. While real-world measurement of patient benefit as well as overall healthcare system benefit can be complex, this does not have to be approached as a full-blown randomised clinical trial.

Making sure your patient strategy is truly embedded into both your brand and corporate strategy and is not just an afterthought is critical.

Pharma needs to show that it is in it for the long haul and demonstrate that it understands that although it’s vital to put patients first, engagement strategies must be designed to involve all stakeholders.

Richard Jones is managing director of patient engagement practice, Engage (an OPEN Health company).  For more information visit openengage.co.uk or email richardjones@openengage.co.uk