4 routes to patient-centricity in pharma and life sciences

Patient-centricity isn’t a new idea but remains pretty elusive for many pharmaceutical companies. Business models, skills, mind-set, behaviours, processes and the tools of business still fundamentally bias the organisation towards science, the HCP, numbers of prescriptions. Chief Patient Officers have the job title, but they’re not yet in control of the commercial engine of the company.  Here we share 4 routes to achieving patient-centricity that can be applied in any business.

1. It starts with leadership: 

"When I work with a pharma client, I look through their annual report to count how many pages I have to read before the word 'patient' is mentioned; my record is 26 pages," says Paul Wicks, vice-president of innovation at data-sharing platform, PatientsLikeMe "For many, patient-centricity has been nothing but tokenism.”[1]

Pharma leaders should lead by example and follow through by aligning processes and goals to the patient-centric agenda. By moving beyond laminated corporate mission statements towards a 21st century style of engaging, collaborative and entrepreneurial leadership, pharma leaders can model empathy and closeness to patients through personal actions first and foremost. This sets the pace and expectation for change across the whole organisation.

2. Deeply embedded patient-centric practices

For many pharma companies, the business machine is still built around the old model: drugs are developed to improve the claim rather than the patient value, marketing teams are oriented primarily around equipping a sales team to engage with an HCP. The end customer - the patient – is an ‘add-on’, a separate team looks at adherence and patient services, but that is disconnected from commercial processes, drug development, annual planning cycles and even insight generation.

Examples of patient-centric practices include:

  • Patient experts, internally or externally, should contribute regularly during the drug development process. Why only engage with patient organisations when developing a communications campaign, rather than when developing patient solutions? This makes little sense.
  • Commercial teams, responsible for delivering annual business targets, should be working towards targets of patient outcomes. Too often cross-functional commercial teams are still oriented around hitting target patient numbers, prescription rates. Why not metrics of patient value?
  • Marketing teams should be organised around patient value, not stakeholder value. Stakeholders will always remain a critical part of the value chain, but their outcomes are only relevant in so far as they are linked with outcomes that matter to the patient. Processes and commercial goals need to be reoriented to reflect this.

3. Build the right patient-centric capabilities in teams

Too few marketing and sales teams know the difference between a holistic patient journey, and a patient flow that tracks numbers not human insights. Build the fundamental skills of marketing, including segmentation, insight generation, brand positioning. Establish the role of the marketer as champion of the patient in the organisation. 

4. Put the patient at the heart of a powerful employee brand

When you walk into the offices of a pharma company, do you feel the patient empathy? Or do you feel a corporate environment with a sprinkling of some very sanitised images of patients?

Great organisations empower HR to build an employee brand that inspires and delivers on a higher patient-centric purpose. Pharma companies attract highly intelligent people, with a desire to make a difference in the world. Can you imagine anything more inspiring that getting up in the morning to save lives in the developing world, end fatalities from cancer or help more babies survive into adulthood?

The reality of working in pharma can be somewhat less exciting and purposeful. Financial targets, career ladders and the slow processes of large organisations slowly suck the passion and sense of purpose out of most normal people. Pharma remains corporate, process driven, highly technical and brilliant. But it is often not inspiring. Leadership should work with HR to create an employee value proposition that lives and breathes the ‘why’ of the organisation – the purpose, the incredible vision for the future. This purpose needs to be felt and lived by employees to come alive, and begin to affect the impact a company has externally on all stakeholders, and ultimately patients.

There are many practical ways bring great patient-centricity into the fibre of your organisation. To hear how Brand Learning can help, get in touch, and read our blog on patient-centricity for R&D.

BRAND LEARNING: Inspiring people. Lifting capabilities. Growing organisations.


[1] https://www.pharmatimes.com/magazine/2016/may_2016/patient-centricity_ghost_in_the_machine/