Understand. Apply. Engage. Does your organisation have what it takes to be truly patient-centric?

Customer centricity and building customer experiences have become ubiquitous terms for many businesses these days.

But what does this mean for pharma businesses who want to be patient-centric? What do they need to do differently?

33,000 new products are listed on the Global National Product Database (GNPD) every month. Among all this clamour, driving growth rests on our ability to be customer-centric and build meaningful brands that influence the choices people make, from the brand of butter they spread on their morning toast, to the paint they use to decorate their homes. The pharmaceutical industry is no exception.

Over the last couple of years, the role of ‘patients’ has deepened within the industry. After all, how many of us would even buy a household product that we don’t know, from a company we aren’t aware of, let alone something that could extend or change our lives?

Patient-centricity is about recognising the increasing empowerment of the patient, much of which has been enabled through new technology, and putting them at the heart of everything you do. The doctor/ patient dynamic has evolved. Empowered patients are knowledgeable and proactive. They take ownership of their health, from provider to medical options, even influencing the funding and design of products and services.

Hit Google and you will find a plethora of models for defining Patient Centricity. At Brand Learning, we believe there are 3 facets of patient-centricity, and the role of a patient-centric organisation is to build an ecosystem that responds to each of them and connects them to the broader patient environment.




Truly patient-centric organisations build their brands around a deep understanding of the patient journey. They focus on what the patient feels, thinks and does across their journey, they know who and what influences and interests them. They take time to both talk and listen to patient’s attitudes and observe their behaviours – recognising that it is the patient that owns this journey, rather than being confounded by an insight bereft treatment pathway. The best way of delivering this understanding is through ethnography. Its observational basis allows patients to freely express themselves, whenever they want. As such it provides an opportunity to provide real life insights and see how patients live with their disease


Understanding a patient is one thing – but using that information to inform drug development and treatment solutions is a game changer. It helps to ensure the solutions fit the needs of patients. Patient-centric organisations are the ones actively using their patient understanding throughout a product lifecycle, from development, to launch and beyond. AstraZeneca is one such pharma company that has realised the importance of developing products with patients, not just for them. Whilst it is still early days on their patient centricity journey they are already working directly with patients to co create their patient centricity agenda as well as exploring initiatives that will help define the process of patient engagement as part of the R&D process. One of the watch words here will be ‘collaboration’ – combining expertise from other businesses and then scaling it.


Patient-centric organisations don’t communicate, they build trust and engage. Effective engagement is about building real world experiences, with the consent of patients, that allow for an open exchange. Successful organisations seek to learn from their perceptual competitors, businesses like AmazonGoogle and Zappos who constantly challenge themselves, and provide compelling experiences that people want to be a part of.

As the second pharma company to join Twitter, ahead of some major consumer brands including Coca-Cola, Boehringer Ingelheim has already made great progress in real time engagement of patients. In 2013/14 the company ran a series of tweet chats on Atrial Fibrilation, as well as holding two virtual live Q&A events. Independently moderated and led in partnership with opinion-leaders, the Tweetchats engaged physicians, doctors, media and patient groups. #ChatAFib smashed targets, reaching over 3 million timelines, and winning impressive feedback from attendees and observers, proving that true engagement can happen, even within the confines of a regulated industry.

Crucially these 3 facets must be applied internally as well as externally. Many pharma businesses reference patient-centricity in their mission, and some have a team or whole department with the appropriate moniker. Success, though, is found in embedding patient-centric behaviours across the organisation. It is found in creating a new way of living and working that sees patient-centricity and the creation of ‘value adding real world experiences’ as a growth driver, an investment rather than a cost.

If you’d like to hear more about how Brand Learning can help you apply the 3 facets of patient-centricity to your organisation, please get in touch. Alternatively, if you’d like to know how you can use the customer or patient experience to build competitive advantage and drive growth, download our new report ‘Join Up To Stand Apart’.

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