Where customer-centricity matters: improving patients’ lives

I have worked extensively with people in pharmaceutical companies and they are passionate about improving patients’ lives. However after decades of a business model of blockbuster drugs pushed out to physicians, creating organisations focused on the patient is proving less simple.  The organisations who are succeeding don’t just talk about being ‘patient centric’; they make it happen.

If they can do it in the complex world of pharmaceuticals, where direct customers include a gamut of health care professionals from surgeons to nurses, payer organisations like insurance companies and national health services, and where legislation can prevent direct communication between patients and brands, then leaders from any industry should take note. Here are 3 lessons:

1. Join up the organisation around the patient (end-user) experience

A key barrier to organisational focus on the patient experience is siloed working and competing agendas. We see this across industries, and actually pharmacos, with their cross-functional therapy groups tend to be ahead of the curve. Yet, even pharmaceutical companies rely too much on process and organisational structure. They need more focus on establishing a patient-focused operating model and culture. Cross-functional leaders need to build a holistic view of the patient experience, and how different healthcare stakeholders interact to influence it. Through this shared understanding, they can gain insights into the real barriers to overcome, identify shared priorities and agree how their functions will work together to ultimately improve the lives of patients.

There are useful learnings from the Cleveland Clinic, the US medical centre which transformed itself into a ‘patients first’ culture. Cleveland Clinic built a shared view of the patient experience to galvanise the organisation. Their (non-clinical) leaders role model patient-centred behaviours – for example, regularly joining doctors to visit patients to inform commercial decisions.  An ‘Office of Patient Experience’ serves as an internal centre of excellence, providing employee programmes to build committed caregivers who always put the patient first (Cleveland Clinic, 2015; Manning & Bodine, 2012). This focus on the patient experience is also fuelling its Cleveland Clinic Innovation arm. This month they are launching a new e-commerce platform ‘ADEO’ through which caregivers and patients can purchase tools such as patient facing mobile applications. I particularly like an app called ‘Face2Face’ for patients suffering with facial paralysis, which enables the patient to use the photo camera as a mirror that mirrors just the healthy side of the face so they can continue rehabilitation with less anxiety (Cleveland Clinic, 2014).

2. Focus on the real ‘Moments That Matter’

Most pharmacos are now driving a strong focus on the patient journey to inform more patient focused strategies and activities. However these patient journeys can remain too rational and focused on a business’ view of what the patient is experiencing at each stage. Patients don’t talk about key journey stages such as ‘presentation, testing, diagnosis, lines of therapy, and maintenance’. They express these moments in a way that’s personal to their experience such as ‘the moment that turned my world upside down’ or ‘the unbearable waiting’.

Aids / HIV specialist ViiV Healthcare once again topped the reputation survey this year for its focus on patients. At the 2014 launch of Dolutegravir, ViiV shared how patient insights sat behind the new treatment, in a film ‘HIV, my treatment and me’, where people talked honestly and emotionally about their experiences of treatment (Dolutegravir, 2014). ViiV extends this focus at other ‘moments that matter’ with support services and programmes to reduce discrimination – in particular through “Positive Action” since 1992 (ViiV Healthcare, 2015).

3. Empower science with human insight

Pharmaceutical organisations must develop products and services that deliver better clinical benefits for patients and which payers will fund. This creates discomfort about focusing on the emotional needs of patients. It is seen as fluffy.

Emotional insight is essential. Neuroscience proves we are all driven by our unconscious mind, so gaining an understanding of unarticulated thoughts and feelings not only drives preference for your brands but also ensures you are creating products and solutions that people want in the first place.  Leaders need to take responsibility for driving this cultural shift, ensuring this type of patient insight is represented and recognised in key decision-making forums across the organisation.

For example, LEO Pharma gained a deeper understanding into the unmet needs of patients with serious dermatological conditions to drive new drug development. LEO collaborated with Key Opinion Leaders to evaluate 70 potential indications from the perspective of patients and assess the unmet need using a new scale covering disease duration, mortality, degree of disfigurement, and impact on quality of life. The 12 prioritised indications were then explored with dermatologists globally and through interviews with patients themselves. In addition LEO employed social listening to discover unarticulated patient feelings that aren’t openly discussed such as the psychological impact of the condition that made it difficult to even engage in personal relationships.  The insights helped inform LEO’s decision to completely re-focus their drug development programmes (Gunner et al., 2013).

This is what focusing on the real patient experience means for organisations – getting out into the real world, understanding the experience in the patients’ shoes and then harnessing partners within your organisation and across the healthcare system to improve lives.

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At Brand Learning we work with companies across industries including pharmaceuticals, FMCG, financial services and oils and chemicals to lift their customer-centred capabilities. We help them with purpose, leadership, culture, organisation structure and operating model, processes and skills, engagement and people development.  If you’d like to learn more about the work we do, please contact us. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources for further views and ideas about how to achieve customer-centricity in practice.

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CLEVELAND CLINIC. (2015) Office of patient experience. [Online] Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/patients-visitors/patient-experience

CLEVELAND CLINIC INNOVATIONS. (2012) New Company ADEO to Deliver Proven Healthcare Solutions Directly to Customer [Online] Available from: https://innovations.clevelandclinic.org/About-Us/News-Media-(1)/Newsletter-Pages/122014_ADEO.aspx

DOLUTEGRAVIR. (2014) ViiV Healthcare: Addressing the matters that mean most to patients [Online] Available from: https://uk.dolutegravir.com/press/addressing-the-matters-that-mean-most-to-patients

GUNNER, J. & HINDHAUGH, J. & SAVAGE, K. (2013) LEO Pharma NPD: How research innovation directly influenced a product development decision. [Online] Available from: www.warc.com

MANNING, H. & BODINE, K. (2012) Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. Amazon Publishing

ViiV HEALTHCARE. (2015) Positive Action [Online] Available from: https://www.viivhealthcare.com/community-partnerships/positive-action/about.aspx