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How patient centric are we?

You could be forgiven for thinking that pharma was always patient centric


29 August 2019

By: Mike Young

You could be forgiven for thinking that pharma was always patient centric. After all hasn’t the industry always produced medicines and services that had the goal of helping patients prevent or treat their illnesses? The answer is ‘yes’. Nonetheless, the way in which the industry and indeed healthcare in general has traditionally dealt with patients has been described as paternalistic; a style which is increasingly unacceptable to today’s connected and informed patients. They want to consume healthcare in the same way that they consume other goods and services; in other words, they want to be respected, feel confident and have easy and convenient access.

A recent BMJ study defined patient centricity as ‘Putting the patient first in an open and sustained engagement of the patient to respectfully and compassionately achieve the best experience and outcome for that person and their family.’* It concluded that patients want to be treated not as transient commodities but as integral and valuable partners. The implication for pharma is that patient centricity goes far beyond providing additional ‘beyond the pill’ services; it starts with R&D and the collaborative development of medicines that are meaningful in the patient outcomes they provide.

Although accelerating progress in pharma with notable exceptions has been patchy. In part this has been due to lack of understanding of patient centricity even agreement on a definition. There has also been uncertainty on what to do and how best to do it. Even more importantly there has been some scepticism relating to the likely ROI. Despite this we see more and more organisations adopting patient centricity as a corporate mantra but to move beyond this will require structural and cultural changes in both the medical and commercial areas of the business.

These could involve either specialist patient centred teams or inserting the concept into brand and functional teams. Alternatively, a hybrid of the two might serve. In addition there will be a need for analytic capability to gather and apply patient data. It will also be important to remember that successful implementation will mean working closely not only with patients but with others in the healthcare system particularly prescribers and payers. Finally proof of favourable commercial as well as patient outcomes will be required if initiatives are to be sustainable.

Patient centred care is the direction of travel for the whole healthcare industry. The patient is fast becoming the customer even if in their view there is a way to go. Providers including pharma must therefore adapt. To give more than lip service to the idea demands a major change and change means challenge. Perhaps we can borrow the words of a previous US president – ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’

*Yeoman G et al. BMJ Innov. 2017; 0: 1-8.

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