The Missing Piece of Patient Centricity

“Patient-centricity” is rightfully the focus of an evolving healthcare industry and comes in many different forms.

It begins behind the scenes, in the scientific and regulatory efforts to bring new drugs to market, it continues with prescriptions, adherence and as we get closer to the patient experience in day-to-day life, patient-centricity moves into co-pay and financial assistance programs.

But what do these efforts focus on? Mainly the drugs. Beyond the drugs, the aspects of communication that are potentially the most impactful, and simultaneously the biggest miss by the industry, are efforts to support the patient and loved ones on an everyday basis, specific to their condition and experiences.

So, are we really understanding what it means to put the patient at the center?

As an industry, pharma is missing the most important ways to be patient-centric, leading to a failure to be patient centric at all.

Notably, True Patient-Centricity Depends on Efforts that are Not Always Drug Related.

To fulfill the promise of patient-centricity, it’s important that those at the center – patients – see and feel the effects of our efforts. To that end, we must understand what will have the most impact in the near-term vs. the long-term and how we reach the individual, not the group.

In the long-term, opportunities abound in efforts being undertaken behind-the-scenes – financial assistance or patient involvement in bringing a drug to market – but we have to remember, rarely are these results immediately available or noticeable to the everyday patient.

The near-term approach is even more vital. As we promote patient-centricity and expect our audiences to perceive it in a positive way, we must speak their language. Our campaigns, messaging and content will define that perception more than efforts that are behind the scenes.

The business side of patient-centricity lies in the long-term, which is critical, but nonetheless behind-the-scenes. In the short-term, Pharma must begin to show how that is taking shape in a way the public can see and feel — especially in a world where the consumer desires instant satisfaction, and when people with health issues need it.

It’s long been time to stop telling the patient what they need, and start asking what they need, but right now, the industry is falling well short of promises and action.

“Though 90% of respondents in that survey said improving customer experience is a top priority, only 8% are aggressively pursuing consumer-centric strategies. About two-thirds of respondents haven’t begun or are in the earliest stages of transitioning to a more consumer-centric focus.” (Source:

What Does Being “Patient-Centric” Mean When it Comes to the “Now”?

I can say from my own experience that treatment isn’t the only need, not by a long-shot. Though treatment is critical to positive patient outcomes, treatments can also have negative side-effects, social-psychological and financial burdens, and repeat office visits – sometimes impossible for those with difficulties traveling.

Treatment saves lives, but it is not the whole picture.

 “Outside of more ‘beyond-the-pill’ services, industry leaders say that pharma needs to do a better job at listening and cultivating feedback with patients. “While patient research is built into the marketing process, I think industry needs to figure out new methodologies that allow you to have a more consistent dialogue with patients,” adding that it needs to be done “without fielding studies that cost six figures every time you want patient input.”” (Source: MMM Online)

What we need is condition-focused, insight-based patient-centricity, and it’s at our fingertips.

Gathering insights from research, most importantly Social Listening, gives the most raw, visceral, and insightful understanding of day-to-day patient issues. Access to millions of online conversations offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the depths of conversation — uninhibited threads of chatter reveal insights that we cannot find in more traditional interviews, surveys, and mass studies that are not very personal.

It is here that we can truly uncover what patients need and formulate a strategy to get it out there.

True patient-centricity is anchored in the individual experience. Addressing the real, everyday patient and caregiver needs is where our impact really lies. The focus on the person, how their condition affects them, and what it means in their lives each day is the most relevant way to engage patients, because it is in line with their present moment.

All patients have common needs: they require psycho-social support, tools to help navigate life with their disease, communities to speak with others, and, finally, truly actionable resources and technology that can help ease their burden.

How Does this Start to Take Shape?

As some of you may know, my mother recently passed away from complications from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at only 63. MS is a terrible disease with no cure, affecting a family adversely. I bring this up because the strains of living with MS may serve as one of the most complete examples of what patient needs encompass – from treatment to therapy, physical and psychological to lifestyle issues – and thankfully, the folks at Biogen have recognized that, taking a good step forward with Aby.

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Aby is an interactive app that does its best to touch on all areas of MS. Recently launched, I can only hope there are plans for continuous, in-depth content. The Aby app covers a wide area of topics for MS patients: Daily Life, News, Symptoms, Physical Activity, Health and Wellness, Diet and Recipes, Treatment Considerations, while offering videos for fitness and more. It provides tools to track activities, fatigue, mobility, stress, symptoms (including 3 levels of severity), mood and sleep quality for better conversations with a healthcare team.

With MS patients, caregivers and experts involved in creating helpful, meaningful content, it’s one of the first efforts that is truly patient-centric, relevant, technology-enabled and (hopefully) solidified for years to come (though that’s never a guarantee with Pharma).

When we seek to define “patient-centricity,” and further, put it into action, the answer lies in how patients truly feel — their thoughts, emotions, needs and waking up every day with a chronic condition.

“Personalization,” to some, may mean simply including a first name in an email or targeting ads to seem personal.

But in healthcare, “personalization” is far different. It is to apply and sustain understanding of what someone is going through with their condition — in other words, being truly patient-centric.

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