When Patient Centricity Isn’t Enough

by Linda Verplanck | Jul 22, 2016

It seems that just about every day I hear people talking about the pharma industry being “patient-centric.” Apparently many are basing this belief on having read the mission statements of various pharmaceutical companies. 

Yes, I don’t question that pharma companies want to be “patient-centric” and see healthier people around the world. What I do question is what they really mean by saying they are “patient-centric” and what steps they are taking to truly understand the needs, motivations and beliefs of people before they become patients. This holistic understanding must be the foundation of all thinking and development activities (new therapies, programs and services) within pharma companies if they really want to help people be healthier around the world.

I challenge pharma companies to go a bit further so they are actually connecting with people before they become patients. What does the term “healthier” really mean across various regions and cultures? While health is most valued at the moment it changes, the ways and reasons people are unhealthy vary around the world. So, it is clear to me that many do not realize that being patient-centric is not as simple as stating it as a mission statement in an annual report.    

We are now in a brave new world with the growing empowerment of people with health conditions. Not every region or country is at the same place in the empowerment continuum. However, people’s needs, wants and desires for their health and having ways to better manage health conditions all need to be well understood if the pharma industry wants to be truly patient-centric.  

With this said, how can pharma companies be patient-centric when people are trying to prevent illness, to fight their genetic predisposition or to battle less-than-healthy lifestyles? People want to prevent actually becoming a patient, and even when they are patients, most do not want to be seen as such. They are people with a health condition who want to be as healthy as possible, for as long as possible. Yes, we all know that with age each of us will end up being a patient – in one way or another. But aren’t we the same person as before? The health condition or conditions make up one part of who we are but do not define us.

I submit that pharma companies must have a strong connection with healthy people first. How can a company develop a program or service to help drive adherence and compliance without really understanding the person – both the individual and the cultural and social aspects of people with health conditions?   

So is pharma really patient-centric? Would pharma have greater success helping people be as healthy as possible if they were more people-centric and more understanding of people’s hopes, fears and dreams as they age?  Would new therapies, programs and services be developed in the same manner and with the same outcome? Would there be a greater connection – a truer empathy – if pharma companies were to partner with people as they progress through the health continuum?  My belief is yes.

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