How Authentic is Your Brand’s Patient Centricity?

Four-time IndyCar series and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Dario Franchitti was known for making detailed, time-consuming walks of each race course before driving thunderous laps in a turbocharged machine. In his “track walks,” he studied the cracks and bumps in the road with the intensity of someone in search of a lost contact lens. Why? While most drivers were content with a quick tour of the track in a golf cart, Franchitti wanted to understand the road ahead.

For the last few years, the pharma industry has been taking a quick golf-cart route on the track of patient centricity. Nearly every biotech and big pharma company are racing around in cars emblazoned with their patient centricity brand. But the term “patient centricity” has just become a buzzword—not enough time has been taken to study its texture and cracks. To “win” this race, pharma marketers must invest in learning the road.

An Evolution from Patient Centered to Patient Centric

When the NIH defined patient-centered care a few years ago, the so-called patient-centered medical home (PCMH) revolved around guidelines that established the primary care physician (PCP) as the predominant point of care, thereby promoting continuity of care. While the improvement in care goals is admirable, patient-centered care was only the latest iteration of a centuries-old paradigm that left the physician at the center of the universe. The patient was still fighting for that all-too-brief appointment and finding significant hurdles in getting and understanding their course of care.

When a truly patient-centric approach is established, health information and care interactions emanate from the patient themselves. Using technology as a coach, mobile and web-based technologies can be built around the premise that personalized data and interactions, prompted by the patient and managed by both the patient and clinician, will inform and enrich each appointment.

A well-described view of patient centricity would place the patient in the “driver’s seat” as a more empowered, enabled, participatory ePatient who will gain broader access to their data, essentially on-demand, to review and question in light of all the other Internet-enabled information they already bring to their clinician’s attention.

Becoming truly patient centric in commercialization and development approaches increases in importance as medical care shifts from more chronic Baby Boomer needs to the health demands of the next generations, X and Millennial, the oldest of whom are entering their late 30’s. Characterized by expectations of convenience, personalization, and “faster service,” these e-savvy patients exhibit high loyalty to brands that respect them, their needs, and their desire for customized solutions. Marketers must achieve a trust-level in which a new product is created and the messaging, education, and customer service provided by pharma brands gives these patients the feeling that the brand was created for them.

What can you do to become truly patient centric? Ask your marketing teams what evidence shows responsiveness to real patient needs? How do you know you’re being respectful and “real world” with patient preferences? Four ways to help healthcare marketing professionals attain true patient centricity include:

1. Start Early or Start Now to Know Your Patients

Most drug development programs are focused on product and disease. Patient centricity suggests we need to understand how the disease manifests, affects people, and how our “solutions” provide change—and whether we improve outcomes. This may change design, dosage, delivery, and even packaging. But you’ve got to start early—or if you’ve already launched, you need to start now.

Patients and advocates now gain important pre-market insight into new therapies at the clinical trial level. How patients are treated, managed, and interface with clinical trial supplies and personnel can reflect well or adversely on this pre-market impression. Evaluating things like how often, how many times, and what efforts the patient needs to make to achieve compliance with blood draws, lab procedures, imaging, or treatment visits can make a notable difference in how the brand is ultimately viewed. For example, can you chart out the number of times a patient will need to travel to the investigator’s office, clinic, or other facility to receive investigational treatment? Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) is a significant factor in patient participation and trial completion.

Don’t rely on secondary data or tertiary reports—go talk with patients. Use the amazing connections that can be created with patient advocacy groups. Patient needs, preferences, and common difficulties are direct ways to develop powerful patient-centric solutions. If your brand respects patients as individuals with specific and essential knowledge of their own health and preferences for treatment, and looks at treatment options from patients’ perspectives, you’ll create a brand with high engagement patient centricity.

2. Let Patients Help Create Your Brand—Not a Product

Brands are stronger and more impactful than products because they create a deeper place of meaning in patients. It’s a matter of feelings, not features. Patient Internet access to information changed the knowledge landscape, and the pharma industry needs to expand on core clinical claims to create reasons for patients to believe—while still being compliant to regulatory requirements.

The industry often wants patients to see their discoveries as reasons they can improve their health, but most patients resent their treatments/drugs—they’re a reminder of their illness, their mortality, and their liabilities. If medicine was more closely associated with the thing they’d rather be (a well person), greater medication compliance is likely, as are possible success, satisfaction, and good clinical outcomes.

3. Get a Technology Coach and Get Digital

Digital is the global portal to patients. They are waiting for you and they’re only a click away. Health-seeking patients and caregivers are the most active sector on the Internet globally. Not only are patients better informed than ever before, but their own self-knowledge has been greatly enhanced by wearables and smartphones, which are capturing ambient data more abundantly and more accurately.

Getting to digital will enable you to harness this growing trove of actionable data. Patient self-knowledge, patient centricity, and the resulting need for coordinated healthcare delivery are not on the horizon—they are here! Digital technology and its adjacencies are in the pole position of the race for healthcare evolution. Find a great digital coach and make sure your brand is aware.

4. Make Patient Centricity a Strategy, Not a Tactic

Patient centricity must become a core corporate commitment and an inculcated strategy from discovery and clinical development through post-marketing surveillance. Patient centricity is a long-term, iterative commitment to more complete customer understanding and patient-meaningful innovation. Pharma marketers must make the effort to approach patient insight from the patient’s eyes. By doing so, their brands will be able to create stronger, functional, and emotional connections to the patient.