Patient-Centric Care: It’s Not Just About the Medication Anymore

Apr 24, 2017

Patient-centric and value-based care get a lot of attention, but what exactly does it mean, how do you measure it, and what steps can a pharmaceutical company take to truly implement the philosophy of putting the patient first?

That was one of the many questions eyeforpharma Philadelphia tried to drill down and help healthcare leaders answer during its conference last week.

It starts, according to Paul Simms, chairman of eyeforpharma, with becoming a trusted partner. And, one of the ways to do that, is by the industry tightening the innovation gap.

“The number of people who are effectively being killed because of our failure to bring what is in the lab to the patient is represented through this innovation gap,” said Simms. “It is our job to close this gap, and get the science and innovation to the patient.”

But with regulations, privacy concerns, the demands of everyday industry, and the pressure to make a profit, making this happen can be harder than leaders think.

Julie Gerberding, executive vice president and chief patient officer, strategic communications, global public policy, and population health at Merck, says the shift has to start internally, and everything else will follow—including profits.

A patient-centric value proposition can improve patient outcomes and satisfaction, fosters an environment with faster and less expensive drug development, better drug adherence, and can help a company receive a better reputation and build trust, she explained.

Gerberding admitted the initiative is not without weaknesses, especially when introducing a new thought process. These include inexperience, initiative fatigue, resource limitations, competing priorities, traditionalism, and fear.

One way for executives to move in the right direction, is by building critical mass support within the organization. Many of the speakers who touched on patient-centric value propositions echoed this idea.

“Trying to spread a new idea very quickly though an organization, you will never be able to do,” she said. “We went to the connectors and brought them in the room. The most efficient way to spread new ideas is to find the most connected people and bring them into your critical mass. They will help you create the credibility you need going forward.”

As a result of doing this, Gerberding pointed out they, “unmasked the hidden purpose of a lot people.”

“It’s about the incredible opportunity to find cures,” she said. “We can set a stage where anything can happen.”

Directly from the source

One of the most popular ways to do this is by including the patient in every aspect of the company, from sales pitches to recruitment. Regulations can make this a bit complicated, but Gerberding says companies might need to be a little creative.

At Merck, the company has created new experiences to get the patient voice into the mix. The first, chief rounds: Educational seminars with global leaders on patient-related topics of interest. Second, patient input forums: Live interviews with physicians and their patients to expose employees to a “real-word” patient journey for a given disease or condition. Third, patient dialogues: Facilitated input sessions, either live or e-channel, with patients and caregivers to obtain their insights on specific topics to inform strategy.

For Pfizer, Andy Schmeltz, senior vice president of patient and health impact at Pfizer Innovative Health, said it is “doubling down on patient centricity.”

What does this mean? Simply put, it means that if it’s not going to bring a breakthrough therapy to a specific market, Pfizer is not going to pursue it.

It has to be a triple win for the company to pursue it—a win for the patient, society, and also Pfizer, in that order.

At Shire, patients are an integral part of the company and the story it tells, both internally and externally. When it comes to patient and value-based care, it is very personalized to the individual.

“It’s not just about having the best therapy, it’s customized software that introduces therapy so patients can live their normal lives,” said Perry Sternberg, executive vice president and head US commercial at Shire. “It’s hearing what the patients need and it’s not just about the medication anymore. It’s about how do they go and live a normal life.”

Shire uses that personalization and human connection with patients, to remind their employees why they are doing what they are doing. They work closely with Snow Companies, a full -service global agency that specializes in patient storytelling, to help keep patients at the center of everything they do.

The company starts every meeting with the focus on the patient, including having patients at its sales meetings.

“The patient ambassador series really impacts the sales force,” said Erik Cline, director of marketing, US neuroscience business unit at Shire. “They [the sales team] can transfer that passion and get up every day to be an advocate for patients suffering in silence.”

Show me the numbers

One major sticking point with patient and value-based care seems to be the ability to track and measure whether or not the initiative is working.

Andrew McCullouch, president of Keiser Foundation Health Plan & Hospitals, northwest region, Keiser Permanente, suggested using readmission rates as a way to track value-based care.

Many danced around the elephant in the room, which was balancing what was best for the patient with also making a profit for shareholders. Kabir Nath, president and CEO of Otsuka North America, made an argument that profits and patients go hand-in-hand.

“Delivering value to patients will translate for other stakeholders, including shareholders if that is your reference,” he said. 

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