Who Represents the Patient in Your C-Suite?
Most patient engagement strategies are tied to the marketing and public affairs activities of a particular brand team, and
are therefore integrally tied to business priorities. However, some of today's—and many of tomorrow's—patients already see
the global biopharmaceutical industry in ways that are far less related to their products and far more related to overall
corporate behavior. We already know that individual patients and patient advocates have been able to change markets because
of what they say and think about specific companies and their activities. How do you build trust and reputation with patients
and/or patient advocacy organizations when marketing and/or public policy priorities are perceived to be driving corporate
behavior? What are the corporate motivations behind these efforts—addressing patients' needs through sustainable solutions
or fulfilling business goals of the organization?
Time for the CPO?
In the words of Jonathon Swift, it is time for a "modest proposal:" What the enlightened pharma company needs most in adjusting
to these changes is a Chief Patient Officer (CPO) in the ranks of the C-suite.
The Chief Patient Officer's mission would be to develop a tight-knit bond with the patient community, and creating long-term
solutions towards improving healthcare.
The primary responsibility of the CPO would be to understand and oversee the ways in which the company is perceived by and
relates to its single largest key audience: the patient. The CPO would also help to redefine and restructure corporate drug
development and commercialization strategies in ways that will offer demonstrable value to patients. This is not to ignore
the needs of other key audiences, but it is a clear recognition of the fact that without a clear understanding of the main
issues that matter to patients—way beyond the narrow confines of a pharmaceutical intervention—it will be impossible for companies
to relate to a new customer base.
A precedent in some ways already exists: the Chief Compliance Officer is a new post in pharma and is primarily responsible
for overseeing compliance within an organization, understanding external regulatory requirements, and developing strategies
to ensure that the entire organization is held accountable and complies with internal/external policies. Similarly, the Chief
Patient Officer would be responsible for oversight of all patient engagement strategies within an organization, understanding
patient needs and issues, and developing strategies to ensure that the organization prioritizes these insights. The patient
perspective would get a big boost, as the C-suite is literally 'where the buck stops,' and when its members speak, people
generally listen—both internally and externally.
By carving out an overarching leadership role around the patient that is not tied to disease states or brand strategies—a
role that truly puts "every patient first"—a new level of trust can be built one step at a time. This ongoing dialogue needs
to begin within a commitment to putting the patient front and center. It also requires micro-level engagement with patient
advocacy organizations. Large and highly visible patient organizations are important, but patient care and support is normally
conducted at a grassroots level and requires sustainable solutions. Valuable programs are often created that patients rely
on, but lack of commitment from supporters due to shifting corporate marketing strategies can leave the patient community
without sustainable resources to affect real and sustainable change. Without vigilance from the top, such marketing-driven
strategic "redirection" can destroy trust overnight.
Sarah Krüg is CEO/Executive Director of CANCER101. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or on Twitter @sarahkrug1 #ChiefPatientOfficer