Patient centricity has become the byword for modern pharma, championed by all the big players in the industry and with a background rooted firmly in the NHS. It is exemplified by the phrase ‘no decision about me, without me’.
The concept of a patient-centric pharma brand describes an ideal in medicine that involves patients in every choice and with every decision along their treatment route. Patient centricity is currently something like a snowball rolling downhill. It’s gathering momentum and will only become more important in the future.
Patient advocacy groups
Around the world, patient advocacy groups and organisations are becoming more sophisticated and powerful, and not just in lending support to patients and their families.
Some groups, such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is expanding activities to include the research and development of new drug therapies. Likewise, US associations such as the National Health Council, the European Patient’s Forum, and the European Organisation for Rare Diseases, help member groups increase their impact.
One of the ways in which they do this is by looking at how the patient voice can be integrated into healthcare decision-making. Other ways include developing and providing tools that enable advocacy groups to capture patient opinions and concerns about treatment options.
Through establishing community advisory boards and explaining treatment information, these groups of patient representatives can assemble a wide range of patient-generated information, giving consistent input that can help with trial design.
Similarly, online patient networks such as Patients Like Me (PLM) create wide-ranging databases filled with information across multiple medical spectrums that are of interest to pharmaceutical companies. With around half a million members, there is plenty of community data that can help inform drug development. Far from providing purely anecdotal evidence, PLM collaborates with drug manufacturers to assess patient experience and capabilities, and build tools to measure patient-reported outcomes.
Competitive pressures and product differentiation
Chronic diseases such as high cholesterol or diabetes create a lot of competition between pharma, creating pressure to shift the focus to patient outcomes as a way to differentiate treatments.
With diabetes in particular, there is an opportunity for pharma to take a more patient centric approach. Whilst a wide range of effective treatments exists, with the measuring of blood sugar levels already a proven measure of success, adherence and lifestyle management remain an issue. Finding ways to improve patient adherence would be a huge step forward in patient centricity, for this and other long term conditions.
Patient power in technology
Patients today have far more knowledge about their medical conditions than they used to, and this is largely driven by technological advances and readily accessible digital communications.
The “quantified self” movement promotes the tracking of various physiological parameters through wearable devices. These are changing the ways in which patients engage with healthcare providers, and driving a different level of engagement. Offering an improvement over tests done in the doctor’s office (which only provide a snapshot of the patient’s condition at the time) wearables offer greater patient centricity by providing information that’s true to the patient’s day to day condition, taking account of activity levels, behaviour and general physiology.
Gathering information passively in the background, they are less disruptive to the patient’s normal routine as there is no longer a need for so many visits to outpatient departments or doctor’s offices to monitor well-being.
Understanding the key drivers goes a long way towards helping pharma develop their own more patient-centric approach.