And we like to do it all here. We’re always hunting for those nuggets of gold; those insights that stop us in our tracks and make our heads spin. Of course, whenever we come across these, we need to share them with you right away.

Read our latest finds and thoughts, and join the conversation.

"Are you there when I need you?" - Delivering on what matters to patients

14/07/16 07:12
Dr Nicola Davies



In the book, ‘The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company,’ authors Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson reveal how Disney consistently delivers a level of customer service that exceeds the customer’s expectations each time. As an example, the authors share a story about Disney hotel staff members who discreetly placed large stuffed character animals inside the hotel room of a young family who were guests at the hotel. The stuffed animals “mysteriously” changed their positions every time the family returned to the room, much to the entertainment and wonder of the children and to the delight of the parents.

This kind of service goes above and beyond, creating an experience that customers will forever talk about. The company’s brand of customer service targets what truly matters to customers. It is so deeply embedded within the company culture that it has come to be known as “The Disney Way” – and it is something every company should strive for, including those in the healthcare and biopharmaceutical industries.

What matters to patients

According to Emma Sutcliffe, Patient Engagement and Socialised Health Expert, the essential question asked by patients, and that companies need to measure themselves against, is: “Are you there when I need you?” In other words, are biopharma companies really present in ways that truly matter to patients and in places where patients want them to be? 

If the statement “Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured matters” is true, then biopharma need to quickly find a way of understanding what matters. Knowing what really matters, especially to patients, could be a huge differentiator.

But what does matter to patients? And how can the industry find out what really matters to them?  Not surprisingly, the simple answer is listening to patients, as opposed to trying to manage them and making decisions on their behalf. Conducting workshops that serve as a venue for patients to discuss their challenges, needs and ideas is a good place to start. Conversations with patients can generate multiple insights and enable a community-first approach to developing solutions, where patients act as co-creators in the design process. 

Essentially, the approach to patients should be human-centric, rather than disease-centric. Knowing what matters to patients is going beyond what is clinically needed to target a disease, and moving towards developing therapeutic services that are overall solutions to improved living.

Assessing a subjective area

What matters to people often involves emotion, sentiment and personal opinion. These concepts can be perplexing to companies, who are dependent on using objective methods of evaluation. So, how can an area as subjective as “what matters to patients” be measured and authentically assessed?

Before anything else, biopharma companies must evaluate the current business models and metrics they adopt in order to determine whether they give consideration to the subjective aspect of the patient experience. Furthermore, they must identify at which patient journey points they can “meet” the patient. By studying the journey of the patient, companies will begin to realize that there are a number of opportunities to improve customer engagement, and to “be there” for patients. Here are four measurable areas that matter to patients:

  • Quality, timeliness and relevance of content and educational resources. Availability of information and educational resources is an important measure of being there for patients. During the initial stages of their health journey, patients often overflow with curiosity and ask a million questions about a condition that they have or suspect they have. Sharing health information at the point of awareness, when patients seek to know more, is a crucial form of support for them.
  • Patient access. Are patients happy to take their medicine? Are doctors, family members and caregivers supportive of them taking a particular drug? Companies need to answer these kinds of questions and measure the success of a product based on whether it has reached the hands of the patient and that the patient is consistently taking it based on the right dosage. Health outcomes can only be realized if patients take their medicines.
  • Patient trust. The level of reliance and comfort that patients feel about a product, service or brand is also an important indicator. Patients want to feel confident that every individual from the industry that they encounter is there for one purpose – to enlighten them and help make their lives easier.
  • Patient experience. Experience refers to the sum total of interactions an individual has with a product, brand or company. Having a positive experience sometimes comprises a large part of what matters to consumers. Measuring patient experience can help reveal how trusting, comfortable, open, and intimate patients are willing to be with certain therapies and companies.

Patients are powerful assets to the solution-making process, but to leverage their influence, companies need to be there, ready to listen and observe. Furthermore, being there means being by the patient’s side, actual or virtual, as they move along the patient journey, from the point of awareness to disease management. With such an impact on the decision-making of patients, measuring the subjective aspect of the patient experience needs to be placed on the same footing as the objective (and usually financial) metrics of performance.

Topics: Patient Journey

Dr Nicola Davies

Dr Nicola Davies is a Medical Writer and Health Psychology Consultant with articles in over 130 publications worldwide. Her expertise is within the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries, where she has worked with individual pharma companies as well as the FDA. While her primary focus has been on the patient, she has been expanding into marketing and commercial. As such, she has produced large best practice Dossiers on topics ranging from improving the customer experience to utilising multichannel marketing strategies. Her background is in research, for which she has 17 years’ experience that has been utilised to assist pharma to measure and interpret patient outcomes.

See more posts by Dr Nicola Davies