Authors: Briana Saddler, Research Associate and Rory Stanton, Principal Analyst
Improving the patient experience is increasingly a priority for many pharma brands. We have seen many digital organizations place customer experience – and patient engagement – with digital at the core of what they do. Today’s ever-more digitally-sophisticated and empowered healthcare consumer demands that healthcare brands re-center their marketing and communications accordingly.
Patients now come to their physician with health information in hand, and they’ve shifted from simply being passive recipients of care to active participants in care. In fact, almost 2 in 5 (39%) online consumers say they are more involved in decisions regarding their treatment than they were two years ago. Moreover, DRG data indicate that healthcare experience is a top priority for consumers -- 1 in 3 online consumers say that companies that focus on their experience as a patient provide more value to them.
As the pharmaceutical industry shifts its commercial model from volume to value, brands must use patient experience as the driver of strategic initiatives, since better experiences lead to higher health engagement and ultimately, better health outcomes. Pharmas with genuine patient-centric approaches must look beyond traditional, antiquated models of understanding patient behavior, in order to arrive at a more holistic view of patients’ experiences with their condition; this new understanding will, in turn, enable pharmas to surface ways to message patients beyond the point of care.
Some brands have already embodied ‘patient at the center’ initiatives:
In 2014, Sanofi became the first large pharma company to appoint a Chief Patient Officer, Anne C. Beal, MD, MPH, whose role is to find better, more productive ways of integrating patient and caregiver needs into Sanofi’s activities. Sanofi followed that up with “Three Pillars for Patient Centricity,” a strategic framework outlining the company’s vision as a patient-focused healthcare provider.
Sanofi has since optimized the way they conduct clinical trials. In one instance, the company looked at how to decrease the overall site visit burden for patients throughout the trial. Patient advisors worked with Sanofi to provide participants with cooler bags so they could manage more of their medication in fridges at home. In addition, Sanofi allowed participants to bring materials back to the site on a more flexible schedule, which eventually led to higher patient retention and reduced costs for the company.1
In the same vein, UCB incorporated patient experience into their organization by restructuring company initiatives in 2015, appointing a Chief Patient Affairs Officer and adding “Patient Value Units” in all UCB therapeutic areas. According to CEO Jean-Christophe Tellier, UCB is “not organized by function but by the patient value that we want to create. We have patient value teams in each of their major therapeutic areas.” That, said Tellier, has facilitated cross-functional teams that work to bring the company closer to patients. Moreover, for UCB employees that don’t have a direct connection to patients, such as those working in legal or HR, UCB’s solution “is to give them field experience with a sales rep or account manager to learn about the lives of patients,” said Tellier 2
For those brands that haven’t yet overhauled their patient journey approach, DRG Digital’s newest Bottom Line report “Modernizing the Patient Journey with Digital”3 illustrates the impact of digital in patient decision-making, as well as the ways that brands can map their understanding of how patients navigate pain points using digital tools to patient experience design. To remain relevant to patients, brands must recognize that patient-centric experience and marketing design are inextricably linked to commercial success.
1 “Patient-Centric Approach Helps Cut Costs and Speed Clinical Trials, Sanofi Exec Reports.” https://www.acrpnet.org/2016/07/14/patient-centric-approach-helps-cut-costs-and-speed-clinical-trials-sanofi-exec-reports/
2 “Putting the patient first in pharma: UCB’s Jean-Christophe Tellier.” http://www.heidrick.com/~/media/Publications%20and%20Reports/Putting%20patient%20first%20in%20pharma.pdf
3 DRG Digital’s “Modernizing the Patient Journey with Digital” is available to study subscribers or a la carte