Has the Pendulum of Patient Centricity Swung Too Far?

For patient centricity to actually work for us (and for patients), there needs to be another dimension – our business needs.

On my way through the airport en route to the eyeforpharma Barcelona conference, I had an interesting phone call with a VP of Marketing who was frustrated with patient centricity.

"I think the pendulum has swung too far away from selling and too much toward patient centricity.

Our sales reps are afraid to sell now - we have to get back to basics!

He talked about how NO patients will be served if the company can’t sustain itself, which is clear. The part that seemed flawed was “the pendulum swinging too far away from selling and toward patient centricity.” The idea that we should move back to the old model of selling didn’t make sense to me. From his perspective though, it seemed like the more they focused on the patient in their sales calls, the further their sales lagged! 

As I chatted with John about it over the Atlantic and with others at the conference, we pushed our thinking a little further. It was a perception that John had come across before. When he was doing Public Policy/GR work for a ‘big pharma’ company, he had some customer meetings with his new CEO. During the downtime between calls, they chatted about where the business was going. The CEO said to John: “I think we’ve gone too far in terms of patient centricity. We need to get back to selling.” 

Here’s what we came to. And we would love your opinion in the comments section below. In our minds, patient centricity and selling aren’t opposites. Patient focus is on its own continuum – it doesn’t really have an opposite. You are either not patient-focused or very patient-focused or somewhere in between. Being very patient-focused is an enabler of deep conversations and trust-based relationships with healthcare providers.

The problem is that in our implementation of patient centricity, we may have left reps with the idea that the single dimension of patient centricity is the panacea for the common sales call. For patient centricity to actually work for us (and for patients), there needs to be another dimension – our business needs.  This is the “sweet spot” of the modern sales call. It is in this place that we will truly create better outcomes – for the patient, the HCP and our companies. Even patients agree with this. In our soon to be published 2016 Global Patient-Centricity Benchmarking Survey, 79% of patients agree it is paramount that pharma finds the intersection where best outcomes for the patient, the HCP and the company all coincide.

Some might say: “Weren’t we always trying to do that?” I would say – not exactly. In the old system, patient needs and business needs were in opposition. If you really wanted to nail your sales targets for the year - you would take whatever patients you could get to achieve that. In the new model, these two dimensions aren’t in conflict, they are in synergy. The trust and credibility that the rep earns by authentically focusing on the patient enable the rep to work with the doctor to help her/him maximize the number of patients who can benefit from better diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up.

We made the graphic below to illustrate this idea. Does it help? 

Can you picture pharma people who work in each of these quadrants?

How are you teaching your people in the yellow quadrants to move to the green quadrant?

Next month, we will explore ideas to help you work in the green quadrant.

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Patient Summit Europe

Oct 17, 2016 - Oct 18, 2016, London

Prove It: The Business Case For Adding Patient Value