Pharma: is your brand patient-centered? 5 critical success factors.

[As originally posted in MedAd News [1], November 2009] [1]

[As originally posted in MedAd News, November 2009]Image

Almost every pharma company likes to think of itself as "patient-centric," but prescription brands can become patient-centered only by putting consumers at the heart of their business model through every stage of product development and deployment and by focusing relentlessly on patient experience and outcomes. This means integrating tough consumer questions and learning into every phase of commercialization. Consumers increasingly demand direct communication and they expect the kind of standards to which they are accustomed in other industries. This is a major challenge, with substantial rewards awaiting those who find their way.

Adopting five critical success factors improves success. Marketers must put patients at the center of every decision right from the beginning; translate clinical benefits to real world health grains; encourage a more collaborative relationship between doctor and patient; improve patient and caregiver experience through the treatment pathway; and take nothing for granted, understanding that even small details can be meaningful to patients and families.

A newcomer might wonder why pharma needs reminding to center on the patient; it's a stated part of virtually every company mission. Traditionally, patients were not viewed as the primary customerphysicians were, and in some ways still are. New drugs were positioned to get maximum uptake and support of the primary gatekeepers: healthcare professionals, who were thought to know their patients. New products reaching their primary end points without safety issues were launched to physicians. While consumer companies can more easily design desired product features and benefits into the development process, drug recovery is fraught with special hurdles, plus limitations of what benefits new prescription or biologic entitles deliver in clinical use. As a result, many compounds fail before FDA approval.Image

Historically, development and commercialization was largely led by physicians and clinical experts. Marketing's voice carried less weight, often came late, and focused largely on physicians. Also, because physician-focused sales people were often promoted into marketing functions, they brought little consumer expertise. Increasingly, hospitals and payers have become important customers.  And with the exponential growth of generics and with healthcare reform looming, business models are morphing to accommodate hospitals and payers faster than the shift to patients and caregivers.

U.S. healthcare is encountering the Information Age and Web 2.0, slowly and painfully shifting from a physician, sales-driven approach toward "patient centered" and market-driven. This reflects a growing recognition that incorporating individuals' perspective and greater involvement in healthcare results in better outcomes and satisfaction. Patients make the ultimate decision about whether they will live healthy, fill prescriptions, and adhere to prescribed medications. Social media platforms connect consumers to each other and encourage health information sharing. Companies and brands are publicly assessed. Dialogues include patient-caregiver experience, efficacy, cost, and side effects, and will likely include one or more conversations with a physician. Consumerism was, and in many ways still is, an unpleasant surprise for pharma. Business and marketing practices, while improving, have not caught up.

So the question remains, what will it take for the industry to get current?
To win at the five critical success factors, marketers need to put the patient at the center of decisions at critical junctures along the clinical and commercialization pathway as early as Phase l and Phase ll of development. Early and more integrated cross-functional teams are more likely to succeed. Companies should establish high standards right from the start, including a focus on translating clinical benefits to real-world health gains and staying true to the Six C's: Content with context; Conversation; Customization; Community Connectedness; Confidence Creation; and Consistent Commitment.

5 ways to get patient-centric

1. Put the patient at the center of every decision right from the beginning of commercialization. If it's good
for the patient, it'll be good for business. Look through patients' eyes---not your own. Continually ask: What
matters most to consumers? Consider cultural traditions, personal values, family situations and
lifestyles. Look beyond specific health conditions.

2. Translate clinical benefits to real-world health gains. Think beyond chemical compounds to consider how
consumer attitudes and usage will impact perceived results. Encourage shared provider-patient

3. Drive a more collaborative relationship between doctor and patient vs. simply focusing on patient
behaviors and outcomes.
Develop a physician education to deepen support to patients. Adherence is
complex and requires multi-factorial assessments and interventions. Encourage healthcare providers to
coordinate care while fully engaging consumers and their families.

4. Improve Patient and Caregiver Experience throughout the treatment pathway, along all
Consider product, people, process, interactions and communications. Ensure patients (and
families) have education and support to make participatory decisions. Go to where your patients are; learn
how they take your medication. Customize information, tools; encourage community, co-created
information. Keep the 6 C's in mind: Content with context, Conversation, Customization; Community
Connectedness; Confidence Creation; Consistent Commitment.

5. Take nothing for granted--even small details can be meaningful to patients and their families.


Design credit for patient-centered image: Courtney Justice/The Cournell Group




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