Closer to the Patient
UCB has restructured in order to put more emphasis on finding what its patients need.
Bharat Tewarie, Chief Marketing Officer at UCB, is musing on his days as a medical doctor and considering how the experience has shaped his subsequent work in pharma. “What did I do when I was a doctor?” he asks in an interview ahead of his presentation at eyeforpharma Barcelona 2016. “I was focusing on understanding my patients, helping them move forward with their lives realizing that each patient experience is different.”
His training in the Netherlands was nearly three decades ago, but it has left its mark. “Fast-forward to the role I have now and that attitude fits hand in glove with where UCB is,” he goes on. “At UCB we ask ourselves, how will what we are doing create value in the lives of people living with severe chronic diseases?"
Perhaps this is what attracted him to the company. Tewarie joined UCB earlier this year as part of CEO Jean-Christophe Tellier’s shake-up of the organization. UCB has made clear its ambition to better understand patients and provide a more holistic approach to care and reshaped its internal structures to achieve this: the executive committee - of which Tewarie is a member - has been realigned to get the company closer to its end user: the patient. "UCB today is not organized by function, but instead by the patient value that we want to create. We have patient value teams in each of our major therapeutic areas. That has facilitated cross-functional teams working at every level of the organization to be as close as possible to the patients and to the outcomes we want to deliver for them".
No wonder Tewarie considers himself such a good fit. “I use this example. In marketing, one of the concepts is that you create solutions for the patient. But I say: ‘Move away from creating solutions for the patients…to creating them as the patient’…When you do that, your insight changes completely".
This is certainly in tune with the prevailing mood. “At UCB now, the key characteristic of our new organizational structure is that it is more connected. No one person owns the solution. It’s always the result of a cross-functional team with shared accountability working together to understand the complexity of the environment”.
Tellier has talked before about the need for pharma to look from the ‘outside in’. Tewarie knows what his CEO means, bringing 27 years of experience in the pharma and biotech industry to UCB. He has, you suspect, seen his share of initiatives before which still did not really come up with the goods: he clearly believes UCB’s approach will be different. There is a lot to learn from other industries if you are prepared to look.
Focusing on delivering value for the patient will in turn deliver success for the company and revenue for shareholders, Tellier has insisted. Yet research over the past couple of years has suggested that pharma companies are split when it comes to the idea of who their real customer actually is: despite fine words about patient-centricity, many still believe it to be doctors and other healthcare professionals.
There is no debate at UCB, however, insists Tewarie. “The patient is the first customer. To make this a success, every person in the company must live and breathe it. It must also be consistent: the leadership team leads it, but at every meeting people must be asking themselves: ‘what difference am I making today in the lives of our patients?’”
Developing cross-functional teams and getting the internal culture right are key points when it comes to achieving what UCB has set out to do. To that end, Tewarie heads the Global Marketing and Market Access Patient Value Practice and explains that this is made up of a variety of strands: a Strategic Marketing practice, a Market Access and Pricing practice and 2 centers of excellence, namely Insight and Foresight.
“Our Patient Value Practice consists of colleagues from marketing, market access, pricing, insight, foresight, all together,” he enthuses. “Each has a part of the value chain. Not one single person owns it –the idea is that we think, connect, and co-create ideas together, before piloting to see if it works. If you find that it does, and the whole company could benefit from it –then share it with agility.”
A patient value practice with four main priorities
“The teams have various priorities,” Tewarie explains. “We look at the ecosystem on the outside –what trends are happening, which of these are sustainable, and which of them would have an impact on UCB’s strategy”.
We need to be looking at ourselves from the outside in and learning from other industries. We need to look at novel methodologies and new approaches to drive new and unique models for innovation–we can’t just be the same.
The second is to focus on the "how" to create patient value. We use external benchmarking of what "good" looks like. “For example, we take a look at the last successful launches inside and outside our industry to learn and see what worked and what could have been better.”
Third is that external focus which Tellier has insisted needs to be part of UCB’s make-up. “We need to be looking at ourselves from the outside in and learning from other industries,” Tewarie says. “We need to look at novel methodologies and new approaches to drive new and unique models for innovation–we can’t just be the same”.
This means looking at how consumerism poses new challenges for pharma with patients having unique priorities, expectations, and demands that companies must take into account if they want to meet expectations.
“We must also look at how new trends in technology and Big Data analytics can help our business to generate patient value. We want to innovate to drive the development of differentiated solutions as well as working out how we can bring them to the patient in an agile way”, states Tewarie.
Finally, there is a focus on the people, their competencies and potential, that are essential to delivering on these priorities. “We have to keep a close eye on what the organization of the future will look like and which capabilities will be the winning ones,” he says. UCB is keen to emphasize the importance of its employees. “How do I develop my talents so that we are ready for the future?” Tewarie says. “We try to groom the talent, rotating them around the company so that their potential is unlocked.”
Following his medical training, Tewarie has had a broad background in multiple aspects of pharmaceutical management, including P&L responsibility, business development, sales, global marketing, clinical research and medical affairs.
A veteran of large companies like Roche and BoehringerIngelheim, he spent most of his working life prior to UCB at various parts of Merck Serono specializing in areas such as neurology, immunology, medical devices, endocrinology and reproductive health.
Focused today on two key therapy areas –immunology and neurology - UCB is sizeable. Yet although it has a presence in 40 countries and brought in revenues of €3.3 billion last year, it is by no means among the big beasts in pharma’s jungle. With that in mind, does Tewarie think it is easier for a mid-size company to introduce initiatives like patient value? “Maybe, maybe not,” he muses. But he has no doubt that this is the direction in which pharma needs to go. “Patients are more empowered now because of the digital revolution, and there is more information available to which they have more access. At the same time, there is pressure on payment systems. Co-pays are increasing, hence payers and patients are asking for value. This all means you need to deliver value for those people who use the products.”
Pharma is – for good reason – heavily regulated, which means that interacting with patients carries with it legal and ethical restrictions, which differ from country to country. But UCB is confident that it can keep on top of the various demands this engenders. “We’ve created a framework, “he says. “A formal process is in place to listen better to patients and govern interactions in a compliant way with patients.”
All of this is particularly interesting to Tewarie, because he insists that the biggest change he has seen in his long career is the one the industry is going through now. “It’s this slow dawning of how the shift is happening about who is the true customer, “he says. “It has been the physician, then the payer, and now the patient.”
Understanding will happen more and more when we keep having these conversations with patients…allowing us to develop better solutions to help them live the life they choose rather than the one dictated by their disease.
Technological change – allowing access to ever-greater amounts of information, for instance - and the increasing empowerment of patients are among the most important factors driving these changes. The insight that companies can gather about these audiences is changing rapidly too, with ethnographic research, social media listening or online community management giving pharma the chance to tap into the patterns of behavior that it finds and use them to shape strategy.
“However we do it, the focus 100% is on generating patient value,” he concludes. “We must focus on the outcomes –as defined by the patient. Using the framework, UCB is speaking to patients, hearing their experiences in their own words. By knowing the patients not only from research but also from these first-hand experiences, UCB employees are better able to respond to their needs and keep them in mind on a daily basis. Understanding will happen more and more when we keep having these conversations with patients…allowing us to develop better solutions to help them live the life they choose rather than the one dictated by their disease”.