Creating Purpose: Personal Narratives Behind Patient Centricity
Barcelona Awards winner Christi Marsh pioneers a patient-focussed solution at UCB.
Christi Marsh won the eyeforpharma Barcelona ‘Customer Innovator’ Award for her guiding influence in the creation of the customer-centric information service, UCBCares™, at this year’s second annual ceremony, adding to an impressive year for UCB; former CEO Roch Doliveux was also recognized for his career leadership in patient centricity with the Lifetime Value Achievement Award.
A common thread in both of their stories, and a factor that Roch stressed influenced his patient-centric thinking was that they both began their careers in care delivery. Christi, a pharmacist (PharmD) by training, began her career in a clinical practice setting within the US, working alongside physicians helping patients with the therapeutic medication management and care for eight years prior to moving into the industry, where her first role was working in medical affairs at GSK in 2001.
At the end of the day, I want to help. When you come to work at a place like UCB, you have a chance now to impact thousands of patients’ lives, not just in one hospital or one city, but all over the world; and, it's an incredible privilege.”
Having heard the influence that this exposure had on Roch’s career, we posed a similar question to Christi and she agreed, “The time spent working with patients in the clinics and the hospitals was invaluable. If I had not had that opportunity first, I likely would have not brought as much understanding to my roles in industry and my current role at UCB. At the end of the day, I want to help. When you come to work at a place like UCB, you have a chance now to impact thousands of patients lives, not just in one hospital or one city, but all over the world; and, it is an incredible privilege.”
While at UCB, Christi’s responsibilities grew within medical affairs, and part of that role involved leadership of an internal medical information contact center, which worked collaboratively with two other internal department contact centers for Drug Safety and Customer Service; all three internal contact centers served a variety of customers including physicians, payors, trade and patients. But while these units worked closely together, there were definite barriers that were affecting the customer experience. Customers would have to navigate multiple departments and organizational layers to find their solution. Christi said, “Our 2013 customer survey feedback and scores demonstrated a definite opportunity for improvement, at 75%.”
We were placing the burden on the customer. This vision became more clear to me in 2013 as I became a full-time caregiver for my mom. As I had to navigate many solutions for her, there were few companies or health systems willing to do anything to take any burden or help me to simply navigate to the solution I needed.”
A challenge of talking in terms of customer satisfaction scores is that it doesn’t really convey any meaning as to what the impact of good or bad service could mean for the patient. Christi was also going through a personal life experience that gave her a very real understanding of this; something she was able to convey to her team and colleagues, “We were placing the burden on the customer. This vision became more clear to me in 2013 as I became a full-time caregiver for my mom. As I had to navigate many solutions for her, there were few companies or health systems willing to do anything to take any burden or help me to simply navigate to the solution I needed for my mother. Whether there is a doctor that is extremely busy or a patient living with a severe disease, why should they have an added burden to navigate around our departments and company for their solution?”
Christi and her team got approval from company leadership to combine resources from the previous customer facing contact center teams to create a new single integrated solution center team (UCBCares). Instead of having three separate contact centers, UCBCares became the single source solution center for all customers (HCPs and consumers), with a mission to deliver an exceptional caring experience to all UCB customers. The project came together extremely quickly; project leads met with compliance, HR, legal, IT, marketing, corporate affairs, telecommunications, and many other stakeholders in order to design a new structure and systems. Within six months, UCBCares was approved as a concept and launched May19, 2014.
The speed of progress was not without challenges, of course. Christi stated, “The greatest challenge was the time expectation to deliver the change as well as change itself. Meanwhile, we were building a new plane essentially while we were flying it, as we still had to deliver customer care in the separate contact centers until we launched as UCBCares. Each team member was to be working on their workstream, learning new skills during cross training, while also delivering their daily customer-facing work.” Christi cites engaging early with key stakeholders in one-on-one meetings as critical to moving forward with this and getting everyone on board.
Very few times in my journey did I meet someone who did not pass me onto someone else or give me something else to do.”
Having a clear mission that they could convey was essential, and that mission was that they needed to wrap the experience around the customer instead of the customer around the function was powerful. Christi was able to speak to frustration that she had felt when managing the care process for her mother, “Very few times in my journey did I meet someone who did not pass me onto someone else or give me something else to do.” Christi makes the point that she found the care system very hard to navigate even though she had worked in healthcare practice and industry for over two decades. She asked us to imagine the experience of someone completely outside of healthcare who has to interpret both an unfamiliar system but also an unfamiliar language.
Even when someone places information out onto a website, think about how many things have been assumed. Do all your patients have access to the Internet? Will they know how to find the website? Will they have the understanding to interpret the knowledge?”
Part of an issue with the design process for patient information is that the designer will become familiar with what they create, but Christi stresses that it is crucially important to always question the assumptions behind these outputs, “Even when someone places information out onto a website, think about how many things have been assumed. Do all your patients have access to the Internet? Will they know how to find the website? Will they have the understanding to interpret the knowledge? We need to always try to deliver things that meet everyone’s needs.”
At UCB, this is just a mindset, this is how we think. It is very ingrained in our culture, it isn't a tagline or words we say.”
Christi praises her UCBCares team, in particular the project co-leads, Greg Cohen, Sr. Social Media Manager, and Christopher Bess, Sr. Manager UCBCares for truly living this approach, and points to the success of UCBCares as evidence that their way of thinking creates results. Less than a year after the launch mid-May 2014, satisfaction has increased from 75% in 2013 to 93% in 2014. Having piloted UCBCares in the US, they presented the project to HQ in Brussels and the aspirations are now to set up the infrastructure across every region. Christi has been working with expansion teams in every country, trying to align the project to existing infrastructure and culture.
We shouldn't be defined by our function, but rather use our expertise to benefit the patient and deliver exceptional care in all we do".
The benefits are clear to both the employees and the customer. Christi notes that employee engagement is extremely high, as measured in a recent annual company engagement survey. UCBCares clearly was set up to allow people to put purpose behind their work, as well as to directly see the link to the patient in their job. Christi says, “At UCB, this is just a mindset, this is how we think. It is very ingrained in our culture, it isn't a tagline or words we say.”
For Christi, her mom serves as her passion to motivate the purpose of UCBCares; to give back and make a difference for patients. The UCBCares experience has changed her way of working and thinking. “Seeing how all of these functions managed to line up and deliver on this solution in such a short time and deliver such value to our customers was very powerful. I very much encourage the UCBCares mindset and approach in all of my projects now. We shouldn't be defined by our function, but rather use our expertise to benefit the patient and deliver exceptional care in all we do.”
UCBCares™ is a trademark of the UCB Group of Companies.
Since you're here...
... and value our content, you should sign-up to our newsletter. Sign up here