Patient-Centered Clinics: IVF Spain
IVF Spain is a fertility clinic in Alicante famous for a stellar success rate and high patient-satisfaction, as well as for involving patients in the design of the services, which puts it at the forefront of patient-centricity.
At the Spanish clinic, prospective parents are not only recipients of first-class fertility therapies, but are partners in planning of services, and the environment in which those services are delivered. Although patients didn’t have a say in the development of clinical procedures, their input into how the clinic should be organized was taken very seriously even before the opening, and yielded tangible changes to the offerings of the center.
Examples of patient input
The most mundane example of patient influence on decision-making within the clinic was their feedback on the way waiting rooms were organized. “Patients said they were not too keen on sharing space with other couples, they wanted to have their intimacy, so we designed them that way,” recounts Carlos Bezos Daleske, Research and Co-Creation Manager at IVF Spain, speaking to eyeforpharma ahead of this presentation at the Value Added Services Conference in September.
Another example of a successful initiative was the development of a support system for international patients, who constitute 40% of the clinic’s clientele. People living abroad are taken care of over the phone and via email, but the way the service operates was established with the help of those who had been through the patient journey. That’s how APIs were born.
APIs are international patient assistants who can answer questions like: what if I take too much of my medication? What do I do if I lose my prescription? In addition to that, they provide emotional support to the patients. Volumes of patient interviews and empathy exercises are used during their training, which allows them to develop a good feeling for patient needs. “When there is a crisis, we know what the right words are, how to approach a patient, and we can provide a good solution, which isn’t necessarily a standard one".
Patients were invited to participate in small groups over a period of 3-6 months, appearing every fortnight, and spending 1-2 days sharing their contribution. It wasn’t easy to keep them motivated, although fertility patients, whose treatment had been successful, usually like to show their gratitude and give back to the treating physician. So when they were asked to participate in the planning of the new clinic, many of them jumped onboard.
The result? 95% of the patients who have gone through IVF treatment at IVF Spain would recommend their services to others. “We see that in their comments on internet forums,” Bezos Daleske admitted. “They feel well-treated and well-listened to, and they eagerly share their experience online.”
Key lessons for pharma
It’s important to realize that the patient’s communication with the company begins long before he or she decides to purchase a drug, and interventions need to be delivered already at this point if pharma is to be a trusted partner".
The key lesson pharma should learn from the Spaniards is how to listen to patients and how to respond to their needs. It’s important to realize that the patient’s communication with the company begins long before he or she decides to purchase a drug, and interventions need to be delivered already at this point if pharma is to be a trusted partner. “You need to establish relationships with the patients, Bezos Daleske asserted. “Legally you cannot talk to them, but nothing’s stopping you from listening,” he said.
The change in image won’t be easy, but there are some ideas worth exploring. For example, members of the industry could consider setting up partnerships with either universities or foundations, which would enable cooperation with patients. “This is a powerful source of patient insight. If you do a focus group or conduct a poll, you get some information, but it’s mostly just people complaining that they want better medication at a lower price. What you need is context and for that you need cooperation.”
An example of such cooperation is a project launched a few years ago by a pharma company and a foundation, which, together, created a guide on treatment of terminally ill patients. The brochure was featured prominently on prime time TV and shortly after its initiation spread to Latin America. “The company had a very large return on a very small investment, demonstrating that setting up partnerships and investing in services is worthwhile,” Bezos Daleske stressed.
There are many opportunities for pharma to become opinion leaders in patient support. Although the ultimate goal of any commercial endeavor is to sell, this industry has a peerless chance to become one of the most trusted partners in healthcare, while hitting their ROI targets.
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