A Structural and Cultural Transformation for a Patient-Focused UCB
Is UCB a shining example of patient-centricity by design? Dr Nicola Davies investigates.
Pharma has claimed patient-centricity for years, but Bharat Tewarie, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer at UCB, points out, “Everyone talks about it, but how do you change your systems and processes to truly see your patient as your customer?” This is an important question, which is explored further in eyeforpharma’s ‘Patient-Centered Culture by Design’ Whitepaper. Tewarie will also shed further light on this during his talk at eyeforpharma's upcoming Barcelona 2016 Conference.
In the meantime, we delved into this question by asking Tewarie to tell us about how UCB transformed their culture to put patients at the center. “Only now are we seeing organizations make real change happen,” says Tewarie, who takes pride in being part of an organization recognized in the industry as one of the first movers of ‘patient-centricity’: “UCB has gone further than most. It’s one of the first companies to organize itself around patient value creation.” Through this, UCB effectively embeds new principles into their daily work. Now, with everything their employees do, Tewarie says they are able to ask themselves: “What difference can I make in the lives of people living with severe chronic diseases?”
A patient-focused model
According to Tewarie, the culture within UCB is in transition and, in particular, UCB has adopted a new approach - the patient-focused solutions model. This is a move away from the traditional product-focused approach that targeted sales tactics and initiatives to encourage physicians to increase their prescription levels. “Traditionally in pharma, the customer has been the physician. Products (and the method of selling them) were designed based on the needs and desires of the physician, who was entrusted to represent the patient,” explains Tewarie.
The physician is a stakeholder, and now, we are all working together focused on the patient.
UCB acknowledges that pharma has traditionally viewed the physician as the customer, but the true customer is, and always has been, the patient. “At UCB we are building our systems, tools, processes, and solutions around the value we create for our true customers - the patients,” he says. These changes are a shift from creating solutions for the patient to creating them as the patient, which means UCB has started to incorporate the patient’s perspective into product development and service design, ensuring that the solutions are designed around the patient experience - for and with them as opposed to simply deciding on the patient's behalf. This approach is reflected in the company strategy written on the UCB website: “Rather than researching any new drug with the science alone, we want to better connect patients with science and science with patients.”
This change in focus has also resulted in a shift in the role of physicians and pharma’s relationship with them. Tewarie says, “The physician is a stakeholder, and now, we are all working together focused on the patient.”
Getting closer to patients
With the drive to achieve greater focus on the specific needs of patients living with severe chronic disease, UCB employees are being trained to get closer to patients to deliver better patient value in a legal and compliant way. Tewarie says, “UCB is speaking to patients and hearing their experiences in their own words. We have implemented several techniques that allow us to directly interact with patients and gain first-hand insight and understanding into how they live their disease.” Employees achieve this by asking patients about their journey and holistic experience. According to Tewarie, not only does this allow them to gain a fuller understanding of the patient’s perspective, but it also ensures that the business problems they need to tackle are reframed to revolve around the patient journey. He adds, “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.”
Since the needs of our patients are highly specific and often changing we must value connectivity, which allows us to be agile and respond to change swiftly and appropriately.
A call for restructuring the approach
Besides asking patients about their experiences under the patient-focused model, UCB has put in place significant organizational and cultural changes to support the new approach. “Today, UCB is not organized by function, but instead by the patient value that we want to create,” shares Tewarie. “We have patient value teams in each of our major therapeutic areas, which are Neurology and Immunology. The key characteristic of our 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. This has facilitated cross-functional teams working at every level of the organization to be as close as possible to the customers (patients) and to the outcomes that we want to deliver.”
A change in values and mindset
Driving the patient agenda forward requires a culture change and new way of working. “It is about creating a sense of accountability and ownership to embrace the new culture. Since the needs of our patients are highly specific and often changing we must value connectivity, which allows us to be agile and respond to change swiftly and appropriately.” Tewarie says that most important of all is having an understanding of how valuable patient perspective is, which must be infused into the daily routine of employees. “To make this approach a success, every person in the company must live and breathe it. We must embody it as we frame our business questions, develop our solutions, and iterate and evolve to deliver differentiated and meaningful patient value.”
Ownership of change among employees
Adapting the organization and infusing a patient value driven way of thinking is no easy feat. Tewarie shares, “As with any change management effort, adopting new ways of working can be challenging.” However, change can be sustained as long as there are empowered employees who consciously align themselves along the new strategy.
A change in culture can be considered successfully embedded when it becomes an intrinsic part of employee behavior. However, this must begin with the organization members’ acceptance of the new way of thinking. When employees understand the logic for change and embrace the need for it, culture shaping can actually come from their own actions. Tewarie shares that at UCB, “All of our people are enabled by our patient value strategy and principles to create this culture change and new way of working.”
Nurturing ownership and accountability for change can motivate employees to embrace and protect such change. This is the first step in motivating employees during cultural transformation, according to Tewarie. “Second,” he continues, “we must create the right experiences for people that will help shape their beliefs to know they can deliver value for patients.” The third and final step is for employees to “commit to giving each other regular and focused feedback,” as this drives their individual performance and promotes connectivity.
Leadership - being an example
Tewarie is aware that people will behave as they are expected to if they trust that they can look to leadership for guidance, inspiration and support. The word ‘leadership,’ therefore, strictly means being an example. “As leaders,” Tewarie explains, “we must communicate clearly and walk the talk,” to foster a culture of trust and consistency.
He adds, “The type of leadership that will be successful (in walking the patient-centric talk) will require a deep understanding of the patient. Leadership must be able to inspire employees to ask themselves what difference they can make in the lives of patients on a daily basis".
Measuring patient-centered success
But how do we measure success? Tewarie explains it very simply: “Success for UCB is when we enable our patients to live the life they choose, rather than one dictated by the disease.” The company is dedicated to creating value and improving the lives not only of the patients living with severe chronic diseases, but of their families and care providers as well. "The real success story will be the results (of the patient-focused approach) we will see for our patients and for our company,” he says. Overall, Tewarie believes we are seeing a paradigm shift within the industry, where more pharma organizations are recognizing the patient as their true customer. Those attending his talk at eyeforpharma Barcelona 2016 will surely be enlightened.