In a MicroMass research paper entitled “Can Pharma Stay Relevant?” the idea of patient-centricity is given a lot of thought. The paper says that “defining patient centric is like trying to hit a moving target. With myriad and conflicting definitions of what it means, nobody can deliver on it.” However, knowing the “how” behind FAQs surrounding patient-centricity is a great first step in getting at the true definition.
How do you know you’re being respectful and responsive to patient preferences? How do you prioritize patients’ values while simultaneously providing the best medication? As a healthcare marketing professional or a manufacturer of medicine following these four guidelines will help you understand the true definition of patient-centricity.
Speak to Patients
How do you know you’re being respectful and responsive to patient preferences? By communicating with and understanding the patients, you can create something truly patient-centric.
What are patients’ wants, needs and concerns? If a patient is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis they want medicine that provides fast and substantial pain relief. They need a bottle of medication that isn’t painful for them to open, and they’re concerned about possible side effects of medication like heartburn, nausea or vomiting.
Go even further than that. Really try and put yourself in the patient’s shoes – what are unique side effects of their disease that only those suffering would know and understand? We can’t just speculate. Try and understand the level of stress that someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis feels when they suddenly can’t even move their hand or foot.
Proceed with Caution
Closely related to speaking with patients is understanding the fine line between research and crossing personal boundaries. Your research should come from a desire to better understand and serve the needs of patients, not as data gathering to increase sales.
Even if your desire to research comes from the right place, it’s still possible to cross some personal boundaries. You don’t want to be stalking anyone on social media sites; rather read articles and interviews about the given disease, or talk with someone you know that is suffering from the disease.
Invest in Patient Education
Is your product easy to use? Is your product a part of a line of products that treat a disease in different ways depending on patient needs? Educate patients on all of the aspects of your product. Patients want to play an active role in determining their treatment plan, and need to be informed to properly do so. Patients won’t use your products if they don’t understand how and why they should use them. Educating patients on your products is just as important as getting the HCP buy-in.
Use your online presence to your advantage: Make sure your website describes a given product in a concise way that makes it clear which patient should use it and why. If your product requires a lot of medical jargon to properly understand, additional resources like an app or other online tools should be provided that explain words and phrases patients might not know in terms they can understand.
Patient support materials and resources aren’t web-only efforts. While the majority of people are connected to the internet in one way or another, some may prefer print alternatives or having a conversation with an informed individual. Providing resources such as toll-free numbers to talk with healthcare professionals or brochures with information about your product can be a tremendous help to patients who have questions or concerns about your product. Taking extra steps like these really conveys the idea that it’s the health of the patient, not your product that matters the most.
Make Sure You’re Truly Educating
You want to educate your patients, not promote your product to them. This isn’t a chance for you to sell nor is it about you beating out your competitors: it’s about educating your patients so they can play an active role in treating their disease. Be there for your patients, they need you.
It can be difficult to avoid taking on a “salesy” tone when talking about a product, but patients can tell when you’re trying to sell them something, and trying to present information in a way that’s designed to help them.
If you were to try and briefly define patient-centricity, “patient empathy” is what you’re looking for. If you can respect all patients as individuals with unique and essential knowledge of their own health and preferences for treatment, and truly look at treatment options from patients’ perspectives you’re creating patient-centricity.