I was recently asked by a leading industry observer, ‘despite years and years of effort and investment by pharmaceutical companies, they don’t seem to be moving the needle to improve patient experiences, so why do they keep trying? Why do they need that relationship?’ I thought it was a fair observation, one that others in the industry might be asking. I believe there is significant value in pharma continuing to focus on patient centricity initiatives across the end-to-end value chain.

Let’s look at some business performance metrics in two key areas, R&D and Commercial.

First in R&D: of the ~300K clinical trials, currently only 5-10% of eligible patients are even aware of the clinical trials.

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of trials don’t start on time due to issues with enrollment,

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of patients drop out due to poor experience (non-clinical)

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of trials close or terminate early because they didn’t have enough patients, which is estimated at over $800+ billion loss in value.

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In Commercial, patient experience has value to help patients deal with conditions being identified, diagnosed and treated, including help adhering to those treatments. For many specialty chronic conditions (MS, RA, and others), it can take more than 7-10 years to get a proper diagnosis, which results in significant waste and poor outcomes for millions of patients. Further, once diagnosed, it can take months to get through the authorization/verification process before getting the treatment, meaning lost revenue and quality of life impact.

Finally, with patient adherence at less than 50% for multiple chronic conditions and the estimated lost value totaling more than $300B, the importance of helping patients stick to their medicines through patient services is well worth the investment.

This was even more clear in the epidemic, where patients wouldn’t or couldn’t go to their HCPs for prescriptions, or investigator sites for clinical trials, resulting in billions in lost revenue and poorer health outcomes for patients. As a result of the epidemic, virtually all parts of the healthcare ecosystem realized that they need to ‘pivot’ even more towards the patient and bring new capabilities, including digital health solutions, to drive better engagement. Our Health and Life Sciences experience research published in August 2021 showed how patient expectations post-COVID had in fact been elevated in terms of how all players should seek to bring new services to patients to make it easier to manage their conditions.

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Patient services are one of the most tangible examples of pharma’s intent to engage with patients. It has also been the most significant area of investment over the past few years, across multiple therapeutic areas. This has been especially important in high-value therapies in Oncology, Specialty, and Rare/Ultra diseases, where addressing the needs of patients across their journey (diagnosis, treatment initiation, and maintenance) are even more critical. We have fielded multiple surveys between 2015 – 2020, and found key insights:

  • Despite the significant investment in services, only 1 in 5 patients are aware of the services, and that level didn’t change between 2015 and 2020, nor did utilization of those services.
  • When patients do utilize these services, they like them, and want to hear more from pharma, about how they can manage their conditions better, and deal with emotional and financial issues (sadly, most patients have no awareness of Patient Assistance Programs).
  • HCPs are a key source of information/recommendation for patients, but the majority of HCP’s are not aware of these services. Pharma reps tend to focus on the product, vs. presenting a holistic ‘solution’ (product + patient services)
  • During COVID, patients significantly increased their utilization of digitally enabled services, and they are open to engaging in pharma in newer personalized channels in terms of content and the way they are delivered. Unfortunately, in general, most pharma companies don’t have an integrated communications approach.

So, is there evidence illustrating what’s working?

There are pockets of success at certain pharma companies for specific brands/TA’s where patients are being valued and validated with clinical studies. For example, the largest pharma brand, Abbvie’s1 Humira, has shown the benefit of their patient services,' both in terms of improving patient adherence & outcomes, and improved quality of life. However, these successes haven’t been broadly scaled across the organization at an enterprise level, and the learnings haven’t been broadly adapted to different brands.

With all this investment, why aren’t pharma companies able to move the needle more? Some of the main reasons why ‘patient centricity’ efforts aren’t working are:

  • Organizational siloes & turnover: Brands and support functions are not integrated, and have different objectives, measures of success, and lack common incentives. Also, with frequent movement of personnel across brands, functions, etc., there is a limitation in developing a cohesive patient engagement strategy long-term.
  • Data dysfunction: Despite having increasing amounts of data through services, marketing, and digital tools, the data related to an individual patient are siloed, resulting in gaps in understanding / insights which would allow more seamless connectivity to patients. Furthermore, the ways that most organizations measure ‘patient centricity’ are limited to a specific tactic (think click-rate for a website), as opposed to developing new metrics that assess engagement holistically, integrated across the functional groups.
  • Siloed technology: Related to this is the fact that technologies are also siloed, and therefore the interfaces poor (the systems don’t ‘talk’ to each other). And with more technology being added, this may get worse. Accenture’s INTIENT platform is an example where connectivity between technology and data can result in better insights and decision-making to engage with patients.

What can pharma do to unlock potential value and develop a more ‘human-centric’ approach?

  1. Accelerate your organizational ability to blend multiple, disparate sources of data, leveraging Applied Intelligence capabilities to derive deeper insights and enable better, faster decision-making.
  2. Expand your view of the ‘patient journey’ beyond that of a treatment journey (the pharma lens) to include all aspects of the patient’s life (emotional, financial, and social) which demonstrates a more holistic understanding of the person.
  3. Dimensionalize that journey in new ways beyond the ‘patient on a page’ so that all parts of the organization can better understand their needs and develop innovative ways to engage.

If you have questions or want to learn more about elevating your path to greater patient-centricity I’d like to hear from you.


1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6750846/

Whitney Baldwin

Associate Director, Life Sciences, Patient Experience Center of Excellence Lead

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