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January 26, 2022

What is a patient-centric approach in healthcare?

As more life science organizations work to strengthen their patient focus, they are rethinking what it means to have a patient-centric approach.
patient centric approach

Patient centricity is no longer an option within the life science and healthcare industry. To stay current, stakeholders across the spectrum of healthcare delivery have scrapped the old operational model and reoriented their organizations to favor the new patient-centric approach.

But therein lies a significant issue. What does patient-centered healthcare mean?

For many organizations, it’s become a buzzword of sorts—sound and fury, signifying nothing. In the mad rush to change with the times, they’ve missed out on the reason why it has rapidly become the favored health care model. As a result, they’ve failed to truly embrace all that it entails.

To avoid that fate, healthcare and life science companies must first take a step back and ask three essential questions:

  1. What is patient-centered healthcare?
  2. Why does it matter?
  3. What does patient centricity look like?

What is patient-centered healthcare?

Patient-centered care is focused on treating patients as individuals with personalized needs rather than generalizing patient care based on their medical condition. That means delivering care and technology in a customized, participatory manner. Whether it’s clinical trials or a visit to a doctor, any point of patient engagement addresses patient needs, desires, and preferences.

In short, understanding and improving the patient experience should be the primary motivation for every action the healthcare provider takes. And patient-centered care focuses on listening to and then satisfying the end-user since that’s the person who will receive the care or use the technology.

Why does patient-centric care matter? The impact on patient expectations

This shift in healthcare has already impacted many industries.

Digitalism and consumerism have given the power of choice to a larger population. Suppose users are unsatisfied with the healthcare services rendered by one company. In that case, there are many options in the free market to take their business elsewhere. There are digital outlets like social media that give them a platform to lodge complaints or have conversations with other consumers.

External competition and market saturation have forced companies to deliver experiences (and content) designed to satisfy the consumer. Because if they don’t, someone else will.

Now, this is true for healthcare and life science companies.

The crossover into healthcare

By polling, the general public is critical of healthcare, life sciences, and pharma companies as a whole. As one study demonstrated:

  • 7 in 10 Americans have had bad experiences with healthcare and want the system to change.
  • Even the 54% of the patient population who are satisfied with their health insurance think the system needs significant overhauls.
  • The vast majority of users think the healthcare system is hard to use, lacks transparency and is too expensive.

Historically, the healthcare industry hasn’t been known for its willingness to change. This is likely why it held on to the older fee-for-service model for so long. But that won’t work anymore.

As IBM notes, consumer expectations have already shifted too much: “In today’s world, the last best experience a consumer had anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere. The bar is always rising, and if the experience doesn’t meet that bar, people act with their feet.”

The patient-centricity evolution will continue apace whether a company likes it or not. And new technologies and government regulations will only accelerate the speed at which it’s happening.

As we advance, those companies that fail to fully comprehend the underlying reasons for this change and then adapt accordingly will struggle to survive. But those that do embrace the customer-centric ethos have an opportunity to create a significant competitive advantage in several ways, including:

  • Driving significant cost savings
  • Improving patient satisfaction and engagement
  • Increasing patient retention
  • Enhancing products and healthcare services
  • Creating better health outcomes

What does a patient-centric approach look like?

Patient centricity is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The healthcare landscape is diverse, and effective strategies for one patient may be unproductive for another.

By its very definition, patient-centricity requires a healthcare organization to re-center operational strategies around its unique patients. Along those lines, this initiative should be inward-facing, not outward. Improving public relations is not the end goal; rather, it’s about identifying cultural, structural, and procedural issues within a healthcare organization that requires a change to better serve the patient-consumer.

There are four steps every healthcare entity and life science company should take to adopt a patient-centric culture and approach.

1. Organization-wide ripples

Installing a patient-centric model must be an organization-wide effort. Whether the optimal path for this requires a top-down or bottom-up approach depends on the specific operation. Regardless, the entire system needs to work in harmony towards the same clinical outcomes to create lasting change.

2. Set KPIs

From the outset, organizations must outline key performance indicators (KPIs) and define the desired patient outcome. Here, journey mapping helps guide the experience you wish a patient to have and the intended results. These objectives can act as barometers that allow the organization to gauge engagement success and ROI. For instance, common R&D metrics may include:

  • Recruitment and retention
  • Trial outcomes
  • Cycle times
  • Patient satisfaction

3. Digital is the future

Digital technologies and data analytics make it possible to engage stakeholders in real-time. They generate actionable insights and optimize workflows to improve operational efficiency, thus empowering teams to provide better care.

4. Appoint a patient engagement representative

In order to stay on target and ensure that the patient’s voice is always a part of the conversation, it’s wise to designate someone in your organization who will be charged with representing the patient-consumer. This person will help define what a good patient experience looks like and ensure that it is enacted across the entire care delivery.

Patient centricity in clinical trials

Clinical trials are integral to medical product and drug development. When done correctly they can represent an invaluable tool for life science companies to leverage and improve their products.

However, running a clinical trial that produces actionable insights and generates ROI is a significant challenge. For one thing, they’re expensive. The average clinical phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical trial costs a respective $4mm, $13mm, and $20mm. The total cost relies on several factors, including:

  • Size of the study
  • Number of locations
  • Number of clinical sites
  • Drug type
  • Therapeutic area

These costs are exacerbated by common issues rampant in non-patient-centric models, such as a shortage of trial participants, lack of diversity in trial participants, recruitment delays, participant dropouts, and so on.

And to make matters worse, those individuals that do engage in patient trials more often than not have a bad experience. A 2017 study discovered that only 46% of individuals who completed a trial would encourage other people to participate, and 34% would actively dissuade others from doing so.

Knowing this, what steps could a life science company take to shift toward more patient-centric trials?

Discover patient preferences

Instead of assuming what patients prefer or want, conduct studies that objectively paint a picture and better define desired clinical outcomes.

Engage patients throughout the various stages of their care journey

Health conditions and diseases aren’t static. And the same holds true for the treatment and therapy of said issues. Extending the dialogue across the entire range of their patient journey creates opportunities for more actionable insights.

Include a diverse array of people

Generally speaking, the more patient-centric data in healthcare points you have, the better. Conducting a clinical trial that includes a range of voices of people from all walks and stages of life will generate more meaningful and applicable results.

Improve transparency and education

One of the most commonly cited complaints made by trial participants is that they don’t understand what’s going on. They don’t know what’s happening or what the trial entails. But clear and purposeful engagement from beginning to end helps ensure that participants walk away feeling as if their collaboration mattered.

Use other feedback channels

In addition to participants, life science companies could greatly benefit by enlisting the engagement of various stakeholders that may have unique patient insights into the focus of the trial, including:

  • Patient advisory boards
  • Focus groups
  • Patient support groups
  • Counseling centers
  • Social media

Leverage technology

Digital products and applications can enrich patient engagement and facilitate clinical trials, especially for decentralized trials with stakeholders spread across the world. Here, an insights management and virtual engagement platform makes it possible to bridge the insight gap across every stage of a product development’s lifecycle.

Leveraging patient-centric healthcare technology

Patients are more than their disease; they’re more than their health condition. They’re individuals and must be treated as such.

Patient centricity for life science teams is the key to the future of healthcare delivery. Those healthcare and life science companies that embrace this new model will enjoy improved patient satisfaction and drive better health outcomes.

Ready to take patient-centric ideas back to your team? Get our five best practices to improve patient engagement.

Public Agenda. Taking the Pulse: Where Americans Agree on Improving Health Care.
IBM. Healthcare Experience Matters — Here’s how to Improve It.
ERG. Examination of Clinical Trial Costs and Barriers for Drug Development.
BMC Health Services Research. Clinical Trials from the Patient Perspective:
Survey in an Online Patient Community.

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