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Is it the right time to engage patients?

Is it the right time to engage patients?

Over the recent years, there has been a shift in focus on patients. Pharmaceutical companies are becoming patient-centric apart from being business-centric and therapy-centric. Additionally, patients are turning more active in updating their knowledge and skills to manage their own health which is commonly termed as ‘patient activation’. Patient activation plus interventions are what make patient engagement a widespread concept.

The IOM (Institute of Medicine) defines patient-centered care as: “Providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”

Patient-centered care is also one of the outplaying goals of health advocacy, in addition to safer medical systems, and greater patient involvement in healthcare delivery and design. Patient-centricity or patient delights are not just new words but imperatives whose time has come.

As quoted by Jack Barette, WEGO Health, “If patient engagement were a drug, it would be the blockbuster drug of the century.” Patient-centricity basically means active participation of patients and their families in the design of innovative care structures. Improving the lives of patients and keeping the patient at the center is the true meaning of patient-centricity. Patient engagement or patient activation is simply the application of patient-centered care. Sanofi had created a Partner in Patient Care advocacy group that viewed the patient as a principal source of insight and a partner in engagement. Pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to change people’s lives by supporting; connecting and helping them manage the changing healthcare back drop. There is an urgent need for pharmaceutical companies to not consider patients as the end-result and realize that the patients need help and that they have the resources to assist them.

Patient Centricity in India

All this while healthcare in India remained ‘physician/ hospital centric’. The patient had to run from pillar to pillar to seek correct treatment. The use of complicated therapeutic technologies has generated a need for centralized-care delivery system. Increasing chronic disease burden and poor health indicators in India have pressed the need to influence patient behaviors to improve health outcomes. There is a huge gap between demand and supply for quality healthcare in India. Thus, achieving patient-centricity will not come easily in India, but it is feasible by implementing grass root efforts. Winds of change have been sweeping the urban areas with respect to patient-centricity with only a few corporate hospitals thinking in terms of creating delightful experience for their customers.

Five Ways to Achieve Patient Centricity

Patients expect more services from the pharmaceutical companies along with their products. According to a study conducted, 76% of patients expected something more from the pharmaceutical companies. The patients are of the understanding now that the industry is best source of information about its own products along with knowing that there is essential value attached to it. Value oriented model, offering development and value delivery, will help pharma companies accomplish patient-centricity.

Retail pharmacy is slowly growing and the number is expected to double in the coming few years. They are filling the critical gap in the system and are making medicines more accessible and affordable. To sum it all up, pharmacies are the perfect place for patient engagement.

Patient engagement can also be achieved with healthcare extenders. Healthcare extenders are those professionals that work in a traditional healthcare environment. Healthcare extenders are the unsung brand champions. They work directly with patients and thus, understand patients with respect to medical adherence.

True patient engagement can help screen different types of disturbance of the patients. A study revealed that the healthcare environment is largely fragmented. It also revealed that the patients were staying engaged and finding their own work around solutions despite feeling frustrated with the system. Thus, the pharma companies have plenty of scope and opportunity to help make the patient’s Do It Yourself experience easier. Social media can truly help pharma companies in patient engagement. Social media is often used by pharma companies to promote its real world engagement with patients. Over half of pharmaceutical executives list grasping multi-channel marketing and improving digital effectiveness within their top strategic priorities. Social media can be used as a channel to provide “pastoral support” to patients efficiently. A well-established social media presence can provide an important forum for patient engagement. One of the key areas of patient dissatisfaction is lack of any sort of acknowledgement when they share an experience or their needs. A well-established social media presence not only provides a forum for patient engagement, but also allows for crowd-sourcing ideas and feedback.

By capturing both on and off-treatment experiences, pharma companies would be able to understand patient emotions and frustrations that can influence outcomes.

Integrated value chain strategy that is centered on providing solutions to patients will be effectively useful for patient-centricity.

Figure1: 5 Ways of achieving patient centricity


Challenges Faced 

Patient-centricity is not easy, but it is feasible. Some of the challenges faced by Pharma companies were identified as follows:

A shift from Product-centric culture, as it exists currently 

Primary focus on relationships with the physicians

Assumptions about regulatory barriers

Insufficient priority given to patient-centricity projects

Lack of long-term focus

Lack of global strategies

Lack of support from internal decision-makers

Lack of convergence between patient-centricity and business


Patient-centricity requires a universal change. It demands alignment and intensive efforts of the most powerful stakeholders. When implemented correctly, patient centricity can have a noteworthy impact. Efforts include recognizing how multiple stakeholders influence the patient experience, mapping the entire patient journey and using strong leadership practices to keep everyone in the organization focused on the same goals. The ultimate goal is a better quality of care for all and access to services extended to everyone including people with special problems and people living in underdeveloped or emerging countries.


Interlink Knowledge Cell

Interlink Knowledge Cell comprises of a team of experienced subject matter experts in various domains like Pharmaceutical, Nutraceuticals, Biotechnology, Animal Health and Wellness, to provide insights and business perspectives focused on Management, Marketing, Sales & Training areas.