February 2022 | Point of View

Rethinking traditional operating models will increase patient centricity in life sciences

In the first of a series, we’re breaking down how life sciences companies can adopt a patient-centric approach. First up? Operating models and collaboration

Rethinking traditional operating models will increase patient centricity in life sciences

Previously, we wrote about the growing importance of patient centricity in healthcare and why it’s increasingly vital that life sciences companies adopt a patient-centric approach; one that provides convenient, seamless, and technology-enabled patient services that increase disease awareness, improve diagnostic services, and better support patients. 

The forces driving this change are vast, encompassing the overall consumerization of healthcare, rising customer expectations for digital experiences, regulator interest in patient-reported outcomes, and the need to reduce therapy costs. Medication non-adherence alone is estimated to lose the healthcare industry $300 billion each year, while a decline in blockbuster drug approvals—and a shift to new therapeutic areas with smaller patient populations—means big-ticket medications are no longer sustaining bottom lines. 

Fortunately, there’s a silver lining for those who adopt a patient-centric approach. As a recent research paper suggests, although pharmaceutical companies have historically thought of the physician as their customer, a focus on patients and their behaviors improves outcomes and limits healthcare expenses.

Getting started begins with three focus areas 

There's so much to consider in the transition to patient centricity. We’ve identified three main focal points to accelerate the establishment of a patient-centric life sciences organization: strategy and structure; data and analytics; and products and platforms. 

The work completed across these focal points will not only facilitate the establishment of an enterprise-wide patient-centric focus but also allow organizations to sustain and continually refine that focus over time. 

In a series of articles, we’ll break down how life sciences companies can tackle each of these areas. First, we’ll cover strategy and structure—that’s where most of the focus will go in developing an organization-wide operating model, establishing best practices, and improving cross-enterprise and ecosystem collaboration. 

Ultimately, this process should reflect a shift from selling products to providing services. 

Strategy and structure: Laying the foundation of patient centricity 

It all starts with buy-in and commitment from leadership (e.g., ensuring that the Chief Patient Officer reports to the CEO). Clear, realistic goals should be established, and patient centricity should become an organization-wide core value, with hiring managers ensuring new talent is aligned with that value. Organizational siloes must be eliminated, and decentralized operations should centralize around Chief Patient Officers with global responsibilities.  

Collaboration is key. Life sciences companies must form new partnerships with:  

  • Diagnostics companies (to optimize data collection);  
  • Technology companies (for digital products that can improve disease education, adherence management, and wellness monitoring);  
  • Service providers (to manage patient interactions, while drug developers maintain control of customer experience strategy, policy, and decision making); and  
  • Payers (as their coverage decisions are a key determinant of patient access). 

Strategic technology investments that can deliver value to patients should also be part of  business plans. These might include:  

  • A centralized hub to enable easy access to patient data across their organization 

  • Digital apps and treatment companions to support patients as they continue through their treatment journey 

  • Integrations with external technology providers to boost value to patients without requiring them to go somewhere else for support 

  • Seamless, easy-to-use, digital communication channels to directly support patients when they need it most  

  • Data capabilities to track patient engagement, feedback, and adherence—all of which can support strategic decision-making and better integrate voice of patient 

What successful, patient-centric operating models and collaboration can look like   

By developing an organization-wide operating model, improving best practices, and fostering cross-enterprise and ecosystem collaboration oriented around patient-centricity, life sciences companies can improve care quality, cut costs, and become more efficient. Here’s what’s possible.  

Becoming a digital organization  

With dramatic changes in patient segmentation, pharma companies now have greater access to patient data—everything from lab data to electronic health records—than ever before. But with the glut of information comes a growing need for dynamic analytics capabilities, especially since greater data efficiency confers a more personalized healthcare experience and, consequently, greater cost-effectiveness. 

A collaborative, organization-wide strategy that pulls insights from various data sources can drive organization strategy while identifying opportunities to improve the patient experience. This is digital enablement in a nutshell. By finding patterns in patient engagement and adherence data, for example, companies can better understand the challenges people face during the "patient journey" and mitigate them. This also helps cut salesforce costs, shifting your organization's operations away from outdated regional models.

Powerful strategic partnerships 

Strategic partnerships with health systems and providers can help address a wide-scale industry problem: medication non-adherence, which is estimated to cost pharma companies $637 billion dollars in revenue each year.  

These partnerships have seen success across the industry. For example, in 2018 Northwell Health System launched Pharma Ventures, a new division dedicated to partnering with large pharmaceutical companies to develop mutually beneficial healthcare strategies that tackle medication non-adherence. Through these collaborations, Pharma Ventures has been negotiating risk-based contracts designed to link drug prices to drug performance with actual patients—ultimately lowering costs and ensuring patients take their medication. 

Meanwhile, partnering with payers can be a great asset in the pursuit of patient-centric care. Take the 2013 partnership with Humana and Eli Lilly: by pairing Humana's rich, de-identified patient data with Lilly's history and experience across many disease states, the companies were able to study the impact of interventions on outcomes, adherence programs, disease management and Pharmacoeconomics, with the overall goal of cutting healthcare costs and improving care outcomes.  

Partnerships with health tech companies can help, too, offering patients a seamless experience between digital interfaces, as well as enhanced service offerings. A health tech company like Evidation, for instance, provides a digital platform that connects motivated research participants with life sciences companies and others to help “design, test, and deploy programs that motivate evidence-based action.” Others, like TriNetX, provide real-world data to help accelerate clinical research.  

This can help improve bottom lines as well: A recent research report shows that 61% of life sciences executives saw profit increases of 5% or more due to partnerships with tech companies. 

Refreshed goals and incentives  

A more strategic operating model can help pharma companies better align their business goals and incentives. For instance, companies should be moving away from sales incentives based on the number of phone calls, provider visits, or written prescriptions. After all, the physician isn't receiving service—the patient is.  

Instead, companies should align their incentives with a patient-centric mindset, creating best practices that supports patients. For instance, they can provide incentives based on the number of patient information requests fulfilled, regional patient enrollment in support programs, high medication adherence, and high regional engagement. 
A startling example of this approach's success is UCB, a multinational biopharmaceutical company that started referring to patients as “customers” and providers and pharmacists as “stakeholders” to increase patient centricity. Today, the company is renowned for their operational transformation, in which roles are not "organized by function, but instead by the patient value" they want to create.  

Patient centricity benefits everyone, and it starts with strategy and structure 

If life sciences companies can improve organization-wide operating models and best practices—and leverage such models to better facilitate cross-enterprise and ecosystem collaboration—they’ll be well on their way to adopting a patient-centric approach that can help them thrive in the healthcare industry of the future.  

At the heart of it all lies a commitment to engaging with patients, listening to their challenges, and aligning their feedback and available data to shape operational strategies and make better decisions. If pharma companies can understand how to do so across our three main focal points—strategy and structure, data and analytics, and products and platforms—they can boost revenue growth, reduce costs, and improve health outcomes.  
Join us for our next article in our series, in which we’ll discuss improving patient engagement products and platforms and measuring patient centric outcomes through data and analytics.  

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