Ipsen: Making Patient-Centricity A Reality

The secret to embedding patient-centricity deep in an organization is to encourage colleagues to roll up their sleeves. After all, practice makes perfect, says Ipsen Chief Patient Affairs Officer



It is one thing for a CEO to stand up and declare that a company is now patient-centric, it is another to embed that vision into everyday practises. One company that is tackling this issue head-on is speciality-driven biopharma company Ipsen, where efforts are led by Chief Patient Affairs Officer, Isabelle Bocher-Pianka.

“The company is very much in a transformation mode,” she says. “We are preparing ourselves to meet tomorrow’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities, because I see patient-centricity as an opportunity in the evolution of the pharma business model. The drive behind this controlled transformation is to work for patients and with patients; it sounds simple, but it’s a huge cultural and  organisational transformation.”

While medical affairs leads on patient-centricity, Bocher-Pianka is keen that it not be viewed in silos, and is creating a network of patient-centricity champions across all departments to reach out to colleagues. The plan is to bring patient voices to Ipsen’s work across its three major speciality care areas – oncology, neurosciences and rare diseases – and throughout its value chain, from research to commercialisation.

The work must be rooted in reality, she says, pointing to how the setting of a clear medical goal was the first step in the successful creation of pilots to improve the mobility of post-stroke patients and children with cerebral palsy. The “realistic scope” set the tone for the cross-functional work that followed – in the case of the post-stroke spasticity rehabilitation program, now deployed in six countries, this involved medical affairs, clinical development, digital and marketing, and legal and compliance, in close collaboration with hospital team members.

Taking a goal-setting concept and distilling in into practical steps for employees has been a vital first step. “Employees need to be guided if they are to practice patient-centricity, otherwise it can be perceived as a fashion or a ‘hype’ concept,” says Bocher-Pianka. “You need to help employees to connect patient-centricity with their daily work. For that, we developed a patient-engagement value model that is a simple guide to encourage colleagues to listen to patient needs before anything else.”

It took eight months of work with colleagues from compliance and legal to develop guidance on how to work with patients, she says, but such guidance was key to developing confidence amongst staff, who were often reticent to start engaging with patients after years of keeping their distance.

“Employees translated the prohibition on promoting directly to patients into ‘I can’t work with patients’. It is deeply entrenched into the culture and we have to unlock it by setting boundaries inside which employees feel safe to act, as well as offering concrete tools for action,” says Bocher-Pianka.

Colleagues are encouraged to learn by trial and error as they incorporate patient input into their current projects. “When people practice, they get it,” she explains. “I discuss with each colleague how they can work with patients as part of existing projects – for me, this is the only way to make patient-centricity sustainable and entrenched into the process of work and into the set of capabilities that is required to do a certain job.”

Ipsen has also begun involving patients in the design of phase III protocols by building patient advisory boards that offer input and challenge preconceived ideas, and by welcoming patients in to share experiences of their conditions. Recent collaboration with the International Kidney Cancer Coalition saw patients speak not just at Ipsen headquarters but also to its manufacturing plants, as it is important to give staff who are “far from the patient, a sense to what they are doing,” says Bocher-Pianka.

Colleagues are also encouraged to learn from one another; for example, leaders of patient-centric pilots are asked to publish internal articles on their work to share their experiences. “The challenge is to help employees figure out how much value they will give to patients,” she says. “Over the last 10 years, we had some pioneering colleagues working for patient engagement within market access and public affairs, but they were working with patients at the later stages of the value chain. Now, we need to work all along the value chain.”

While this “new way of working” offers huge promise for the future, the industry must focus on sharing insights on a “broader scale” while also being mindful not to place too much burden on patients and patient organisations through replicated research.

“We are building a new knowledge and it’s a treasure,” she says. “For me, the most important aspect is practicing; this is about experimenting and engaging your employees to do concrete things as part of their daily job. It’s a big transformation for a business or industry, but we need to be entrepreneurial and we need to dare to try.”

Isabelle Bocher-Pianka will be engaging with an audience on this topic at the Patient Summit Europe 2017 conference in October.   

 


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