Shining a Light on Patient-Focused Profitability
The Aurora Project shows that patient focus and profits can co-exist.
In a move to establish whether pharma’s patient-focused visions and profitability can co-exist, the Chair of eyeforpharma, Paul Simms, and Jill Donahue, author of "Engage Rx: The 3 Keys to Patient-Focused Growth", teamed up for The Aurora Project, a global benchmark survey comprising 2,346 pharma industry respondents from 84 countries. The full survey report is now available in the Whitepaper, Patient-Centric Profitability: Pharma’s Global Survey & Analysis, but here is an overview of the key findings.
Belief in the profitability of patient focus
The large majority of respondents (93%) believe the integration of a patient-focused strategy has improved overall business outcomes by increasing employee engagement (58%), patient trust (56%), revenues (40%), HCP trust (58%), and stakeholder engagement (56%). Although lower, figures were also positive for payers and government trusts (37%) as well as employee attraction/retention (36%).
Christi Shaw pictured receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at eyeforpharma Philadelphia 2016
These figures give credence to Christi Shaw’s affirmations that patient focus and profitability can and do co-exist. The former U.S. Country Head and President of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, said in the recent Aurora Project Whitepaper, “Many believe these two are at odds with each other, but I don't see it that way. Helping as many patients as possible, while limiting spending to those activities that will help patients, leads to greater profitability.” This confidence in patient-focused profitability has certainly propelled Novartis forward, with sales and profit margins being met across disease states. “We exceeded expectations, even my own, every year,” states Shaw.
Helping as many patients as possible, while limiting spending to those activities that will help patients, leads to greater profitability.
There are professionals within pharma who have reservations about the concept of patient-centricity, mainly because they equate focus on the patient as counter-productive to making sales. However, industry leaders involved in The Aurora Project show that, in the long-term, patient focus will lead to profitability. Indeed, President of Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Ramona Sequeira, stated, “Overall, patient focus is inextricably linked to profitability in the longer term.” Long-term activities directed at increasing trust among patients leads to higher credibility for pharma companies. Once in place, trust and credibility drive business growth, creating better outcomes for all – ultimately hitting the “sweet spot” where both patient needs and business needs are met. That intersection, agree 79% of the patients who completed the survey, is when patients, HCPs and pharmaceutical companies have a win-win-win situation.
Pharma are on the right track
The survey results show that pharma is on the right track when it comes to hitting the "sweet spot" where both patient needs and business needs are met. In particular, patient engagement and co-creation is being fostered by giving patients greater input into clinical trial design, implementing call centers, and establishing information websites - all in a bid to reduce patient burden. There has also been a change in the corporate culture of some organizations, with a number adapting the focus of messages to patients – instead of talking at them, they are engaging in more meaningful conversations to gain patient perspective and trust.
Our goal and the goal of many companies is to put the patient at the center of everything we do. But reshaping a company to meet this end goal is hard work – excruciatingly hard – and there are many challenges and learnings along the way.
According to Deborah Waterhouse, SVP and Business Unit Head US Primary Care at GSK, “A vast majority of our money is spent on enabling patients from around the world to access our medicines.” To achieve success, access and adherence to medication is being increased through patient support groups. Funding is also being tailored to relevant patient groups.
Room for improvement
The conundrum is that although most respondents in the survey seem to think their companies are “ahead of the pack,” only 15% believe their company is doing everything possible to move patient-centric intentions into actions and outcomes. Waterhouse pointed out, “Our goal and the goal of many companies is to put the patient at the center of everything we do. But reshaping a company to meet this end goal is hard work – excruciatingly hard – and there are many challenges and learnings along the way.”
Five key activities to take patient-focus and profitability to the next level
So, what can be taken from The Aurora Project to help the industry more effectively meet both patient needs and business needs?
1. Engage patients: While some respondents believe pharma is doing enough to engage patients, others feel more needs to be done. Jens Lipinski, Head of Patient Relations at Bayer Vital, Germany, emphasized the value of engaging patients, stating, “Patients bring unique insights based on their experience with a drug and its current therapeutic environment. They can highlight areas of unmet need that clinicians may have underestimated.” More time spent gathering insights from patients through research, engagement and listening was a recommendation made by Sequeira, while Lipinski also feels that pharma’s activities need to be based on, “whether they improve patient outcomes or not.”
2. Budget/resources: An appropriate budget to act on patient-focused ideas was felt to be vital by respondents, with only 38% agreeing that their company budget was appropriate. Lipinski says, “I am convinced that the early investment in patient engagement and interaction will save money in the long run, like prevention measures or vaccinations do in real health care.” Shaw feels, “Spending money on only those things that help patients in the short and long-term DOES lead to better business results.” She also believes, however, that “Integrating patients along the way is not an expensive thing to do. Putting patients on steering committees for protocol development can save a lot of time in protocol amendments during the clinical trial.” Service Team Strategy Partner at Ashfield, John Gerow’s opinion that budgets and resources are wasted on developing products that aren’t really patient-focused, but rather designed around sales, was backed up by Waterhouse, who said, “If patient-centricity is not at the core of your company, you’ll make decisions that are more for-profit than for-patient.”
3. Measurement: It was felt that the power of big data can be harnessed to assess whether patient adherence and treatment persistence have improved in order to develop more direct relationships with patients. While 42% of respondents measure patient-focused efforts and 43% include patient-focused goals in personal objectives, this was felt to be an area with room for improvement. Lipinski highlighted that measurement tools are expensive, suggesting, “Finding robust surrogates can help to prove the value [of patient focus].”
4. Training: Only 39% of respondents agree that sufficient training is given to employees, with 78% stating that they don’t know how to train people to behave in a patient-focused manner. As Lipinski pointed out, “We should keep in mind that every mistake from any company will affect trust in pharma as a whole – and thereby limit the possible success for all others.” In other words, pharma can’t afford to make mistakes that might reduce patient trust and, therefore, better training in patient focus is fundamental.
5. Focus across all departments: There was a general consensus that everyone should be doing their part to engage in patient-focused efforts, thus embedding patient focus across an entire company. Lipinski said, “Only the integration of different functional expertise and methods will allow gaining a comprehensive patient understanding,” adding, “Allowing each department to develop its patient ‘picture,’ then to share those across functions, and finally to agree on beneficial activities, is the ideal approach.”
It’s time to act with confidence
The importance of being able to deliver on their patient-focused missions was regarded by 86% of respondents as an 8 or more on a 10-point scale (52% gave a score of 10 on the 10-point scale). However, only 21% feel confident that pharma can deliver on such missions, giving an 8 or more on a 10-point scale. To achieve a balance of patient focus and profitability, Waterhouse has advised, “Doing good and doing well.” This involves listening to patients in order to provide the best treatment options.
Finding the “sweet spot” where both patient needs and business needs can be met creates a winning situation for all stakeholders. In this respect, The Aurora Project has demonstrated that companies now need to act with confidence to meet their twin goals of patient focus and profitability in the dawn of a new humanistic selling age.
Download the Whitepaper here: Patient-Centric Profitability: Pharma’s Global Survey & Analysis
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