Updated: Apr 11, 2022
It starts with the patient, who is actually no longer "patient".
About 20 years ago, I’ve started my career as a medical representative visiting Healthcare Professionals with visual aids that used brand colours and some simplified graphs to position the product into the market with the holy grail of arguments: efficacy, safety and tolerability. It highlighted when a particular pharmaceutical product would make the slightest ‘significant’ difference compared to other products. In an effort to make it more tangible and real for physicians, I've always tried to explain what particular patient profiles could benefit from that small difference. As physicians want to help that particular patient in front of them, I always translated product arguments into patient stories that physicians could relate to. It starts with the patient, not with the product.
It was not that patients were not talked about within a pharmaceutical company. However, it always struck me that the patient was often only part of the context. Even though patient centricity, or slogans like “putting the patient first”, were present in missions and visions of almost all pharmaceutical companies in the early 2000’s, patients rarely were the core of the conversation or the focus of the strategy. In Europe, this was partially due to the regulations that prohibited basically any type of patient communication that might offer the expected return on investment. But at the same time, physicians remained the key stakeholder for pharmaceutical companies as they were the ones to decide in the end. But how do physicians actually decide? After all, no longer physicians could be a potential subject of prescription altering promotional efforts by pharmaceutical companies. So, where does that road to the decision starts? It starts with the patient, not with the physician.
When digital became the new normal, it opened up new, cheaper means and channels for healthcare companies to reach patients and health consumers with additional information. Slowly some companies were even thinking about services that could go beyond the pill. Around that period, I‘ve joined a startup that created digital products. Many conversations with healthcare organisations were held to unlock these new opportunities. Most organisations were curious. All were hesitant. Few actually made an immediate first effort. But even though other industries had already taken their first successful digital steps, it took several more years for healthcare companies to figure out how to start approaching this digital disruption. More than often digital was simply a mean or channel they “needed" to explore. So projects were mostly started from this new digital channel and not built on the needs of the end user. This has led to digital patients services nobody wants to use, nor even know how to use it. It starts with the patient, not with the digital channel.
The following years I’ve inspired and helped healthcare organisation in becoming more patient centric. In building client-specific online patient communities, healthcare organisations could learn from the opinions of patients at any given time for any type of question. This continuous iterative approach allowed to virtually bring the patient into the meeting room and support all business decisions with quick but in-depth input from their patients. This patient collaboration proved to be extremely valuable for health organisations (and for the patients themselves), yet these organisations had no need to continuously collaborate with patients. Projects were halted after one short very targeted phase because organisations believed they now had figured out what patients really wanted. It was like asking one time what your kid wants for Christmas so that you can give that same present for the years to come. While healthcare organisations considered knowing enough about the patient needs, other industries I’ve worked for were truly embracing a consumer-centric culture and were continuously learning from the changing consumer needs. However, as the patient is also part of a cultural, societal, technological changing reality, the patient needs evolve over time as well. You simply can't expect to always know what the patient wants without consulting them. It starts with the patient, but it continues with the patient.
Surely there are business reasons for healthcare organisations to have tried to continue their business as usual. After all, they have been very successful for many years. But aren’t healthcare organisations becoming too complacent with that success? Don’t healthcare organisations try to repeat their successes by doing the same thing all over again? Don't healthcare organisations feel too much “protected" by the fact that the healthcare industry is different and perhaps too difficult to change? Perhaps... But as our world is experiencing the highest rate of change, the patient is also changing. The patient is no longer patient.
My keynote "The patients is no longer patient" is based on my experience from working ‘in' as well as ‘for' the healthcare industry. It contains learnings from collaborations with mega corporations, large organisations and small start ups; it uses insights from discussions with business managers, consultants, physicians, and of course patients. This keynote will offer you a view on the biggest trends that impact healthcare through the changing patient. It will facilitate business managers to identify and choose the key focus areas that might fit your business model best or that might invite innovating around. But above all, it will help you to understand that it starts with the patient, who is no longer patient.