A team dedicated to patient centricity within a pharmaceutical company may seem redundant. After all, it should be a given that a company focused on drug discovery, development and delivery to address the health needs of patients would be, by its very nature, patient centric.
However, the concept of "medical value" has always been open to interpretation. This has often resulted in one-size-fits-all standardized concepts of treatment, and situations where the "success" of a new drug was judged in the research lab and not a real-world setting.
As a clinical medicine practitioner, Anthony spent more than twelve years treating patients daily. This wealth of experience in the examination room put him in the position of understanding what matters most to his patients on a holistic level. For example, he recalls a situation when he was asked by another medical professional to share his opinion on the meaning of medical value. He said, "My opinion means absolutely zero, because my opinion is one person. What we need to do is to create an opportunity for patients themselves to let us know."
Fast-forward over a decade and the pharmaceutical industry is now taking note. Anthony states, "Companies realized that if we aren't talking about patient centricity, we're the outliers." But the talk must lead to an actionable outcome. "It's easy to talk about. It's even easy to have a team meet patients and write down their information." But the question is, what do you do with that information? "How do you change a company infrastructure to accommodate a new decision tree when it comes to discovering, developing and delivering new medicines, and understanding their potential value?"
Meaningful patient centricity is difficult to define. It is a fluid concept affected by both the healthcare landscape and the ever-changing emotions and behaviors of patients and their caregivers. Understanding and adapting to the shifting environments and behaviors is a key to creating a meaningful patient-centric culture. COVID-19 and the rise in digital healthcare have both altered the landscape and revealed an essential element of patient centricity that often gets overlooked-treatment versus care.
COVID-19 has shaken up mindsets and behaviors once thought to be set in stone. The tragedy of the pandemic pushed pharmaceutical companies to act in unprecedented ways. Anthony states that COVID-19 demonstrated "breakthroughs can happen fast when drug companies and regulators listen to, and communicate openly with, patients."
While the healthcare response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has in many ways been exceptional, the pandemic has in other ways negatively affected patient care for non-COVID-19 conditions such as cancer. For example, patients have been forced to go through treatments alone without the support of caregivers and be diagnosed with life-altering illnesses through computer screens. While these situations may be unavoidable, it is important to understand and address the anxiety and stress caused by such changes.
This is the crux of treatment versus care. Anthony explains that "treatment is delivering a medicine, and we're very good at it in the pharmaceutical world. What we have not yet perfected is also understanding the issues that are affecting a patient in their real-world environment outside of the treatment that we're delivering, like anxiety or fatigue."
The rise in digital healthcare provides opportunities to address this. If utilized properly, wearable digital technology can offer insight into patients' emotions and lifestyles that would potentially be "a huge leap forward in delivering care versus treatment." However, as in every aspect of a patient-centric approach, we have to be very thoughtful, careful, and make sure that we respect the patient and their privacy; that they fully understand everything prior to using a wearable device is essential.