The day of the broad blockbuster drug are coming to an end. Instead, today patient centricity is top-of-mind in the pharmaceutical industry. But what does it mean? It is all about improving care by bringing the patient’s perspective to the decision-making moment and doing what is in his or her best interest. In the long run, this will help have access to richer data, improve patients’ lives, and maximize brand value. We are all patients or will become patients at some point- even sponsors- so having companies adopting a patient centric approach is in everyone’s interest.

The consumer and service industry have well understood the importance of people to me successful.  By studying what consumers or clients want, they have created new markets and products, built brand loyalty and increased consumer engagement. Amazon and Starbucks are only a few examples. Some pharmaceutical companies are already taking patient centricity seriously. For example, Sanofi recently created the role of Chief Patient Officer and Eli Lily empowers study teams to design protocols and plan studies that take a patient centricity approach.

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This is because patient centricity is crucial to patient recruitment and retention in clinical trials. How patients are made to feel impacts their willingness to participate on studies. If they have negative feelings and feel rather scared, intimidated or confused, it is more likely that they will not be willing to participate.

How to achieve patient-centricity will depend on each patient’s specific circumstances, but the key is for companies to engage with them. To do this, pharmaceutical companies need to decide who will do it and how. This could be done via longer doctor visits, big data collection, interactive electronic health records, an on-line community to listen to patients, or new clinical trial designs. And these preferences might change over time.

To be truly patient-centric it is vital to at least follow two principles. First, it is important to have regular contact with patients, as relationships and trust are not built in a couple of hours or one day. Second, pharmaceutical companies should always adopt the patient perspective and emphasize their experience. This requires innovation and listening to patients’ needs and wants to make their lives easier. Experts agree that technology plays a big role on patient centricity as it empowers people. It allows patients to learn more about their condition and be more prepared for clinical trials.

With that in mind, experts agree that although quantitative research is very important for drug development, it is crucial to push for qualitative research to help trial developers understand patients and their decisions, and to learn how to improve the clinical trial experience and protocols.

When conducting qualitative research sponsors should look to understand patients’ attitudes towards their diseases, clinical trials and their medications, as well as what patients think could be done better to encourage participation and what resources they are using or relying on to receive information about their condition.

In this point, it is important to partner with advocacy groups and to pay attention to social media as they can both offer useful information. Qualitative research should also determine the best way to communicate and reach patients. Some might prefer mobile applications, while others might prefer newsletters, call centers or one-to-one meetings.

Experts also emphasize the importance of leadership and of the whole organization operating around patient centricity. Others also say patients should not be treated as patients but as volunteers as the word “patient” automatically gives the impression that they are the ones who need something from companies when in fact it is sponsors who need them to conduct clinical trials. As such, some say they should start being called and treated as volunteers instead.

Including the patient´s voice in the decision-making process is unstoppable in the whole health industry. Patient centricity is crucial for drug development and to treat diseases on a global level much more effectively than in the past. If companies do not start adopting it now, they risk being left out of the market.