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Understanding the patient ecosystem

Creating a truly patient-centric approach must become pharma’s mantra

Patient-centricity web

There is no denying the growing momentum behind the concept of patient-centricity, or person-centred care. But this is now much more than just a buzzword as the inescapable fact of an ageing population, combined with a lack of money for social care from governments, will mean that the skills to self-manage chronic conditions at home will become essential.

To achieve true patient engagement, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare systems need to understand and support not only patients, but also those who influence them. This means taking the time to understand the beliefs and behaviours of patients, and also those of their healthcare professionals (HCPs) and carers, together with the realities of the healthcare systems in which they interact.

Only then can systems and processes be re-designed to address the behaviours standing in the way of enabling patient engagement and address the unhelpful beliefs sitting behind them. By engaging all stakeholders, we can more effectively design integrated solutions to drive patients to actively self-manage their condition, and feel empowered to participate in a partnership approach with their HCP team.

Breaking down the barriers
Pharmaceutical companies are not only perfectly placed to do this with new products, but they can also add value through their existing brands.

This can be done in a number of ways. The first is by championing a patient engagement approach that not only seeks to educate the patient, but supports the psychological shift that enables shared decision-making. The second is by the development of self-management skills, while the third is by seeking the engagement of a patient's wider support network of HCPs and carers.

Ultimately, the key is to ensure that pharma understands the patient's world and embeds this into the brand strategy - alongside the disease and the competitive landscape - rather than being something tacked on to the side.

In addition, any project to support a patient-centric approach needs to be able to track and measure key metrics to signal positive changes in patient, HCP and caregiver beliefs, behaviours and outcomes, as well as overall healthcare system benefit. Proving the benefits of a patient-centric approach to HCPs, payers and patients will unlock the virtuous circle of engagement that helps to turn this theoretical approach into the reality of the future.

Pharma engagement?
Underpinning all this is the need for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies to develop new skills as an integral part of their culture and approach. Companies are creating patient specific roles such as patient advocacy manager, and increasingly chief patient officer, within their organisations, showing the start of a real cultural shift in the industry.

The continued success of the ViiV pharma group, which has three times now been deemed the most reputable and engaged pharma firm in the eyes of patient charities, also highlights how it is possible for patient-centricity to work as a powerful tool in the sector.

At Engage, we believe pharma has a golden opportunity to be at the forefront of the patient-centric revolution. But to truly embrace this opportunity pharma needs to understand and adopt new skills, at both a corporate and individual level, to drive the culture change required to move from focusing on 'brands' to the 'patients at the centre of their brands'.

Article by
Linda Cowie

Linda Cowie, MRPharmS, MBA, MPhil, is patient engagement director at Engage. For more information visit or email

1st June 2015

From: Marketing



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