Adrian Howells, from the UK MSS practice, writes about how by putting the patient at the heart of thinking, it leads to a more effective strategy for the pharmaceutical sector
Up until recently the Pharmaceutical industry has been driven by one customer: the prescriber, not the patient. However, this model is being eroded as patients are gaining control, payers are putting more restrictions on drug usage and new influencers are coming into the market.
So, between the payer, prescriber and patient, who should Pharmaceutical companies try to please?

Some companies have tried to please the payer. They have done this in a number of ways including:

  • Bundling products together to deliver an overall product portfolio
  • Negotiating payment on efficacy (outcomes) rather than a list price.

Some companies have tried to please the prescriber for example:

  • By developing services around their base product such as home delivery, nurse training, diabetes monitoring services and depression management services.
  • By moving to e-detailing and on-line services so that the prescriber can draw information down when they require it rather than the salesperson imposing it on them.

Pleasing these customers is clearly important, but putting the patient at the heart of your thinking leads to a more strategic approach. Here is one example of how, by pleasing the patient, the ultimate customer, the other stakeholders are pleased as well.
Diabetes management:
A Pharma company has gone to great lengths to understand the practical and emotional impact of a Type 1 diabetic patient.
When a patient is first diagnosed with diabetes they want to understand the impact on their life. The solution was to provide access to a user community website, sponsored through a charity, where all patients who are new to diabetes can share concerns and read about other people’s experiences. This not only reduces the anxiety on the patient but also supports the prescriber.
The patient is given access to monitoring equipment which has been developed with patients to reduce the level of impact on a diabetic’s life. The monitoring device information is uploaded to provide the prescriber with an early insight into potential issues or poor patient management.
Ultimately for the payer a better managed patient has less cost impact on their budgets in the long term. In this example everyone is pleased.
Pharmaceutical companies are now putting the patient at the centre of their thinking because they believe, despite a more complex influencing model, they can influence the patient experience. This raises further customer experience challenges as the patient is interested in:

  • Wellness – How can the patient keep healthy? This seems to be counter intuitive to a health market which in the Western world has focused on making people better not keeping them well. Should Pharma companies invest in health clubs, sports drinks, alternative medicines or work with food companies to provide health management solutions? This would clearly keep the patients, prescribers and the payers happy. It is more difficult to see in the short term how this transition would keep the Pharmaceutical companies happy but it must be considered.
  • Brand loyalty – For many patients brand is a critical aspect in setting an expectation of how their treatment will go. For Pharma companies there has been a reticence to use brand unless it is for drugs which could be considered for social use. With the broadening of product portfolios the benefits of pleasing the customer will now start to outweigh the risk of brand impact if a single product fails.

So, who are Pharmaceutical companies trying to please? Ultimately they need to focus on pleasing the patient which will ultimately please the other stakeholders.
Adrian Howells