Transitioning from HCP & HCO-Centricity to Patient-Centricity – Bringing Empathy into the mix
Through history, patients have been seen as the recipients of healthcare. But changes in the healthcare ecosystem have pushed patients to assume the role of active participants in their healthcare. This shift toward patient-centricity has been long overdue. In the past few decades, drug and device companies tailored their marketing initiatives to sell to customers who comprised healthcare professionals (HCPs) and healthcare organizations (HCOs). The ultimate consumers of the products were not the focus. Their experiences, behaviors, and preferences were not taken into consideration. But today, patients have ready access to a wealth of information and are more informed, leading them to proactively engage in decisions made about their healthcare.
Traditionally, the US has followed a fragmented, fee-for-service healthcare delivery model, where patients have limited choice of HCPs, HCOs, treatments, and prescription medication, covered in a particular plan. On the contrary, EU’s healthcare system is largely socialized. In Germany, most workers contribute roughly 15% of their monthly salary, half paid by employers, to public sickness funds. In France, patients need to pay for healthcare services upfront but are then reimbursed partially or in full by the government. At the EU’s European Medicines Agency (EMA), a diverse group of patient representatives from across the continent are directly involved in the EMA’s policies and programs. By serving as a liaison between the EMA and the larger patient community, the group is able to partially represent interests and concerns of the end users of healthcare programs.
The objective of this article is to discuss how the individuals, healthcare systems, and processes involved in the discovery process of healthcare can and should contribute to shape a value-adding, outcome-driven, and patient-centric healthcare experience by creating empathic solutions. Bringing empathy into the mix helps foster a culture of care for patients, families, and other healthcare stakeholders. The discovery phase of patient-centered care suffuses empathy into the process and prioritizes patient experiences, feelings and outcomes, above all else.
The Evolution of Empathy in the Healthcare System
- An empathic approach to healthcare means that the healthcare ecosystem is moving from an HCO- and HCP-centric model to a patient-centric model. The randomized trials that were common before have now given way to a situation where drug and device companies need to prove, through real-world evidence and measurable outcomes, that their products are effective.
- To ensure that empathy is brought into the mix at every department of an organization, management can set internal standards by introducing certain leadership models:
- Empathy-based leadership involves the design and conceptualization of meaningful experiences for patients by stepping into their shoes and understanding their pain points. At GE Healthcare, a product designer saw a young child crying as she went in for a scan in a machine he had designed. He realized that the experience was terrifying to a young child. The room was dark and filled with ominous flickering fluorescent lights and a loud humming sound. An empathic approach helped him understand how young children feel during CT, X-ray, and MRI scanning procedures. By designing the scanners in the pediatric ward with a playful ‘adventure’ theme, the children were distracted and entertained during the intimidating test, which in turn reduced the time required to get accurate readings and helped avoid the use of sedatives.
- Patient-centered leadership pushes organizations to go beyond just trying to achieve high scores on patient experience. This kind of leadership ensures sustainable growth by constantly working on improvements that will benefit patients. For example, the use of connected IoT devices to track a patient’s condition at all times.
- With transformational leadership, pharma and medical device manufacturing organizations use contact-care centers to engage with patients or product users. This transforms the way companies function because the actual creators and designers of the products now interact with the end users.
- Under purpose-driven leadership, the R&D team works on improving a product based on inputs and feedback from the medical device user or patient. Companies that actively listen to their consumers will be able to take immediate note in case of any adverse events or effects and inform R&D about the issue, who in turn can improve on the product. To achieve this, technological solutions can help across stages of the patient journey, from diagnosis to adherence.
- Most patient journeys are peppered with social and economic factors that are unknown or not considered during the healthcare discovery phase. Patient nonadherence is usually an unfortunate result of this. Other factors like the mental state of the patient, lack of disease or condition-specific knowledge, lack of motivation or confidence in the caregiver, lack of family or community support, a fear of social, cultural or religious stigma, financial pressure, and lack of follow-ups from the HCP/HCO, etc. also have an adverse effect on adherence. By using technology to constantly track a patient’s experience with the product, HCPs and HCOs can monitor the patient’s behavior and take remedial and preventive action to ensure that nonadherence is reduced.
- Several systemic factors have also contributed toward the evolution of the patient-centric model. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released plans to encourage patient-focused drug development – moving from an efficacy-determining approach to an effectiveness-proving one. It’s clear that the FDA is now focused on outcomes and will start pressurizing healthcare players to adopt the same model. Interestingly, one in four health plans have at least one outcome-based contract with a drug maker and 30% of health plans are negotiating for one or more outcome-based contracts. Clearly, value-based care has permeated business strategy for these industries as payers increasingly turn to outcome-based pricing models. Insurers now focus on providing patients the right care at the place and time they prefer. So, HCPs, HCOs, and even pharma companies will be financially compensated based on the quality and effectiveness of the care they provide, rather than the volume.
Faced with shrinking healthcare budgets and rising demand, pharma and device companies can only hope to stay competitive by proving, through real-world experience, that their products deliver improved healthcare outcomes and are well worth the price. In fact, with rising competition, they need to go a step further and prove that their new products achieve outcomes that outweigh those of established therapies.
More Power to Patients at Every Stage
Patient-centricity benefits not only patients and HCPs, but also allows organizations to grow sustainably with an eye on long-term gains through high customer loyalty in healthcare programs. All this while achieving the best possible health outcomes. In this new health landscape, patients occupy the driver’s seat, with the freedom of choice and ownership to take the best decisions for themselves. Right from discovery, the focus is on understanding patient experiences and journeys to create solutions that cater to them. Patient-centric approaches in healthcare systems employed at the discovery phase enable improved product and treatment solutions. The resultant design, based on patient data, improves the quality of delivery, which refines patient satisfaction and ultimately, healthcare outcomes for everyone.