A patient-centric pharma focus isn't just possible, it's a must

A patient-centric pharma focus isn’t just possible, it’s a must Know your audience. That’s what they say.

Whether you’re a journalist, musician, author or politician, if you know your audience you’ll likely find success.

But how does this principle apply to pharmaceutical companies and marketers?

At first glance, it would appear we’ve hit on a potential gray area because our industry has two equally essential audiences. The medical professionals we partner with to help patients comprise the first. The second includes the patients themselves. As we work every day to protect and improve the lives of our patients, why does it so often feel like we've forgotten them?

Is it possible for pharma to ever truly be patient-centric?

Hale Advisor’s co-founder Zoe Dunn asked this same question in her blog last November and sparked an interesting debate. She questions what it means to be patient-centric and whether we, as an industry, are truly committed to putting the needs of our patients first — even if it means jeopardizing our bottom line.

“So if our goal is for patients to be healthier,” Dunn asks, “are we, as an industry, committed to doing whatever it takes to get them there?” Good health depends on more than just the right medication, she explains; it also requires fundamental lifestyle changes.

Dunn is right, of course; proper medication is only one component of a healthy lifestyle. A nutritious diet, regular preventive checkups and basic needs such as warm clothes and stable housing each play an important role. As an industry, pharma can’t help with every aspect of a patient’s well-being, but we have a unique opportunity within our market to focus on patient-centric practices that prove we care about our customers in addition to the medicines we create.

Embracing patient-centric practices

To be patient-centric, we must view our patients as partners, not customers. We must also understand that our relationship with them extends far beyond the point of sale. Patient-centric communications, for example, should be brief and aim to simplify complex topics. This benefits not only our patients but our bottom line, too, according to research in The Harvard Business Review, which identifies decision simplicity as the number-one influencer of buying behavior.

In addition to simple and direct messaging, being patient-centric means showing compassion for our patients, advocating for them when they are sick and supporting them when they are well. We need to help them manage their experience when undergoing complex surgical procedures and facing medicinal questions, and we need to stay with them afterward to provide thorough and supportive aftercare materials. Our patients may need additional assistance, and we should always strive to answer follow-up questions and direct them to the resources they need. This effort to show compassion and understanding for our patients is the most valuable patient-centric marketing we can do. And if we do it thoroughly and honestly, our efforts won’t be lost on those patients or their doctors.

As pharmaceutical marketers, our industry asks us to know two different audiences. To truly be successful in this market, however, we must go a step further. To actually be patient-centric, we can’t just know the audience — we must embrace the partnership.