‘Patient centricity’ – what does this ‘revolution’ really mean?


I’m sure you have heard mention of ‘patient centricity’ – a buzz-term for behaviour that brings patients more closely involved with – or should we say to the centre of? – their own care.

The same term describes behaviour towards patients from multiple perspectives. A handful of these include:

  • planning, organisation and implementation of clinical trials
  • healthcare of patients in the contemporary healthcare environment, including:
  • decision-making with physicians
  • the patient-centred approach to medication management by pharmacists
  • marketing of pharmaceutical and biotechnological products

Patients as trial participants
In the present-day healthcare-related commercial environment, companies are recognising that relations with patients are a critical contributor to clinical trial success. By success I mean the accurate collection of results; whether the results are positive is of course another matter.

At the same time, application of technological advances is reaching a higher level. Clinical trial organisations and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies have combined the two advances to give:

  • direct-to-patient clinical trial recruitment through forums and healthcare support groups for people with specific conditions and from specific areas
  • mobile phone apps to remind patients of treatment dosing and record administration –efforts to maximize adherence
  • applications where patients can record symptoms and state
  • websites with disorder- and treatment-related medical information

Adoption of such ‘patient-centric’ approaches has potential to boost recruitment of highly specific trial participants, increase its speed, and improve recording of results.

Patients as healthcare partners
In the healthcare environment, on the other hand, the power balance between doctor and patient is moving. Patients are increasingly a collaborator and decision-maker in their own care, as opposed to a separate entity that is cared for by the more informed healthcare provider, with little discourse. In the UK, this has been led by the NHS health service mantra: “no decision about me, without me.”

Patients as pharmaceutical beneficiaries
The third group of players that tend to call themselves ‘patient-centric’ are the pharmaceutical or biotechnological companies. Many pharmaceutical giants aspire to this reputation – including Sanofi who call themselves, ‘an integrated healthcare leader focused on patients’ needs and Astrazeneca, whose ‘patient centricity’ statement is ‘science and patients…. The heart of everything we do’.

These players face the challenge of balancing the desire to appear ‘patient-centric’ –to appease patient groups – with that to meet the needs of their brand. Actions made by companies in efforts to appear ‘patient centric’ include:

  • providing free health information for patients
  • surveys of patients to identify their wants and needs
  • engagement with patients using social media

First thought
Progress towards development of ‘patient-centric’ commercial companies is understandably awkward, given the conflicting pressures of patient and financial need. One point on which both pressures agree is when patients should first be engaged in the clinical trial process. At the start.

Abbe Steel, Chief Executive Officer of patient organization HealthiVibe and Casey Quinlan, co-founder of Patients for Clinical Research, agree that patients should be engaged as soon as the company decides on the therapeutic area. Quinlan reportedly quoted HL7 Standards blogger Leonard Kish: ‘Patients can be the blockbuster drug discovery of the 21stcentury.’

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