Underlying shifts are happening in the pharma industry. Artificial intelligence and big data are accelerating the speed at which pharma companies are transforming patient care and drug development. Digital solutions are enabling the shift to an integrated approach beginning with prevention and carrying through to treatment and aftercare. And although patient-centricity is not a new concept in the pharma industry, there is a renewed focus that is gaining a lot of attention and causing pharma companies to reinvent the way they do business. In the last couple of years, the spotlight has been on the COVID-19 pandemic, but these industry shifts are taking place rapidly, and it is time leaders take a closer look at them.
Recently, Axtria’s Prakash Pothamsetti, BU Head and Client Partner, delivered the Keynote at Reuters Events™ Pharma USA 2022, highlighting where pharma needs to pause and reflect on the shifts happening in the fast-evolving healthcare ecosystem to revisit how to better engage with the healthcare consumer. Pothamsetti took some time to sit down and dive a bit deeper into the current state of the pharma industry and what the future could hold.
Why is it essential now for pharma companies to pay attention to the underlying shifts in the industry?
The whole world has a deep sense of gratitude to the entire pharma industry for developing innovative medicines and novel therapies when it comes to innovation and science. This is about the interplay between the goals of access, quality, and cost to ensure that these innovative medicines reach the right patients at the right time.
The US healthcare ecosystem is fast evolving, and some seismic shifts are happening in the worlds of all the players. In addition, retailers like Amazon and Best Buy and technology players like Google and Apple are new entrants in healthcare. The huge increase in digital health venture funding is creating an emerging cohort of platform players. These types of changes are having a massive impact on the traditional healthcare ecosystem. There is a need to pause and reflect on these shifts to rethink, reimagine, reshape, and reinvent the future of pharma.
Reinventing the future of pharma – how does one begin with such a monumental task?
Begin by reflecting on your company’s purpose and connect your brand promise to the patient experience in its entirety. Looking across the pharma industry, a common theme appears in nearly all pharma purpose statements, and that is to do with the patient. Whether it is improving patient lives, empowering patient lives, changing patient lives, or transforming patient lives, it is all tied to positively impacting patients. Yet if you look at the current healthcare ecosystem, it is complicated and more shareholder-centric than being more patient-centric. Pharma companies need to reprioritize and put the patient first.
What are pharma companies prioritizing, if not the patient?
There are many initiatives that pharma companies are investing in — digital transformations across the entire value chain, omnichannel engagement, value-based initiatives in the areas of Medical, RWE, and HEOR, and other data related initiatives — but not necessarily in the totality of health of the end healthcare consumer and patient, both in wellness and in sickness. So, this begs the question: If pharma companies are investing in all these other areas, how are these investments and priorities tied back to their purpose? Where is the patient in all of this?
Patient centricity is not a new concept in the pharma industry, but there is a new urgency. Why? What has changed?
Some pharma companies prioritize patient centricity, and many have been talking about patient centricity for the last ten years, but the patient-centricity model has changed. The engagement model focuses on the patient too late in their journey. It addresses the patient’s needs after they are diagnosed and prescribed their treatment. Empowered and knowledgeable patients will be at the center of the future healthcare system, so it is essential for pharma companies to put the patient first.
What does the new patient-centricity model look like?
Pharma companies need to design today’s patient-centricity model on a patient’s four moments of truth: 1) the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), 2) the First Moment of Truth (FMOT), 3) the Second Moment of Truth (SMOT), and 4) the Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT). Designing and mapping the patient’s experience will help pharma companies understand what a patient encounters during their countless “moments of truth” when engaging with the healthcare ecosystem. Things are not so linear, of course. However, what does not change is the intention behind what patients do. At the same time, what’s inevitable is the “experience.”
This all sounds straightforward and simple, but we know that it is not. Why is that?
It is partly because pharma companies have focused on a stakeholder-centric model (instead of a patient-centric model), but that isn’t the only reason. The underlying shifts in the industry include new players in the healthcare ecosystem — the tech and retail companies, and they have a leg up when it comes to consumer/patient proximity and trust. They are well-positioned to enable preventive care and wellness, and this distance between the healthcare consumer and pharma appears to be increasing with every passing day.
How do we stop this existential crisis and reshape pharma to play an effective role in US healthcare?
Look at the economies at play that are impacting and shaping the healthcare ecosystem today. First, there is the platform economy, which goes beyond the tech and retail firms. There was a massive increase in digital health venture spending in 2021, close to 30B USD. Beneath these numbers are signals of something deeper. This is a result of the bigger shifts within healthcare, shifts that will make downstream effects in 2022 and beyond inevitable.
It points to significant investments being made in data platforms, horizontal integration platforms, vertical integration platforms, and the infrastructure and interoperability platforms. These platform players are pushing the healthcare industry ahead in many ways, such as removing barriers, reducing the cost and friction preventing digital health integration, and creating a unified data ecosystem. They provide great opportunities for pharma to break boundaries and get closer to the healthcare consumer and patient.
Beyond platforms, what other areas will help reshape the pharma patient-centricity model?
There is also the intelligence economy at play. Now, as pharma undergoes a digital transformation, as they start embracing these platforms, be that building their own platforms or entering partnerships with other platform players, they will emit a lot of digital exhaust. Artificial intelligence can leverage this data, this wealth of information, to drive better patient engagement and deliver enriching experiences. Pharma must consider enabling scalable systems of intelligence to identify the right interventions at the right time that help facilitate better patient engagement.
Where does patient engagement fit into these different economies at play?
It fits into the experience economy. As mentioned earlier, pharma companies need to map out a model that addresses all moments of truth for the patients — from the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) to the Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT). Pharma companies must own the patient/consumer experience in its entirety to achieve this. Unfortunately, many pharma companies have outsourced patient engagement and data platforms to hubs or third-party suppliers. It is imperative for pharma companies to own this platform so they can own the patient experience. If this is done correctly (i.e., timely and relevant), pharma companies will achieve better patient proximity and ultimately earn the patient’s trust.
It seems as though the patient-centricity model is not a one size fits all model. What can a pharma company do to begin advancing in this area?
Start with the purpose and work backward to identify and break some of these internal and external boundaries. Connect the brand promise to the patient experience and own that experience. Also, start thinking about the healthcare practitioner as a partner in managing the patient journey and experience. Designing for that experience will inform the platform and partnership strategies that pharma needs to have in place. And these changes will have an impact on the foundations of any enterprise. They will result in new operating models, new engagement models, new people, new skills, new capabilities, and so on.
It is about the totality of health and not the occasional encounters we have. Unique experiences need to be crafted, and patient-centricity is crucial to the future of healthcare.