The more I read about patient centricity, the more I get the eerie feeling that there is something wrong, something missing. At first glance the concept is very clear, the strategy and tactics are right and the tools put to use all have an added value. But it still doesn’t feel quite right to me. So what is it?
Being responsible for business development, I fully understand why the pharmaceutical industry is so much focusing on patient centricity nowadays. It is simple: no patients equals no clinical trials equals no product on the market equals no revenue. And I also see the similarities between patient centricity and customer experience and customer satisfaction. There is definitely nothing wrong with the drivers or the tactics for patient centricity. Could it then be that it is in where the emphasis is put?
If you would scan all the publications on patient centricity and count the number of times a word is used then you would probably see that "patient", "need", "involvement" and "engagement" end up in the top 10 of most used words. And again this is in line with what we want to accomplish. It is a rational and sensible approach to a major challenge. But I feel that we are missing something very important, and last week the insight was handed to me by Prof Dr. Bernard Sabbe, chair and professor in medical psychology and psychiatry at the University of Antwerp, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
My wife and I were invited to the Dr. Guislain “Breaking the Chains of Stigma” Award 2015 ceremony where Prof. Dr. Bernard Sabbe was one of the key note speakers. Each year the Dr. Guislain Award highlights an individual, project or organization that has made an exceptional contribution to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Out of over 50 nominations Dr. Janos Marton, director of The Living Museum in Queens, New York, has been named the 2015 winner. The award honors Dr. Marton for his extraordinary efforts and distinctive ability to nurture creativity of individuals living with mental illness and for establishing a groundbreaking and flourishing artistic community within a mental health care setting.
As one of the key note speaker Prof. Dr. Bernard Sabbe talked about the heritage of Dr. Guislain, and why the award was founded. In his speech he said something very remarkable about mentally ill patients. We should not look upon them as almost untreatable, difficult and maybe even dangerous patients, but as people who happen to be patients with a mental illness. With that remark he shifted the emphasis from the illness to people, to human beings.
That hit me like a hammer! I instantly knew what I have been missing in all these articles about patient centricity; it is not about patients but about people. With patient centricity we need to put the emphasis on the human factor. We have to understand that words like patient and subject reduce human beings to their conditions, and this creates distance between us and them. Distance is not a good thing if you want to build trust. And trust is what you need to convince someone to help you run a trial.
The moment we start looking at and talking about patients as ordinary people like us, it will become much easier to accomplish what we want to achieve with patient centricity. Put yourself in the position of a layman and start thinking about how you, as a person, want to be treated and spoken to!