Blog | October 1, 2015

How Can You Provide Healthcare Value In A Patient-Centric Era?

Source: Life Science Leader
Rob Wright author page

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL

How Can You Provide Healthcare Value In A Patient-Centric Era?

Patients have become more empowered, better informed, and more financially invested in their health and well-being than ever before. As a result, we have seen the healthcare landscape evolve toward a patient-centric delivery model. What are the implications of such a paradigm shift, not only for patients, but also for providers, pharma, and payers? On October 15, 2015, a number of healthcare leaders will gather in New York to explore what patient-centric healthcare really means and what we need to do to get there. One of the people planning to attend the Healthcare Executive Roundtable: Understanding Value In a Consumer-Oriented, Patient-Centric Era, is Vera Rulon, director of external medical communications at Pfizer. Rulon sat down with me to share her perspective on patient-centricity as well as what she is hoping to gain from attending this upcoming event.

How do you define patient-centricity?

Rulon: Actually, it’s mostly the patients that are helping define it for us. There have been a lot of advances around patient-centricity, such as Open Notes out of Robert Wood Johnson where there has been great success providing access to doctors’ notes to patients. This access was well received by both patients and their doctors as beneficial to patient care, although there was skepticism at first But it’s more than that. We [Pfizer] are a biopharmaceutical company. As innovators, we want to make sure that the patient is always at the forefront, especially when we’re developing solutions to patient care, the healthcare delivery system, and of course those treatments that we put science toward to address unmet needs. Unless we incorporate patient thinking and experiences, we’re not going to be able to identify some of those unmet needs and we may not have the successful solutions we’re looking for. If we ignore the patient’s voice, it increases our risk of failure. To me, being patient-centric means that we listen to the patient, gather multiple perspectives via clinical trials or through focus groups, and incorporate their insights, preferences, and unmet needs into any kind of healthcare solutions we develop. For example, at a recent AARP meeting there was an innovation showcase. The audience, which was composed of AARP members, was voting on these innovations.. AARP are leveraging this forum as a way to get direct feedback from consumers. Most start-ups will take their idea and try to sell it based on rational benefit without necessarily getting feedback and perceived value from those who would use it. Not all of the start-ups got positive feedback, but better to hear that early in the development stage when there is still time to adjust in order to meet the needs of the users.

What are you doing at Pfizer to try and become more patient-centric?

Rulon: In the article you wrote from interviewing Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, she described Pfizer as putting patients at the center of the development universe. It actually goes beyond listening to patients, caregivers, and patient advocates for insights or participating in different forums across the globe. The learning piece comes from a thorough evaluation of our failures, as well as our successes. Dr. Lewis-Hall used the inhaled insulin device[?], Exubera, as an excellent example of a product we developed several years ago that really did not meet patient needs. Another one she mentioned spills into collaborating on clinical trials with participants. When a participant takes part in a clinical trial, we can’t take the approach of, “Thank you very much, see you later.” We want to give something back to the trial participants, including letting them know what the trial results actually were, so we have committed to send participants “lay summaries,” or results of the trials written in plain language, wherever we’re able to do that. Another of our efforts, the Pfizer Blue Button project, involves sharing data with trial participants. Once they’ve completed the clinical trial, they can receive their personal data and incorporate it into their personal health record.

Going beyond clinical trials, we are also working in collaboration with AARP, UnitedHeathcare, MedStar Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

We are experimenting directly with consumers to understand what their needs of the 50+ population are in some key areas, things like medication adherence, social engagement, and caregiving. By studying directly how these consumers relate and use new technologies, we will have deeper insight into what will actually impact their health in a positive way. We’ve done some research already around the wearables. We’ve learned a lot. For example, just using the tools was difficult for some folks in this population. Another patient-centric collaboration Pfizer is working on is with 23andMe on inflammatory bowel disease and measuring severity of symptoms. Pfizer has also created a new office — the Office of Global Patient Affairs. It is helping to pull together patient- centric activities that are happening throughout the company, collaborating externally to develop frameworks and methods  so we can begin to instill and strengthen our culture of and actions toward patient-centricity throughout the organization.”.

How does being patient-centric fit into the cost, quality, access, and value equation for patients, providers, payers, and pharma?

Rulon: I’m going to speak predominantly to the value equation. When we [Pfizer] talk about being patient-centric, I also like to think about it as looking at the whole patient and how all the different aspects of life impact their health. This also means understanding what’s important to them in the whole quality of life context. If you think about what a person with diabetes has to deal with, it’s far more than just taking a pill or injection. It also involves dietary aspects, exercise, and sleep. This is a pretty simple and straightforward example. But all of those things contribute to their quality of life, and therefore value, especially if the patient understands if what they’re doing is best for them. It’s a holistic approach. In clinical trials, by incorporating the patient perspective as we’re developing new treatments, we reduce the chances of failure that affects us and patients.

Why have you decided to attend the CHI roundtable, and what are you hoping to take away?

Rulon: I attended one of CHI’s executive roundtables last year. It was really beneficial to have a variety of stakeholders around the table discussing partnerships in healthcare. What really appealed to me for this one is the diversity of representatives that are coming to the event. We can really learn from each other through healthcare industry dialogue, because we’re all in this together. We shouldn’t be in silos, especially if we’re trying to benefit the patient, as they have enough trouble navigating around the healthcare system. There are patient advocacy groups, innovators, health systems, and of course pharma. The more we can learn from each other, the greater likelihood we can come up with some really great patient-centric, positive outcome, solutions.

Is there anything specifically you are hoping to learn and then apply in your role at Pfizer?

Rulon: Yes; solutions for better patient access to treatments and information. Regarding healthcare outcomes, there is still a big concern about improving a patient’s awareness and understanding regarding what they need to do for themselves. Then there is the whole value recognition of doing what you need to do and how medicines can help you. I’d also like to hear what some of other organizations are doing regarding best practices around being patient-centric. Those are probably the main things I am interested in. But I’m also hoping to hear some golden nuggets that I hadn’t thought of during the roundtable dialogue.