Why Patient-Centricity Requires Relationships

Spain, Basque Country, San Sebastian, Oncology Institute, surgery, break room

It seems like most conversations at healthcare industry conferences center around the notion of “patient-centricity.” Yet everyone seems to define it differently.

In reality, the term “patient-centricity” points to a fundamental flaw in our thinking – it artificially relegates (and inherently isolates) patients to a single focal point within a company. However, when we think about only patients as the epicenter of our practice, we are missing an opportunity to holistically understand all the factors that affect the patient.

“Patient-centricity” is about building real, ongoing relationships – not just with patients, but with all the people who nurture and support the patient journey. The doctors, nurses, caregivers, and pharmacists. The pharma companies, retailers, health insurers, medical device makers, and CPG manufacturers. It’s a complex, interconnected symbiosis that requires – and deserves – a deep and broad understanding of every stakeholder.

It’s through relationships that we are able to access and engage with the raw emotions, candid stories, challenges, triumphs, and day-to-day realities of everyone in the patient care ecosystem. Relationships shatter preconceived notions, challenge the status quo, and help us see the world – and the patients, customers, and employees living and shopping and working in it – in new and inspiring ways, spurring innovation and encouraging progress.

Relationships, especially long-term ones, create intimacy and authentic conversation. They get people talking, doing, and sharing with you in ways that you never imagined. For example, a real, ongoing relationship can reveal that nighttime is consistently the scariest time for a diabetic teenager and his mother. Insight like this can reveal the opportunities for numerous organizations – providers, payers, physicians, retailers, and more – to work towards improving outcomes.

When we’re in an honest relationship, we feel it. We can’t ignore it. We internalize it. And that goes for organizations, too. That empathetic gut-feeling gets internalized into the hearts and minds of people across every department – from insights to R&D to marketing to the C-level – guiding every decision and every action. When a company has ongoing access to first-hand accounts of a Parkinson’s patient’s daily struggles, for instance – that access spawns empathy and carries with it enormous power to galvanize alignment and incite action.

Even companies with the best intentions to be patient-led can still make decisions based on the company’s needs, not the patient’s. In the healthcare sector, especially, relationships with patients or physicians may seem scary or riddled with compliance issues. But they don’t have to be. Innovation, expertise, and regulatory prowess can lead to safe, systematic engagement. In reality, it’s scarier to innovate in silos, detached from the people you serve. So let them be your guide. Because your relationship with them is the truest and fastest way to “patient-centricity.”


This article was originally published in GreenBook Blog.


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