Truly patient-centered: implications for health, design, and brand

Healthcare and life science organizations spend a lot of time patting themselves on the back for ‘patient-centered care’ or ‘patient engagement’ or ‘patient-centered design.’ The intent is to suggest that these organizations are focused on the patient, and to a certain extent they are. Yet, the focus is from the point of view of the organization and not the patient. Therefore, the flow of data is from the patient and not back, the design decisions are about the organization and not the patient, and the conversation is about the organization and not the patient.

We need to turn this POV around. And the flow of data, design of products, and conversation needs to be strongly two-way, with a healthy dose of listening. Because, the future of healthcare is High-Touch, and the care, the products, and the industry needs to encourage a framework of high-touch medicine.

Lack of patient focus holding back real-world results in digital health
We have spent many inches, elsewhere, pointing out how digital health products are missing users’ motivations. Despite the hype, these devices and apps for the most part have not really made an impact (more novelty than necessity). Joseph Kvedar, from Partners, and Alexander Fogel, from Stanford School of Medicine, wrote a great article on factors keeping digital health products from showing real-world results.

One of their key admonitions is that all digital health products hinge on engagement (this is actually good advice for any product – no value, no engagement, no use). Echoing many of the things I’ve said before, they point out that healthcare should be taking cues from other industries focused on engaging users. Organizations need to have “engagement-first” thinking; use real world evidence, not clinical trials, to prove out their products (“Prove It!”); and understand how partnerships can bring about product synergies.

Patient focus for a better patient experience
Deloitte research shows patient experience is tied to hospitals’ financial performance. And positive patient experiences are tied to patient retention, better outcomes, more engagement, and a stronger brand.

The research also shows a key role of technology in patient experience. For example, the right tools can help patients to be more involved in their own medical decisions. Tools to facilitate shared-decision-making, or to better presentation of information, or to provide better access to medical records lead to increased patient involvement in their own care. All these tools are patient-centric, as in, providing value to the patient. But they are also designed to facilitate the engagement between the care provider and the patient, understanding how the patient sits within a system of engagement.

Patient focus is also relevant to pharma, as the continuum of patient engagement, started during clinical trials, is beginning to extend to enhancing therapies on the market, brand strength, and user retention. Here is an article with some good examples of how pharmas are incorporating patient experience into what they offer. And it’s not just the design of patient-centric products, but there needs to also be an organizational construct that brings the whole organization to understand the focus on patient engagement – across product, research, and management.

Where do we go from here?
We keep coming back to the idea that organizations need Awareness of their environment, need to develop and integrate on a Strategy that crosses organizational boundaries, need to understand Delivery of a solid technical foundation, and make sure that the Fluency in skills needed is there.

To be truly patient-centered there needs to be an Awareness of patient needs, a Strategy that goes beyond the app or tech (think whole system of engagement), the Delivery needs to have engagement-first design, and the solution needs to be supported by a patient-centered engagement Fluency across all points of contact with the patient.

We can do this. Just look to your favorite consumer brands for ideas. Get out there and meet your customers. Stop thinking of what you want to do and listen to what your customers need. Then go and build that patient-centered system of engagement that delivers delight and happiness to the customer.

Let us know if you want to talk about this some more.

Image from crosslens