Benchmarking Patient Centricity


Moving toward a clearer global view of what “patient centricity” means

By Jill Donahue, Principal, EngageRx

It’s encouraging that patient centricity has become a major focus for most companies. The next step, however, is defining exactly what this means, what it entails, and what the processes are that will make it effective. Beliefs and intentions are empty without the knowledge and skill to move them to actions and measurable outcomes.

What if we were trusted, valued partners in healthcare? Of the many hurdles this industry faces, perhaps the most important is regaining the public’s faith in us. This is vital to achieving the engagement we need to advance better outcomes. Being patient focused is the essential component necessary to achieve this goal.

That’s why The Aurora Project was established: to illuminate the path to patient centricity.


At the largest global conference for pharma, eyeforpharma Barcelona 2016, I conducted video interviews with thought leaders. One of the questions I asked was “Thinking of the aphorism ‘We can’t manage what we can’t measure,’ how are you measuring your efforts to be patient-centric?” The answers simply weren’t that impressive. And that’s when Paul Simms, chairman of eyeforpharma, and I hatched the idea to try to globally benchmark our progress with patient-focused missions. As we started gaining input on this idea, more and more people became excited about it. In the end, a panel of 70 highly qualified and experienced advisors was consulted on the content and design of the survey, and an additional 800 advisors offered to help with dissemination and interpretation of findings.

Thus we had the first ever global large-scale survey of its kind, to benchmark patient-focused intentions, actions and outcomes based on verifiable, comprehensive and global survey responses.

Invited survey participants were drawn from a global cross-section of industry professionals in pharma and health care provision, as well as from patients and patient groups. Care was taken to ensure a range in seniority, roles, geography and company size among respondents. In total, 2346 responses, spread across 84 countries, were received from the 80,000 invitees. For a summary of the survey, click here. The survey was aimed at identifying not just the barriers but what people are doing right, how the “wisdom of crowds” sees the way forward and what exactly patientcentricity means to people.


> 70 advisors in design

> 800 advisors in interpretation, dissemination

2346 participants

• Patient/groups (61)

• Bio/pharma/med device (1150)

• Solution providers (797)

• Other (338) 84 countries Data collection completed March, 2016


The data from the survey is rich. Below are the top five insights. Spoiler alert. The number one insight is that pharma really does believe patient centricity is the answer.

See Figure 1 on page 50.Pc0500000

Figure 1

What is perhaps the most optimistic finding is that companies with senior leaders who walk their talk by transforming their cultural mindset with all departments appear to be in the lead when it comes to patient-focused profitability.

See Figure 2 on page 51.Pc0510100

Figure 2


The survey measured respondents’ perceptions of how well they think they are doing—and what they think patient centricity means. Jens Lipinski, Head Patient Relations, Bayer Vitals, says, “Amazingly, most participants in the survey describe their organizations as slightly or far ahead of other companies. The majority of organizations position themselves ahead of the average. I am convinced that this result is based on the presence of different definitions or perceptions of patient centricity. Some of us in pharma still tend to reduce patient centricity to the development and provision of safe and beneficial products and services. The survey clearly demonstrates that we have many more options to demonstrate close proximity to patients’ needs.”

Not surprisingly, 86% of the respondents believe it is very important for pharma to deliver on patient-focused missions. Their confidence in the “how,” however, lags behind. Confidence that pharma can implement their patient-focused ideologies showed who is least confident—patients at 11.48%—and who is most confident—CEO’s at 36% (still not an inspiring number). This allows us to pinpoint barriers to patient-focused actions, as well as areas of concern. This is essential if barriers are to be overcome and effective solutions found.


While it is easy to pay lip service to a patient-centric model, it is far more difficult for large corporations to implement new ways of working. Companies can now see where they are in relation to other companies when it comes to patient-focused intentions, actions, and outcomes, as well as where they might better place their efforts. Often, when you are too close to something it is difficult to see the bigger picture. The Aurora Project is both a lens to view the global picture of pharma’s patient-focused efforts and some patient-focused catalysts that can help us craft the future.

We want to help companies and individuals re-set their direction and define their strategies going forward. This is best achieved by effective collaboration and networking, as best practice examples shared within the survey show.


The global survey has drawn a line in the sand. We know where we are now and we can measure progress against this. Even better, we have identified people throughout the world who are passionately working on the same goal—to grow their businesses in patient-focused ways. The survey brought us together and through that community, we can accelerate progress on our mutual goals. We want to repeat the survey each year and envision seeing great progress in efforts and outcomes. To help ensure that progress, the group has crowd sourced ideas and strategies beyond the survey. So far, we have five projects underway, including:

1. Defining Patient Centricity

“Some of us in pharma still tend to reduce patient centricity to the development and provision of safe and beneficial products and services.The survey clearly demonstrates that we have many more options to demonstrate close proximity to patients’ needs.”

Jens Lipinski, Head Patient Relations, Bayer Vitals

2. Publishing deep dives from survey results

3. The Practical Guide for each department

4. The Treaty

5. #PharmaPride social media campaign

We believe first and foremost that being patient focused results in better outcomes for all; patients, society, health-care professionals and our organizations. And secondly that we can achieve those outcomes faster together than any individual or company can alone. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all ships.

We need to take the wave of innovators and spread their experiences so that others are inspired not only to recreate but to improve on those examples. By far the most common answer to the question regarding training is that people are actively looking for what and how to train people to make patient centricity work. We need to make the benchmarks in this survey public so that we can stop merely talking about patient centricity and start actually making it work! We need this, health care professionals need this, our organizations need this and most importantly, patients need this. •

Jill Donahue

Principal, EngageRx, HBa, MAdEd Jill is on a mission to lift our industry, building purpose-driven, influential people. Through her keynote talks, workshops and award-winning mobile-learning programs, she is helping teams build trust, open doors and make a bigger impact. As the co-founder of the nonprofit group The Aurora Project, she is helping to illuminate our path to patient centricity.



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