Great Advice from Great Minds: UCB Puts Patient- Value Strategy to Work


An interview with David Fortanbary, Head of US Commercial Performance Training, UCBBy Jill Donahue, Principal, Engage Rx

One of the great challenges of implementing patient centricity in pharma is creating the culture which supports it. We often miss the crucial role training plays in transforming associates’ mindsets. But David Fortanbary has been at the heart of this change, and we were thankful for him sharing his wisdom on it.

David spent a number of years at Bristol-Myers Squibb, as a sales director, executive director of US Pharmaceuticals Sales Effectiveness & Training, and senior director of Managed Markets. He built a reputation as a leader in sales learning and training, sales force effectiveness, and capabilities building. In 2013 he became Vice President of Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network (LTEN), the only professional organization designed by and for life sciences training and education professionals.

He retired for a weekend, only to find himself unable to say no to an opportunity to serve as Head of North America Commercial Training at UCB. UCB is one of the companies that is truly putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to patient centricity.

A couple of years ago, I co-founded The Aurora Project, a worldwide industry volunteer group designed to illuminate commercial pharma’s path to patient centricity. In the 2016 Aurora Project Survey, 2346 pharma professionals, solution providers and patients weighed in on the need for pharma to become patient focused. An astounding 93% believe a patient-focused strategy improves overall business outcomes. One challenge to implementing that is that only 38% agree appropriate training is given. And 78% either don’t know what or how to teach or are looking for ways to train their people to behave in patient-focused ways that create better outcomes for all.

Watch Jill’s interview with David Fortanbary

David knows it’s not easy to understand the world of the patient, and all the daily hurdles they face. He wants to help employees feel what diagnosis and treatment are like. He has involved patients and caregivers in discussions with professionals, even surprising employees in the middle of a meeting to conduct a FaceTime call with a patient. He says that the gratitude expressed by these patients injects new energy into meetings and reinforces employees’ dedication.

David has also challenged colleagues to examine key questions about their own beliefs and actions. Who most profoundly influenced your decision to be a life sciences professional? When did you know you had truly made a difference in someone’s life? What do you want your legacy to be?

He and I share a motivation; both of us had parents who had significant healthcare problems. This drives him. David is thankful for what the industry has done for him, and for the opportunity to help patients.

Because I know of David’s passion for the topic and experience in creating a patient-focused culture, I sat down with him at the 2017 eyeforpharma Patient Summit to talk about what UCB is doing to move PC from words to actions.

We talked about:

  • How the pharma industry has moved from a transactional model to a patient-focused model
  • How training can help build a patient-focused culture
  • The role of purpose in bringing value to patients
  • How highlighting the people who have the patient-centric mindset can drive your culture
  • That beginning and ending with the patient in mind is a good value proposition for the company
  • This ideal has to be built into the culture. Each company needs to find champions who share the vision, and hold them up as advocates
  • And the tone has to be woven into all levels of the organization If you would like to participate in The Aurora Project’s second annual patient-centric benchmark survey, please do so here.
Jill Donahue HBa, MAdEd Associate Editor, HS&M

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 pharma people build trust, open doors and make a bigger impact.


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