Since starting this website we all have been posting all kinds of statistics, all kind of data and trends. All these posts lean hard on the need for the life sciences industry – and this means you pharma, all payers, institutions, etc. – to put the patient at the center of your business decision-making.

But after presenting all of this information it is so sad that the true undercurrent is still there – that the push to truly put the patient at the center is hardly a push…it’s more like a nudge.

In any other industry the customer is at the center of all business decisions. Ask Coca-Cola what drives their market and they will tell you it’s consumer demand. What did you say? Healthcare is different? I used to think the same thing…I now know I was wrong and so are you.

We are in a time that is well beyond the empowered patient. With the changes in healthcare delivery we all have absolutely no choice about managing our own health – whether we like it or not. But to manage our health we need to be informed, confident, and we need to manage our fears. OK, apps will help us get there but we all don’t learn the same way. A concerted effort to assess all stages across the patient journey can help to address the real need and identify tactics that will support healthful behaviors regardless of where a patient’s head is.

But, back to those of us who build the apps, initiatives, CRM programs, patient education, multi-channel marketing programs, and on and on and on….we keep thinking this is about price. How many co-pay cards are still sitting in reps’ trunks or doctor’s offices? It’s NOT just cost. It is what goes on between our ears – it is about our behavior, about the choices we make. Yeah, sounds complex, and no question that it is. But, it is easier to tackle than you think.

Just take some time to assess and understand what makes people tick, what makes them do the things they do, make the choices that they make. Take some time to understand how they learn. As I said, an app is probably good for many but not everybody. Some of us just need a piece of paper or a connection to someone to help us manage our barriers and get to what motivates us. What did you say, there aren’t enough docs to fill this need and they don’t have time anyway? Well, what about NPs, PAs, Community Health Workers, Promotoras, Patient Navigators…and so on. The help is there, it just may not take the form you know traditionally.

Oh, and don’t forget that a patient is a WHOLE person. A patient is not a diabetic – they are someone who has diabetes..and hypertension…and may have to lose some weight. Understand that the messages that make sense to you may not convey the same meaning through cultural filters. Hey, I said WHOLE person, didn’t I?. Not just a person with some diagnosis but a person with a family and friends that influence and contribute to their cultural view. This means you actually have to talk about people as African-American or Black or Hispanic or Caucasian and remember no group is homogenous. This is called “cultural competency”, you may have heard of it. Whew – takes some effort, right?

Not worth the cost?

Let me tell you, right now you are happy with a less than 20% adherence rate at the end of a year where you have invested millions. If you are able to recoup just 2-5% of the prescriptions you have lost to a lack of adherence you will get back millions PLUS improve health outcomes. Yes, this will inflate your drug spend in the short run but if you can hold on for the long run you will see less cost going to more complex situations that arise down the road. Think about it – the cost of insulin versus the cost of end-stage renal disease, amputations, etc. Have some courage, take the long view. We just need to learn to measure ROI differently, set different success milestones, and wait a bit longer for results..and have the courage to do things differently.

But, hey, I drink the Kool-Aid. I am convinced. I am so convinced that I have an incredibly hard time understanding why you don’t see this win-win opportunity staring you in the face.

Here we are, in a time that is incredibly tight economically along with major changes in healthcare delivery. You still buy into and fund old ways of tackling these issues. Since this is what you will buy, this is also what you are sold because your suppliers have to make money somehow. But your suppliers also know the truth, that if you just had a little courage, we could show you a way that would make money and serve patients at the same time. Oops! did I really say both money and patients in the same sentence? Yes, I did and it is OK just as long as we are dong the right thing. Everyone understands that most of this is not non-profit. We still need to fund much-needed research, we still need to keep the lights on.

If you are able to step up to this challenge you will see the benefit to patients and your bottom-line. But, first, you have to say “yes” to a pilot, “yes” to a test, “yes” to spending your budget a little differently than the way you have the last 20 or 30 years.

Come on, have a little courage….