Five Questions to Ask to See If Your Organization is Patient-Centric

There’s not a biotechnology, pharmaceutical or medical device company that does not claim to be focused on patients. But there is a significant difference between trying to answer an unmet medical need that will help patients and having an organization that goes to the next level and is truly driven by understanding and advocating for people living with medical challenges. Both are purposeful and noble but embracing true patient centricity as the backbone of your company is not only liberating in many ways, but also infinitely more rewarding for your business and yourself. Here are five questions to evaluate how your company measures up.

  1. Are you trying to help patients or people?
    It’s natural to label people living with illness as patients. It helps create a space between us and them that can provide a sense of comfort and in some cases, even if unintended, superiority. The reality, however, is that we are all patients and moreover, we are all people. The individuals and families we’ve met over the years never allow their medical conditions to define them – nor should we. It’s vital to recognize that we have so much more in common and that this is a bridge to trying to understand what those facing health issues encounter. When we do this, we aim to move from compassion to empathy. It’s equally important to acknowledge that medical challenges seldom affect a sole individual – they affect family and loved ones. Significant others, siblings, friends. There is a network of people who need support for themselves in order to maintain their own wellness and in order for them to be helpful to those struggling.

  2. Are your organization’s goals aligned with actual needs?
    Before you say yes, know that not every goal must be. Organizations are businesses and have accountability to many different constituents. That said, if you are going to claim to be focused on the needs of people with medical challenges and their families, it is crucial that your business objectives authentically capture their perspective and help them in meaningful ways – ways that will make actual differences. This is our greatest opportunity. Then chance to help improve lives – not only through treatment intervention, but also in our approaches to education and support.

  3. What are your research and outreach initiatives trying to accomplish?
    Often companies will embark on trying to better understand the “patient” perspective – through research, interviews, advisory boards, ambassador programs and more. These are all excellent ways of trying to learn directly from those who know disease states and their consequences best. But ask yourself about your objectives. Listening and gaining insights is one very important side of the coin. The other side, however, is equally important – are you providing an experience that your guests or participants will value. What’s in it for them in the short and long term? Are you communicating to them in a manner that recognizes them as individuals, rather than patients? Are you also listening to those not directly affected? Because the reality is that both can be profoundly affected in different ways.

  4. What tools are you providing people to help them advocate for themselves?
    Empowerment is everything. Going through the healthcare system can be a frustrating and isolating experience. People often are learning about medical conditions for the first time and might feel overwhelmed by terminology and scientific explanations. And in the case of those people living with rare diseases, their doctors may never have heard of or treated a patient with their condition. What is your company doing to help address this? Have you asked these people what tools would be most helpful? Have you looked at other companies/initiatives as analogs that might be useful? Have you dedicated budget, resources and people to meet these needs?

  5. How is your company demonstrating that you care?
    Actions speak louder than words. And unfortunately, there is much skepticism toward industry. People often see companies within the healthcare space as motivated more by money than morals. It is part of our responsibility to change this perception in tangible, compliant and meaningful ways. Relationship-building is key. Earning trust is essential. And not being seen as exploiting the situation is everything.

We are all patients. Put yourself in the shoes of the people you are focusing on. Look at your requests of them and efforts for them from their perspective. If you don’t see any gaps, you probably are not looking closely enough. There are always gaps. That’s okay. It’s what you do with that information and how you proceed that matters most.

Remember – if you are going to claim to be “patient” driven, you are doing yourself and your company a disservice if you are not bringing that commitment to life in virtually everything you do.


by Jonathan D. Katz