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5 ways patient centricity is shaping the future of healthcare

What is patient centricity and why are healthcare leaders adopting this approach?

Human-centered design has taken root in healthcare as a creative solution to today’s care challenges. To define it simply, human-centricity is an approach. An approach that places the end-user(s) at the centre. It starts by asking ‘how can we improve the human experience and drive better results for people’?

What do we mean by end-users? The most powerful part of this approach is that it addresses all stakeholders. This includes everyone from the VP to administrative staff, to the patients receiving care. This point is crucial in understanding the strategy behind this method. By listening to all the end-users, companies are ensuring that they build products and services that actually drive impact, not just check a box.

Why is this important? 

The consumer of the future is an empowered consumer. They are informed and demand a collaborative approach to care. Organizations that want to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace need to engage with people on a more human level. They need to move from the prescriptive model to the collaborative one. How? By anticipating people’s needs and building solutions rooted in empathy.

Recently we have seen some companies shed their design teams. They are getting nervous that ‘design doesn’t work’ and giving up too soon on a good thing. The result is that they default to the well-trodden path they had been on before. Ironically, this is the same path that they were trying to innovate out of in the first place. 

Innovation is a long term play. The ROI on human-centric transformation cannot be viewed through a quarterly lens. Leaders need to take a more long-term perspective. Think 2040 and beyond. It’s a strategic play. And although the bottom-line benefits can be hard to quantify in the short term, the long term effects compound powerfully.

So what do healthcare organizations stand to gain from adopting this approach? We’ve outlined the top five areas of impact.

1. Improve patient adherence

Medication and treatment non-adherence costs the global economy 637 Billion dollars annually¹. In the US alone, non-adherence adds up to a $250 Billion dollar bill each year. This is an expensive problem for pharmaceutical organizations. Non-adherence has a trickle down effect. It leads to increased visits with physicians, unnecessary treatments and hospital admissions. The traditional, prescriptive approach leans too heavily on providing information. The problem is that it assumes a high level of healthcare literacy. In reality, only about 12% of Americans know what to do with that information¹. To put it another way 88% of Americans face barriers that prevent them from making sound healthcare decisions. These barriers are socio-economic, systemic and environmental.

So how can a patient centric approach help tackle this costly issue? We must begin by meeting the patient where they are. By designing solutions with people’s needs in mind we can improve a person’s ability to adhere to a treatment plan. It’s all about engagement and empathy on the human level. Companies that take this approach will win in the marketplace long term.

Case Study: Improving Adjuvant Therapy Care
Problem

A large healthcare organization reached out to us seeking an innovative solution to therapy adherence amongst metastatic cancer patients. One particular treatment aimed at preventing bone fracture and pain in the above group. The treatment had very low adherence. Patients had a hard time seeing the benefits of this approach and did not follow through with the plan. At the same time, physicians found it hard to communicate the importance of this preventative treatment.

Solution

We spoke to healthcare professionals prescribing this treatment option to their patients. In our sessions, we mapped out the treatment experience and patient journey. This exercise allowed us to see opportunities for supporting adherence. Our research showed that if we improved communication at the start of the treatment decision, we could help drive patient adherence. In other words, when patients understood early on how the product worked, they were more committed to their therapy over time.

Impact

Armed with new patient-centered insights, we led the client team in building a solution. We co-created tactics focused on the key decision moments. We also developed concepts to better support the physicians in educating their patients. We put in place additional monitoring tools that helped patients stay on track. Additional tactics were aimed at re-enrolling patients that may have lapsed on their journey.

2. Improve patient access

Many people face invisible obstacles when it comes to accessing care. These challenges can be financial, physical, social, or as is often the case, a combination of all three. What that translates to on the individual level is a delay in seeking timely care. Early symptoms are often ignored leading to a higher cost of treatment down the road and more severe health effects.

Accessibility issues can also come from the other side. Outdated systems and processes are often incompatible with each other. This added layer of invisible friction can delay timely care.

By applying human-centered design methodologies we can make significant improvements in everything from reducing clinic workload, to improving information exchange. Most importantly, we are able to improve people’s health outcomes and the quality of their lives.

A clear example of this is seen in early pipeline drug development. By applying the human-centered approach, pharmaceutical companies can help physicians and their patients find the most suitable trial. This can be achieved by streamlining databases through the lens of accessibility. 

In a similar vein, patient-centric improvements in trial enrolment can reduce the confusion that many patients experience during this process. Confusion that leads to attrition and issues with informed consent.

Case Study: Breaking down barriers to access in community health

Problem

The pandemic has revealed long-standing gaps and vulnerabilities in health equity. Access and public health infrastructure have come under scrutiny over the last couple of years. In partnership with CommuniVax, we set out to discover how we could engage communities. How do we sustain and build more equitable and accessible health systems?

Solution

We developed the CommuniVax CHAT (Community Health Access Toolkit), a step-by-step guide for designing and facilitating productive, hyper-local conversations on health access and equity. By bringing community leaders together and guiding the conversation we can help communities build on the positive momentum made during the pandemic.

Impact

Our first use-case with hyperlocal community members (barbershops and salons in Baltimore, Maryland) allowed community leaders to co-create their own solutions. This resulted in higher vaccine confidence among all members. The resulting journey map helped to identify actionable priority areas to pursue for community leaders.

3. Improve reputation

The information age has accelerated the demand for business transparency. Companies are born and companies die under the weight of public scrutiny. What you do behind the curtain matters. It can influence purchasing behavior and investment interest.

Although healthcare was late to the party, these same trends are becoming a fast reality in this area as well. People need to see real commitment to patient care, not just glitzy marketing campaigns.

The pandemic has been beneficial to the healthcare field in this regard. The amazing progress made in the vaccine effort has skyrocketed corporate reputation. A recent study by Patient View reports that 67% of respondent groups view the industry reputation as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’². There is an opportunity here to seize on this positive momentum.

Patient centricity is a core value identified by consumers. By applying human-centered methodologies, healthcare leaders have an opportunity to address the needs and barriers faced by customers. Doing this transparently builds credibility and trust- the positive effects of which trickle down to the bottom line.

The challenge is moving beyond the ad campaign approach and into a mindset focused on driving impact on the human level.

4. Reduce physician burnout

There is a direct correlation between a patient’s involvement in their own care and their resulting health outcomes. In the clinics of today, healthcare providers have to ensure that their patients have the right information and are appropriately consented. Concordance is a collaborative process whereby clinicians and patients share the decision making when it comes to treatments. This practice is widely accepted in the community but practicing it effectively doesn’t always happen.

Rapid digital transformation has changed the way patients and healthcare providers communicate. Although these changes are net positive, we are finding high levels of physician burnout. Studies suggest that this is as high as 50%. Burnout compromises the line of communication. There are two main reasons that we have identified:

  • Burnout caused by higher workflow burden.
  • Lack of appropriate information and resources that can be shared with the patient.

We know that patient information retention is very low, especially at the time of diagnosis. Lack of appropriate resources doesn’t help to keep the communication lines open, and that can affect the outcomes for these patients. Many patients resort to Dr. Google. Now, the clinician has to spend time countering misinformation.

When we apply a patient-centric lens to the development of educational resources we take away some of the barriers standing in the way of clear communication between healthcare providers and their patients.

5. Reduce Decision Regret

Receiving a diagnosis is an extremely stressful life event. Emotions are riding high and patients often feel confused and overwhelmed. They not only have to grapple with the personal consequences of a disease, but also have to make critical treatment decisions. Patients often struggle with what questions to ask. In most cases, they have no way of fully comprehending the implications of any decisions that they make. It is a vulnerable moment in the patient journey and getting it wrong has consequences.

The decision making process, if not handled with care, can lead to decision regret. It is not only important what type of information is shared with patients, but also how it is shared. The patient-centric approach asks ‘how can we help this person make the most unbiased and best decision for them?’ This can be a powerful shift in how treatment decisions are made and how satisfied the patient is with their choice.

Case Study: TheraChoice, a Platform for Preventing Decisional Regret

The American Cancer Society estimates 268, 490 new cases of prostate cancer in 2022. Overwhelmed by emotion, these people are asked to absorb a huge amount of information and make a treatment decision. The decisions are complex. There are so many variables to weigh. It is often difficult for physicians and patients to have productive conversations.

Problem

Bridgeable partnered with the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto to develop a decision-making tool that helps newly diagnosed cancer patients think through what’s best for them.

Solution

We began the process of uncovering insights by conducting a field-based ethnographic study. The information we gathered from the study led to the development of a patient-experience map. The map showed us where patients’ needs were not met in the decision-making process. Specifically we discovered that in order for patients to successfully navigate their treatment options, they needed two things: The ability to sort and prioritize treatment goals that were in alignment with personal values, and, the ability to compare treatment options.

Impact

We developed a dynamic interface and data visualization tool called TheraChoice. The tool helps patients prioritize and understand their treatment options without getting lost in a tidal wave of information.

 

Patient-centric approaches to healthcare transformation are here to stay. The players willing to invest effort, time, and money into reshaping entrenched systems and attitudes will lead in the marketplace. There is no one size fits all solution. Each organization needs to tailor its approach to meet the needs of its unique stakeholders. This requires out-of-the-box thinking that goes beyond the boardroom. Bridgeable is committed to helping organizations make that journey and come out the other end stronger and more equipped for the future.


References

1 —Cutler RL, Fernandez-Llimos F, Frommer M, Benrimoj C, Garcia-Cardenas V. Economic impact of medication non-adherence by disease groups: a systematic review. BMJ Open. 2018 Jan 21

2 — Patient View. THE CORPORATE REPUTATION OF PHARMA IN 2021, 2022 May 13


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