​Why pharma should invest in patient-focused learning

Breaking down the barriers

Posted on Aug 03, 2017

Learning strategies

In a recent webinar discussing the importance of patient-centricity in pharmaceutical learning, we asked whether pharma is doing enough to encourage patient-centricity through employee training: 80% of respondents voted ‘no’. We then went on to ask, what are the barriers to encouraging patient-centricity in pharma training? We found that the main reason was a lack of resources (75% of respondents), with other key reasons cited as data taking priority, and the opportunity cost – the belief that resources would be better spent on other training needs.

In essence, what we were hearing was that time is money, and both are often in short supply. We need to use our limited resources to train our people about the data, the facts, the essential skills they need to do their job. How can we justify finding more time and money to cover something that may be considered ‘extra-curricular’ learning?

To address this, we need to understand the ‘why’. Why is it important, or even essential, to include patient-centricity in pharma employee training? Purpose can be defined as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists”, or as “a sense of resolve or determination”. Purpose, therefore, comes from a deep understanding an unmet need and knowing that the things you do are going some way towards meeting that need. Studies have shown that having a sense of purpose not only makes people sleep better at night, but ideals that enhance consumer/customer-centricity also increase sales, with purpose observed as a common characteristic among top performing sales people. It makes sense, then, that helping your employees empathise with the end users of your products yields benefits for them AND for your business.

Once we have established why patient-centricity is essential as part of pharmaceutical employee training and engagement, how can we implement it efficiently and effectively? Although key learning outcomes for most pharma employees rightly focus on the facts and figures, there is real value in finding ways within each training course to encourage learners to think beyond the data and put themselves in the patients’ shoes.

According to sales analytics company, InsightSquared, empathy is teachable. For general consumer products, the advice for developing empathy with the end user is for the sales force to use the products for themselves. Of course, for the pharma workforce, this approach isn’t generally advisable! But the outcome – seeing the world through the eyes of the end user – can be achieved through other immersive approaches, such as VR simulations, serious games, interactive video and role play. Experiencing first-hand what it is like to be a patient with a demanding and debilitating illness – even through digital interaction – is an effective way to engage employees and encourage a strong connection with the company purpose.

Who should we be involving in the initiative to encourage patient-centricity? Customer-facing employees of course should have a deep understanding of the challenges that physicians and patients face day to day, but patient-centricity shouldn’t be reserved for the sales force. A top-down approach essential to make patient-centricity a priority for the entire workforce, and give purpose to the whole business. According to Dustin Seale, Partner and Managing Director, EMEA at Senn Delaney, in an interview with eyeforpharma, it is the leaders who set the tone.

“The way leaders think and act is mirrored by the organization. If their behaviour isn’t consistent with the behaviour they want to see, they are unlikely to achieve that behaviour in their organization.”
Dustin Seale Partner and Managing Director, EMEA Senn Delaney

A company with baked-in, patient-focused ideals creates a solid base for employees to cultivate that sense of purpose that has far-reaching benefits, so it makes sense to build it into the learning for all employees from HR to R&D.

Download our white paper “Why pharma needs an emotional reboot” to learn more about why empathy is an essential skill for pharma. 

Download: Why pharma needs an emotional reboot

Patient centricity revisited - Download our guide exploring empathy in digital learning and pharma communications

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