Pfizer: Putting The Patient At The Centre Of Its Drug Development Process

Pfizer: Putting The Patient At The Centre Of Its Drug Development Process

1) To Become Patient-Centric Requires Learning, Listening, And Collaborating

One of the first steps Pfizer took toward getting organized around patient-centricity involved — and still involves — learning and listening. “Our teams are looking for opportunities to understand better what patients, caregivers, and patient advocates can share as insights to help us clarify their needs, and then to help us better meet them or to problem-solve,” Lewis-Hall, Pfizer’s chief medical officer states.

Pfizer Link - Pfizer's Online Community for Patients

“Patients volunteer for our clinical trials", lewi-Hall continues, "travel many miles, spend hours devoting themselves, and are committed to the work we do. At the end of the trial, we say ‘bye-bye,’ often without as much as a thank you.” To rectify this rather nonpatient-centric approach, a member of the Pfizer team tested the notion of establishing a platform that would thank clinical trial volunteers, as well as provide them the opportunity to get summary results from the trial. “In this way, they understood what their hard work and commitment had won in terms of advancing science around the disease,” Lewis-Hall attests. In addition, by providing a platform to stay connected to Pfizer, patients naturally began to take a more active and engaged role in the field of drug development. Now known as Pfizer Link, Lewis-Hall describes this online community as a key patient-centric engagement tool and a “clinical trial alumni association" for people who have graduated from a Pfizer clinical trial. Participants are given access to current information on diseases and conditions of interest, including suggestions and tools for disease management, opportunities to participate in future clinical trials, and registries.

2) Capture Your Existing Patient-Centric Best Practices

If you are like Pfizer, you have developed and implemented patient-centric initiatives guided by patients. But how are you capturing these best practices so you can replicate them? “We saw various leadership-championed initiatives growing throughout Pfizer as best practices,” Lewis-Hall testifies. “But in a place this size and with so much going on, we realized continued success meant putting some structure around it.” In 2014, Pfizer created the office of global patient affairs. Headed by Roslyn Schneider, M.D., this group is charged with collecting, synthesizing, developing, and implementing a framework to better involve patients across all of Pfizer. This framework (i.e., structure) is designed to build “capabilities, systems, processes, and platforms for sharing in order to make this a part of everyone's day,” Lewis-Hall says.

3) Questions To Ask When Becoming Patient-Centric

If your goal is to make your organization more patient-centric, Lewis-Hall suggests asking the following questions:

How do you identify or develop tools to collect information from patients on what's important to them? How do you ensure their validity or go about validating? How do you utilize the tools? How do you communicate the information back to patients, while systematically teaching the different teams working across other areas in your organization?

4) Measure Patient Engagement

One patient engagement measure Pfizer considers is the number of patients using the Blue Button technology launched by the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services that enables Pfizer trial participants to download their own electronic clinical data collected in the trial. Pfizer also considers the number of patients enrolling on Pfizer Link and the number of questions being submitted through the company’s Get Healthy, Stay Healthy portal. But just measuring engagement is not enough. Lewis-Hall says Pfizer is also seeking to measure satisfaction after engagement. “We ask what patients thought about the information they received,” she states. “Did it satisfy your needs? Would you come again for more information?” According to Lewis-Hall, engagement satisfaction is a measurement you should be doing continuously.

One of the metrics most exciting to the Pfizer team is the intent to act. Instead of just measuring how many patients asked for and were given information, Lewis- Hall says the intent to act is one of the best measures of effective engagement. “If I talk to you about how to stay healthy if you have diabetes and have to travel overseas, your intent to act becomes an important opportunity for us,” she states. “We're tracking and using that feedback as direction for improving engagement.” If you are using patient input to help shape clinical trials, you should measure how many protocol changes there are over time and compare that number to similar trials that didn’t have patient input. “Want to measure how well you are listening or meeting patient needs?” Lewis-Hall asks. “Compare the number of patient suggestions to how many you actually incorporated.” Pfizer’s chief medical officer advises to make sure you are matching the correct tool with the correct target. “We have measures for pre-study, in-study, post-study, and in-market or in-community to determine if we hit the mark,” she clarifies.

5) Social Media

A use for social media is to provide patients with information on timely topical issues. “Through our Get Healthy, Stay Healthy site, for example, patients are able to connect with our medical information group and ask questions about diseases, wellness, and prevention. They end up sharing information with us, such as how they feel about the topics we've covered. The questions patients have are just as informative as their willingness to actively engage.”

6) Try Nontraditional Research Approaches

Patients often struggle to communicate via surveys and focus groups as to what is really important to them. This makes creating patient-centric initiatives difficult. To better capture the true user experience, Pfizer’s consumer health group (makers of products such as ChapStick, Robitussin, and Advil) employs a rather unique tool. “We have a model home in the U.S. where we do research,” explains Dr. Lewis-Hall. This tool helps Pfizer employees better understand what actually happens when company products get into the hands of consumers. While it's not often used in the pharma space, Lewis-Hall thinks the concept of observing user experience may have some applicability. For example, in Europe Pfizer has a similar dedicated user-experience observational space. “We’ve been bringing patients and caregivers in, giving them some medical software, and through observation, seeking to better understand their experience.”

7) Patient-centric Means Going To Where The Patient Is

For Pfizer’s chief medical officer, being patient-centric means not only going to where the patient is, but doing so one patient at a time. “My earliest learning was with a patient,” she recollects. “Thirty years ago, I was using data and statistics to help inform a patient.” About midway through the talk where Dr. Lewis-Hall had been explaining what typically happens to the average patient, the woman looked at her and said, “You know what? I'm not average, I'm me.” TV, social media, and other patient-centric initiatives are all engagement tools. “The learning is that patient-centricity is a long road, not all patients are the same, and we are going to need to develop a pretty big toolbox to really meet their needs overall.”


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