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Patient centricity cannot be your superpower

With icons like Airbnb, Facebook, Alibaba and Snapchat disruption has become a norm. Almost every business is thinking about how they can ‘Uber-up’ their sector. For incumbents facing threats from emerging players it’s important to keep adapting at pace. For the new generation of tech-enabled disruptors it’s important to constantly stay ahead of the curve and bring in new and undiscovered innovation.

Healthcare is an industry that a lot of new entrants are breaking into. In response, almost every healthcare company is making a pledge to the patient. They are becoming more patient centric and focusing all their efforts on better servicing the end user. However, often times this may not necessarily be the right move for either the business or the patient. In fact, I suggest that healthcare companies should use patient centricity as a guiding philosophy as opposed to a differentiating factor.

In an extremely crowded market where every company is trying to outdo the other by creating a complete healthcare ecosystem - there are few that succeed. The ones seeing success and true differentiation are not trying to be the one-stop-shop for every patient’s need. They are focussed in terms of what they are trying to achieve for their patients. They are pulling on one critical lever that drives their interactions with patients.

Excelling at product

Novo Nordisk is a company with a singular focus: everything they do, even if it leads to the doom of the business, will work towards their goal of curing diabetes. While a small portion of their business goes into other, related therapeutic areas (hormones) they are predominantly in the business of curing diabetes - one clear purpose. They have done the corporate due diligence of looking into diversification strategies, which only made their conviction stronger in doing the one thing they are best at. Even though they are a company close to 100 years old they adapt with the times and integrate technology all guided by their singular purpose. A good example is their award-winning product Novopen, which they have constantly been evolving, in order to make it easier for the patient that needs to self-inject.

Gathering insight

There are many instances where companies can demonstrate their patient focus without necessarily interacting with patients directly. They are still patient centric but not with the ambition to own the patient relationship. Big data has been an emerging theme and may possibly be one of the reasons for the world’s piquing interest in healthcare. And in the jungle of data analytics, Flatiron Health has managed to dedicate their information organisation to cancer through their product Oncology Cloud. Oncology Cloud is a platform with the vision to be the world’s largest single source of structured, real-world oncology data. Their mission is not to cure cancer but to get all the information that helps both clinicians and administrators across dedicated cancer centres.

Designing the experience

Zocdoc was founded with the vision to help millions of people get easy access to their doctor. However, Oliver Kharraz (CEO and Founder) wanted to ensure the relationship between patient and their doctors was made easy and even pleasant. As an experienced patient myself, one of my biggest woes is having to go to the hospital, stand in queue, fill in paperwork and wait in anticipation that the doctor will see me soon. This is a universal problem, however the way in which Zocdoc address this is it is by flipping the challenge on its head. Usually the healthcare system is responsible for making these improvements whether in hospital waiting rooms or insurance filing. Zocdoc empowers the patient to get in contact with their healthcare professional.

Zodoc: Read the full case study here

Most often patients find themselves driven by fear and anxiety as opposed to expecting to have a pleasant experience in any medical setting. They don’t always care about who is providing them with the care until they truly find the experience memorable – whether good or bad. The experience is what drives loyalty. Especially with the rise of technology and a lot of patients look towards the Internet to self diagnose and find ways treat themselves. This context means that the thing that will set companies apart will be the level of care they endeavour to provide to their patients. Experience can easily be improved by looking through the lens of hospitality in hospitals – quicker registration, more efficient discharge etc.

While it is important to have the aspiration to always address patient needs and build a healthier world, it is also important that each business understand the one thing that will make them the rising tide in the sea of emerging health technology companies. And when the tide rises, all the boats are lifted. There is a roaring opportunity for collaboration across healthcare as opposed to competing against one and another.

Illustration by Stuart Hall

Mallika Reddy is Insights Strategist at Wolff Olins London. You can follow her @mallikareddyg