The Journey to Personalized Healthcare

The Journey to Personalized Healthcare

Personalized Healthcare (PH) has become a buzzword in the medical field, holding the promise of tailored solutions and improved outcomes for patients. However, achieving true personalization requires more than clinical discovery, technological advancements, and data insights and analytics.

It begins with understanding the patient as a person first, acknowledging their uniquely individual human needs, and solving for what they value.

In the pharmaceutical industry, the primary focus has long been on scientific advancements and ensuring the safety and efficacy of medications. Novel prescription drug discovery and manufacturing have been the core aspects of the industry’s innovation. With the emergence of digital technology and data analytics, there is accelerated interest in leveraging connectivity, AI enablement, monitoring, and tracking of medication usage to capture real-world data for evidence of improved outcomes.

However, research from the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement indicates that 80% of factors influencing a person’s ability to engage in their health and wellness lie outside the clinic setting. These factors, known as social determinants of health (or SDoH), include elements such as education level, financial status, home and family life, access to healthy food, transportation, or digital technology, and personal motivations and behaviors.

These are all key factors impacting how we live our lives every day. After all, how can we expect people to adhere to taking medication if their basic needs aren’t met? A single mother working multiple jobs with a car that broke down (again!) is going to struggle to prioritize her health over getting to her jobs, putting food on the table, and paying rent.

These real-life situations are increasingly common and negatively affecting the health of millions. As pharma stakeholders, we will and should prioritize the science and therapeutic solutions, but we can’t disregard focus on the human experience surrounding the access to and use of the medication.

Furthermore, results of a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that 28% to 31% of new prescriptions for diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol went unfilled. Additionally, it’s estimated that a staggering 50% of Americans with chronic disease don’t adhere to their medications as prescribed. Such low adherence rates contribute to readmissions and increased costs. These statistics have remained relatively unchanged for decades despite significant pharmaceutical innovation.

But we have an opportunity to reverse this trend. We must combine our science-focused approach with understanding the human experience. This requires awareness of individuals’ needs, pain points, SDoH factors, expectations, and desired experiences. The journey to effective personalized healthcare lies in the right combination of science, technology, and the human experience—what I call SxTxHE=PH.

How can we achieve this transformation? One approach is to draw inspiration from industries outside of healthcare that prioritize customer experience—those who view exceptional customer experience as an economic asset rather than an expense.

For example, the Walt Disney Company excels in designing exceptional service because they are hyper-focused on listening, tracking, designing, and measuring the experiences of guests visiting their properties. Disney understands that a quality experience is the cumulative result of things going right at every possible touchpoint—and you must manage the micro-moment experiences before, between, and after the obvious customer touchpoints. This is what delivers surprise, delight, happiness…and loyalty!

We can apply this approach in pharma by enhancing our patient journey maps and go beyond focusing on the key clinical engagement touch points (e.g., doctor visits, prescription pickups) and enriching our insights with the micro-moments surrounding these obvious events. These are the factors of everyday life that could prevent or enable engagement and follow through. Technology, digital, and data can help us better understand these subtle but powerful micro-moments throughout the healthcare journey – and inform a path to more personalized healthcare.

Every stakeholder in the healthcare ecosystem has a role to play in this transformation:

  •     Healthcare providers need to go beyond treating patients as “cases” and consider their social and emotional needs.
  •     Pharmaceutical companies must think beyond treating “populations” or “cohorts” to support optimal outcomes.
  •     Technology innovators must design solutions that not only collect and analyze data but also empower individuals to take control of their own well-being.

The journey to personalized healthcare begins with recognizing the importance of the human experience. Science, technology, and data are vital components, but they must be integrated with a comprehensive understanding of the unique needs, challenges, and aspirations of people managing their health and wellness.

By adopting a customer-centric approach and leveraging insights from other industries that excel in customer experience, we can design personalized healthcare solutions that prioritize the individual’s well-being. Let us embrace this transformative journey and work together to revolutionize healthcare for the betterment of all.

And remember: SxTxHE = PH!

Photo: Dina Mariani, Getty Images

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