Doing now what patients need now

Summer is here. The weather is wonderful. I am off to Geneva to the Connect in Pharma conference this week, participating in a panel on women in pharma and hosting a panel on managing digital islands in a world that is obsessed with data analytics.

Today’s blog topics:

– Doing now what patients need now
– Reorganisation survival guide
– Experience and value for money
– The art of everything; tailored content and customer engagement

Doing now what patients need now

Suz Schrandt, patient advocate, once shared the following sentiment with me “companies advertise the benefits of their product by showing patients doing extreme sports. However, what I really care about, is whether I can button my trousers”. You can read the full interview here:

In many areas we have made huge progress. It is widely acknowledged that individuals who live with an illness are best placed to identify what constitutes a meaningful treatment outcome. Consequently, including patients in designing clinical trials is now the gold standard.

In the area of access to relevant medical information patients face a similar challenge. The information they seek on the medicines they are prescribed may vary from the information doctors consider relevant or indeed have access to. The pharmaceutical industry, well placed as it is to answer medical information enquiries, is in most countries hesitant to engage in conversations with patients, beyond limited topics, for a number of reasons. That said, there are also companies, who have started co-developing standard response documents with patients and relatives in certain topic areas, such as orphan pediatric disease, having identified the high patient need.

Clients I have worked with have mentioned their frustration that they cannot provide meaningful answers to patients and instead have to refer them back to their doctors, who, where very specific product related questions are concerned, often do not have access to the knowledge, nor time to research an answer.

Many of my friends and family members are currently patients. They have expressed frustration that the product related answers they seek are not readily available from their health care professionals. And to make things worse online searches yield confusing results, especially when the risk of side effects, and managing potential side effects, is in focus.

Hopefully, the realisation that the industry, as the product expert can provide meaningful support in this situation, will take root and better ways to help patients to manage their concerns will be found.

Key reminder: If the patient is at the centre, then pharmaceutical industry responses to patient questions need to go beyond “thanks for calling us, please contact your doctor”.

Reorganisation survival guide

In recent times many friends, acquaintances and clients have gone through reorganisations that have impacted them directly or indirectly. Whether individuals lose their jobs, have to make team members redundant, or witness friends leaving, the experience is usually traumatic. As reorganisations are common, I wanted to share ideas on managing associated challenges:

  1. Prioritise your health: mental and physical. Eat well, get enough sleep, stay active.
  2. Know the rules: knowing relevant company and local labour laws is always useful.
  3. Network: A strong network is invaluable in times of pressure.
  4. Records: Document key contributions and any other important occurrences.
  5. Reference letters: when your managers change ask for a reference letter before they leave. Or alternately, have a final performance review with them and document it, you never know when you will need it.
  6. Wait: if your worst fears come true, don’t make any rash decisions about next steps.
  7. If job seeking: Try to stay positive, focus on maintaining your health, explore the market, work on your CV and take any additional training courses you can. Most companies support their employees to find new jobs in this situation.

Key takeaway: Look after yourself and the rest will follow.

Experience and value for money

I recently went away for a cycling weekend. I stopped work at four pm, planning to mount the bike rack in ten minutes and then to be on my way well before five. Instead, it took me over an hour to mount the rack, after various phone calls and perusing instruction manuals for my car. It is not a complex procedure at all, but I do not do it often.

It reminded me that when companies roll out IT solutions to users, who use systems rarely, that they will likely tell you the system is unusable, due to their lack of experience. They are telling the truth. This is why it makes sense to give system access to as many people as necessary but as few as possible.

It also reminded me that companies often let older employees go, preferring to hire younger, cheaper, according to the balance sheet, resources.

Key take-ways: 1) Great performance depends on experience. 2) There are no short cuts. 3) Hire an expert and save money in the long run.

The art of everything, tailored content and customer engagement

On a recent bike ride I listened to Sun Tzu’s “the Art of war” on audible. It was a one hour listen. Unlike most books that cover only a single concept and belabour the point ad nauseum, this book takes little time and contains thoughts that are applicable to most situations in life. Which of course is why it is a classic.

Thoughts that stayed with me include the general categorisations of situations. As well as the topic of understanding the competition, motivating your teams, providing unified leadership, leading in a way that respects both what is needed by teams and what is in line with expectations of the industry you are in. The importance of considering the market environment you are operating in and being keenly knowledgeable and realistic about your own strengths, weaknesses, resources and goals.

I have had the book lying around for a long time. Reviewing it now. I realise I would never have read the text; it doesn’t appeal to me at all. However, the audible format makes it accessible, the content was valuable, and I know I will consult it again.

Key takeaways: 1) Different minds need knowledge provided in different ways. If your content format doesn’t appeal to your audience, they won’t engage with it 2) It’s worth revisiting the books you own but haven’t read 3) Being concise is not easy but generally preferable.

I hope my blog provides you with some useful insights and, as ever, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. And if you have a challenging project, are working through a team or personal challenge and would like to discuss coaching to help you achieve that next level, please reach out for an informal chat.

Best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer

Basel University hospital
June 2023 Photo Credit: Isabelle Widmer