Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Pfizer colleagues in three European cities—Berlin, Madrid and Rome. I talked with them and with select groups of patient advocates about what it means to be focused on the patient, and to affirm how and why patients must be the North Star of healthcare. I emerged from these talks with fresh energy but also with eyes wide open. We are at an inflection point in the patient-centricity movement. To put it simply, it’s up or out. Deliver on the potential of this movement, or fade away.
Already, some patient advocates are avoiding the term “patient-centric” because they feel it is has fallen into the chasm of “corporatespeak.” I understand and respect their concerns. I’ve witnessed plenty of worthy concepts in medicine and business that became the equivalent of the “flavor of the month”—that is, lots of energy early on but then the hard work sets in. Then energy fades and commitment with it.
For us who are dedicated to the ideals of patient centered healthcare, the hard work has set in. In healthcare systems around the world, patients are feeling that theirs is just one voice among many, and not a powerful one at all. Patients see that their access to health, and especially, to the fruits of biomedical research, is increasingly circumscribed by forces beyond their control or determined by formulas slanted against them. There is palpable concern among those who are waiting for new treatments or cures, either for themselves or for their children or other family members. People see news of potential breakthroughs regularly in the media, but approved therapies and access to them seems so far away.
In this difficult climate, though, I am heartened by the commitment of so many who are firmly on the side of patients. One of my priorities as Chief Patient Officer is to enlist our colleagues as actors and ambassadors in the drive towards a more patient-centered approach to healthcare. In Europe I was energized by stories of colleagues who went beyond the call to both listen to patients and take action with them, in one case, actually walking alongside them as patients pressed for greater recognition of their need and concerns. With both colleagues and patients, we discussed the goal of “end to end” advocacy, where a company like Pfizer goes well beyond patient-focused drug development, vital as that is. “End to end” advocacy calls for meaningful patient engagement in every major decision that begins with a scientific insight and ends with a therapy that people can both obtain and afford.
So that’s what #PATIENTDRIVEN® means to me. “End to end” advocacy, arm in arm with patients, so that they benefit now from the fruits of biomedical research and can offer hope to the next generation that they, too, will benefit.
I look forward to our work together at the Patient Advocacy Summit in November, so that we can talk further about what #PATIENTDRIVEN® means to us. I hope we can both renew the promise of patient-centered healthcare and move ahead, more quickly and deliberately, to seize its potential.