Is pharma F&D delivering what the patients want?
Last week I had a guest at home, Mrs. Durgadevi, a frail lady of 80. She is a patient with chronic dry eyes. Her ophthalmologist had prescribed her a tear substitute, an eye lubricant. She had just exhausted her stock and requested me to get one from a nearby pharmacy. I did this immediately.
What I witnessed later made me feel sad. Mrs. Durgadevi was struggling to twist the cap in the clockwise direction to pierce an orifice for the drops to be instilled in her eyes. She applied a lot of pressure. Her feeble arms were in pain. I could read the agony on her face. It took her about two and a half minutes. After this ordeal, she asked me for some water to drink. I realized she was weary after opening the eye-drops container.
(I could have intervened and helped her, but she was a lady with great self-respect, and I didn’t want to hurt her.)
Immediately I could sense three human problems in this entire episode.
First, imagine how difficult it would be for a patient with painful finger joints (arthritis), Parkinson’s Disease, or with muscular dystrophy to open it.
Second, the entire contents lose sterility no sooner it is exposed to the atmospheric air.
Third, once the container is opened, does just one drop come out? No! I saw at least two drops fall on her cheeks. Drug wastage and additional financial burden on Mrs. Durgadevi.
Addressing such issues start with a simple idea. And this comes through Design Thinking, which is one of the pillars of the Human-to-Human (H2H) Mindset. Listen to the voice of the patients, spend quality time with them, and understand their human problems. This is all that is needed for pharma F&D to find a solution – Design Thinking.
To develop a container cap that is easy for an elderly patient to open doesn’t really need too much investment.
Next, work on the second pillar of H2H Mindset – Service-Dominant Logic – or the Patient Experience. Science has proved that pathogens from the atmospheric air come in contact with the solution in the container, no sooner the orifice is opened. This can lead to an eye infection. Why not work on an application system that prevents the contents from coming into contact with the surrounding air. Sterility can be maintained for a long time ensuring a superior patient experience.
Third, design a special dosing pump so that just a single drop gets ejected. Wastage is minimized and lessens the cost burden on the patient.
High-quality F&D is crucial to the long-term success of the pharmaceutical industry.
Pharma companies in South and Southeast Asia have started understanding the patient-centric approach. However, pharma F&D needs to be proactive to understand the human problem and show more diligence. Spend time with patients. Ask them what their problems are and how can pharma F&D help them.
Let me reiterate, addressing the patient’s problem doesn’t really require a heavy investment. The investment should be more on understanding Design Thinking and Service-Dominant Logic. This will help F&D in having empathy for the end-users, the patients.
F&D challenges although iterative, are certainly not rocket science. Start with the end in mind – patient outcome. Keep humans like Mrs. Durgadevi in mind and then develop a product That is where F&D should focus. That’s just what patients need.
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