What does it mean to be patient centric at Lilly?

Today's post is written by Andrew Hotchkiss, President, Europe and Canada, Eli Lilly and Company.

I was fortunate enough to participate in a debate at the recent 2016 eyeforpharma congress alongside respected colleagues from Janssen and ViiV. The premise of the discussion was that the industry’s journey towards becoming truly patient-centric has started, but there is still considerable progress to be made. I agree, with the latter part. Driving improvement in the experience of illness and being a patient is a never ending journey, and one we will always be able to improve upon. But we haven’t just woken up to being for and about the interests of people who are unwell. For Lilly, that journey started 140 years ago when Colonel Eli Lilly founded a company that would discover and manufacture pharmaceutical products of the highest possible quality and based on the best science of the day; to be dispensed at the suggestion of physicians rather than by travelling salesmen. Lilly was a US pharmaceutical chemist frustrated by the poorly prepared and often ineffective medicines of his day. He made a commitment to make the people taking the medicine the whole point of his endeavours. In fact, the red Lilly logo is a copy of his signature – in the late 1800’s it was a sign to people that they could trust the medicine’s quality. 

However, it’s not just about doing the best science, manufacturing the highest quality products and bringing them to market. My friend Eduardo Sanchiz, CEO of Almirall summed the situation up well when he opened the conference. He said our industry has a large number of important people who stand (quite rightly) between our medicines and the people who need them; people like doctors, payers and regulators. Eduardo said that over recent years our industry has focused too much on these people and lost sight of the people we set out to serve in the first place; that we have “put the patient in the background.” I believe he is right.

At Lilly, we’ve been transforming how we go about doing business for the last 2-3 years ( sadly it’s not an overnight job) in order to bring patients back into the focus of everything we do. We started by redefining what we mean by “customer”. Three years ago this question would have got a variety of answers depending on who you asked, but now it means ‘patient’ above and beyond any other person related to our business. This company-wide alignment on who our customer is, no matter where you are in the world or within the organisation, is of foundational importance.

And to achieve this, we don’t start with patients: we start with our leaders. Lilly leaders are focused and expected to deliver a working environment that directs and engages our employees towards creating positive customer experiences. We believe (and this has proven true in many other industries) that if you can deliver positive customer experiences you don’t need to worry about your sales line being up or down. We no longer measure just sales as our key indicator of performance: we measure how our employees feel and what our customers think about us.

It’s not rocket science, and yet it’s not easy either. Our everyday choices and actions make all the difference. More often than not, it’s the little things that really matter. It may be as simple as including information on where to park when someone takes part in a clinical trial, or just making sure that they are told if the trial worked or not. It could be a scan-code on a piece of packaging that leads directly to video instructions on how to take the medicines; or making sure there is someone to talk to when you need an answer or are unsure.