It’s no secret that patient centricity is one of the most pressing priorities for healthcare and life sciences (HCLS) organizations. From pharmaceutical companies to urgent care facilities, organizations across the industry are asking how they can prioritize patient outcomes and meet consumers’ expectation for on-demand care delivered on their terms.

But simply slapping the term “patient-centric healthcare” on your organization won’t do the job. You have to follow through on the concept by putting the patient at the center of your operations and decision making.

Here’s the problem: The HCLS field hasn’t seen a truly patient-centered business model in practice yet, because there isn’t one “North Star” organization in the industry that’s achieved it. HCLS organizations aiming to take the lead on this business transformation need to follow examples from other industries to get to the heart of the shift: Consumer centricity requires addressing your fundamental operating model and redesigning it with the end user at the core.

Unpacking Consumer Centricity

Let’s back up and ask: What does being patient-centric really mean? When you look at trailblazer organizations for consumer centricity across industries, you’ll find the change in operating model was forced by external competition or commoditization of a product or service. Success comes when a company learns to deliver experiences or content in a personalized, participatory way, designed with the customer’s preferences in mind.

Take a look at the world of software. Some technology firms previously built products only for engineers, and end users never reviewed their products. Companies were using systems designed with the engineer in mind: Sometimes they worked, but often for the end user, they did not.

In an age when users can simply download the next mobile app if the one they’re using doesn’t fit their needs, the end user has a voice in product development and feature prioritization. Increasingly, developers build applications embodying user preferences, using principles of human-centric design. The focus shifted to a new decision-maker whose needs began to guide product development: the end user.

Examples are plentiful in the business-to-consumer sphere. Consider Amazon’s vision of becoming “Earth’s most customer-centric company” or the radical customer service commitments of Zappos — we’re talking impromptu flower deliveries from call center agents and 10-hour customer calls. Zocdoc has hinted at what customer centricity looks like in health care, with a business model built around giving patients the ability to take appointment scheduling into their own hands.

A New Approver in Town

Like it or not, the shift toward user centricity is happening in healthcare. Increasingly, government regulations, new technologies and unprecedented patient access to data are forcing change. But how exactly can an HCLS organization become that North Star for the industry? How do they become as consumer-centric and patient-obsessed as a company such as Zappos or Amazon? It comes down to fundamentals: The shift will come with a new operating model.

The products (care, medicine, insurance) in HCLS haven’t changed — instead, the change is taking place in patients’ expectations about quality of care and experience. One study found a whopping 97 percent of patients believe access to their health data across providers is essential to their health care experience, and other research found that 61 percent of people would switch providers to get an appointment faster.

Think about this change in the context of an OARPI model, which defines what parties are owner, approver, reviewer, participant and informed for any business process. The shift toward customer centricity means these constituents have changed, or in reality changed roles.

Previously, patients were the informed: They received care from organizations with processes they often didn’t understand, let alone had a say in. Now, they are the approver: Patients seek tools to drive and manage their care, and they decide whether the product meets their expectations. The organization must deliver on those expectations — they’re expected to listen to and understand consumer feedback and react to it by improving their product. The participant role falls to all parties: the patient, organization and any ecosystem players, like marketing, IT and operations. Partnerships between these parties can break down silos and create a seamless patient experience.

Real Restructuring

How do you create true patient-centric healthcare? By bringing the patient to the center of your organization’s operating model and reframing it that way from the start. For a few easy ways to begin this transition, head over to our article, “Healthcare Experience Matters — Here’s How to Improve It.

One of the best ways to get started is to designate someone who can be the voice of the end user, so that patients become the approvers and decision-makers higher up the chain. The person in this role shouldn’t be the one administering care, but a dedicated advocate who can bring the patient perspective to the table at all strategic conversations, ensuring the patient’s voice is both heard and acted on.

Understanding consumer needs is paramount to patient centricity — and to understand needs, you need data and analytics that can deliver actionable insights. Organizations embracing new metrics and putting the right tools in place will gain an inside track on the state of the patient relationship — and ultimately, their entire operational structure will embody the voice of the consumer.

If it seems like a lot of work, don’t despair — most of the component parts are already there. This business transformation is about how you operate with the things you already have. If you can rotate your perspective about how you think of each HCLS constituent’s role today and combine it with a rigorous approach to change management, you’ll have won half the battle.

To learn more about solutions that can guide HCLS companies through this business transformation, visit Organizational Change Management Services from IBM.

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