Why Healthcare and Pharma Need Design Thinking
January 23, 2023 | Design Thinking
by ExperiencePoint

HEALTHCARE AND PHARMACEUTICALS ARE COMPLEX industries, with high stakes and varied stakeholders. With so many competing priorities, there can be a tendency to get out of touch with the people who matter the most: the patients.

That’s why design thinking has caught fire in the health and pharma sectors. Since the innovation method focuses on the human perspective at every step of its process, it has become a popular and powerful tool for these people-focused industries. Studies conducted over the past decade show how impactful design thinking has been at creating better outcomes for patients and improving staff and clinician experiences.

Design Thinking and the Patient

You might be surprised to learn about pharma’s ongoing patient-centricity problem. Until recently, drug developers often didn’t consider the patient to be their customer at all. Instead, the focus was typically on meeting the needs of the doctors who prescribe drugs, the investors who pay for them and the pharmacies that dispense them.

This oversight resulted in a myriad of product shortcomings and major financial losses.

Feeling neglected or misunderstood, patients would drop out of research studies at significant cost to the trial. With precision medications for smaller patient populations, researchers can’t afford to lose this input.

Design thinking has started to reverse this trend by better involving the patient in the research process and developing a human-centered approach to trials and studies. Solutions have included developing easy-to-use patient portals and educating patients to understand trial benefits.

Moving Beyond the Pill

Design thinking has started another revolution in the pharma world: it’s helping brands move “beyond the pill.” In an increasingly competitive and overcrowded market, therapy companies are beginning to do more than simply develop and sell treatments. A trend has emerged to offer services that supplement the primary product by addressing patient needs along the entire consumer pathway. In doing so, the hope is to provide higher value to patients, payers and practitioners.

The “beyond the pill” trend opens the possibility for all kinds of innovation within the sector. One opportunity is for brands to own specific therapy spaces. Imagine a particular diabetes drug starts providing everything a patient needs to cope and thrive with their condition. Imagine they go beyond the equipment products and offer services that provide logistical and emotional support. By carving out a distinct name for themselves in a crowded market, and creating supports that patients find valuable, companies can eclipse the competition and emerge as industry leaders.

But figuring out how to move beyond the pill is easier said than done. Pharmaceutical brands need a detailed and accurate understanding of their customers’ experiences and needs. Offering extras that don’t enhance the patient experience will waste money and time. Superfluous supplements also carry the risk of making the patient feel misunderstood, and sending them into the arms of the competition.

So if your brand is thinking of moving beyond the pill, design thinking is uniquely positioned to get you going the right direction. The method’s laser-sharp focus on real customer needs means that the supplemental products and services that you prototype and test will be firmly grounded in data, feedback and genuine customer pain points.

These are just some of many ways that design thinking can be boon to the pharmaceutical industry. In our next blog post, we’ll zoom in on a few of ExperiencePoint’s recent success stories in the sector. We’ve worked with several companies who have come to us after investing in agile transformations only to discover that they still aren’t innovating effectively. Agile hasn’t taken them far enough–they have a structure that generates more ideas at greater speed, but they’re solving the wrong problems or not pursuing the most promising opportunities. With our assessment and guidance, these companies have started to enhance their buyer research and become truly patient-centric. Stay tuned!

Want to dig deeper into design thinking and pharmaceutical companies? Read our blog post Why Pharma Needs Design Thinking.