Seven building blocks for patient-centricity in healthcare

09 January 2020 11 min. read

The healthcare demands of patients are changing rapidly as a result of the tailored services digitalisation has made possible in other facets of their daily lives. In today’s customer experience driven economy, engaging with and listening to the voice of the patient is no longer a “nice to have” for healthcare institutions, but a key differentiator and pre-requisite for future success.

The NHS faces an uncertain future. Amid prevailing speculation that it will be part of a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the US, the organisation is also having to cope with under-resourcing and a lack of funding when facing unprecedented shifts in demand. The challenges presented by an ageing population and a growing emphasis on ‘patient-centricity’ in the age of digitalisation mean that the NHS is having to implement time-saving, cost-cutting technological solutions in order to remain afloat.

“Patient-Centricity” is generally defined as a goal to achieve better health outcomes and quality of life for patients. While this does not sound like such a revolutionary idea in the world of healthcare, however, in order to deliver upon it, a new study from Cordence Worldwide contends that organisations have to strategically align towards improved R&D and better products and solutions, increase transparency, patient trust and improve the overall experience of service users.

To this end, the white paper from the global consulting network has outlined seven building blocks for how ‘patient-centricity’ can be achieved.

Seven building blocks for patient-centricity in healthcare


Time and again, studies which highlight how to successfully manage a programme of change site the need for a clear strategy, and for senior management to lead by example. Adopting patient-centricity is a change project, and it will require significant cultural realignment at an organisation. As a result, groups need to define a guiding ‘North Star’; a single, top-line vision that aligns the organisation and sets out the shared end goal. Such a transformation will only be successful if everyone has the same target to shoot for, and the board and leadership of an organisation must constant ensure cultural alignment toward this end.

According to Cordence, the first step toward this is to understand where the organisation currently is, and where it intends to go and accordingly redefine the organisation’s vision and mission. Then, this vision for patient-centricity must be strongly and continuously communicated to everyone in the organisation, while the new culture must be embedded in the behaviour of all its employees via dashboards, newsletters and other forms of communication.

Patient-Centered Leadership

As mentioned, the leaders of any organisation, including the executive suite and top management, must be committed to drive cultural change by inspiring employees through their thoughts and actions. To help push this cultural change forward, organisations need to foster the right kind of leadership. Purpose-driven leadership has been a key factor among companies that have embarked on changing organisational culture.

Cordence’s paper states that to this end, patient-centric leadership could consist of a Chief Patient Officer (CPO), whose remit would focus entirely on promoting the cultural changes necessary for patient-centricity. At the same time, this is not the only solution; a group of leaders, or a “P-suite”, could stand outside the commercial function to fulfil the same role. Regardless of the title and chosen structure however, patient-centric leaders must be chosen based on specific competencies that would enable patient-centric strategy to be driven forward.

Cross-Functional Teams

Agility is essential in the move toward patient-centricity. Cross-functional disconnection is one of the main root causes of poor patient service, as valuable knowledge, experience and skills are siloed, while issues with one department may have unforeseen consequences for another in a totally different aspect of the organisation, meaning workers there are left powerless to address it systemically. In order to be truly patient-centric then, organisations must undergo an organisational makeover, aligning themselves in a way that makes patient engagement and collaboration easy.

The researchers contended that by enabling knowledge sharing and integration of data which is currently siloed across departments, skills and competencies from diverse backgrounds could be utilised to develop highly valued patient services. At the same time, people working in this way can then play an advisory role within their own teams, taking the lessons learned from their cross-functional teams ‘home’ to their respective departments.

Operational Development

Further building upon this, agile working also needs to be applied to operational development. Scaling to enterprise agility will inevitably defy any organisation’s existing rules, traditions, and practices. Cordence suggests that the most successful transformations therefore involve proactive and incremental steps that shift how decisions are made and how leaders lead.

Organisations can begin shifting to this form of operational development by crafting a narrative of their organisation that conveys leadership’s clear sense of direction. They can then focus on developing middle manager leadership competencies to support the new model of work, building a superstructure that fully supports the new processes and the new mind-set within their departments. Finally, Cordence recommends that organisations engage employees with the change-making process, while promoting consistent, fair, and transparent decision-making, along with honest insights into the leadership’s top priorities.

Know Your Patients

Know Your Customer, alternatively known as know your client or simply KYC, is the process of a business verifying the identity of its clients and assessing their suitability, along with the potential risks of illegal intentions towards the business relationship. Just as KYC has changed the way banks interface with their customers – with challengers disrupting the market digitally by leveraging apps to deliver a faster service – the need to know your patients will similarly disrupt the healthcare scene.

Cordence states that understanding patient behaviour is crucial for any organisation; knowing why patients make certain decisions and interact with their organisations can teach them how to provide excellent experiences. To facilitate this, organisations should develop and execute a digital strategy to engage with existing and potential patients and improve patient engagement. After utilising existing assets—surveys, social media, complaints, reviews — groups should look ahead, deploying proprietary research, balanced between qualitative and quantitative results, to develop foresights into what will matter to patients in the future.

Train Your Employees

The agile nature of patient-centricity means organisations must ensure that even staff in self-contained teams planning and executing as a unit are safe in the knowledge that they have a diversity of skills available within a particular time-period to meet new commitments and demands. In a constantly evolving digital environment, healthcare players must therefore offer continuous opportunities for staff to boost their skills, or pick up new ones.

Training programmes can help employees understand patient needs and evolve offerings to meet such needs. At the same time, employees should be allowed to think out of the box and ideas must be heard, appraised and rewarded – something organisations can do via information-sharing summits, where employees from different teams can come together and share experiences on patient-centric initiatives, playing back into the need for agility in the organisation. Playing into ‘knowing your patients’, patient engagement sessions between staff and patients will help understand their lifestyles and how they cope with diseases.

Measure What Matters

Ultimately in change programmes, what gets measured, gets done. The earlier organisations think about how they will measure success, the more time and resources they can throw at reaching those goals, as each team subsequently has clarity and focus on how the changes will need to work. At the same time, management can understand movements in the top-line metric and how different teams are affecting it.

Actual patient and carer feedback on their experience with the organisations offerings – as well as their image of the company – is the most obvious route to measure progress. However, important information can also be gleaned from metrics tied to clinical outcomes, increases in patients being diagnosed, better health resource utilisation, reduction in disease transmission, better employment status and reduced income loss. Periodic evaluation of changes in internal practices aimed at patient value creation as a result of patient-centric initiatives and improvement in capabilities can also compliment these.

Data is the Key

Big data has rapidly ascended to the top of many businesses agendas, as firms have become aware of the opportunities data analytics provide to understanding customer behaviour. Nearly half of UK organisations now apply big data for insights; however, getting the most out of this is easier said than done, and just 30% of organisations that use big data are extracting its full potential value. Patient-centricity, like any other change programme, requires organisations to get the most from their data.

Often, security measures mean access to healthcare data is rightly restricted, however, providing access to relevant data to all stakeholders – and especially patients – is crucial. To that end, Cordence recommends establishing a data governance committee, which should set in place a strategy to achieve this, avoiding a loss of momentum in the journey toward patient-centricity. Over time, as healthcare and pharma companies mature in their management, usage and access of data, the data governance committee will steer the definition, encourage usage of and resolve conflicts in master data management.


The authors conclude that the ‘experience economy’ is not a passing trend. It is part of a shift in the marketplace in which nothing else matters more than the ability to deliver a superior experience. Further, continuous improvement is key, because patient-centricity is not a destination.

The researchers state, “It is an evolution requiring the regular re-evaluation of priorities and strategy. It permanently places the patient at the center of organisational thinking and requires companies to constantly demonstrate their commitment to perfection… Not your product, not your pricing, not your marketing. True, sustained success will come down to your ability to turn patient insights into improved experiences that are delivered seamlessly by empowered employees.”