While in London recently for a series of meetings, I repeatedly heard the English phrase “fit for purpose.” It’s become a cliche for many in England, but I was struck by its syllabic crispness and brevity.
The idea of “fit” makes me think of Charles Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest.” The fittest are those who are best able to adapt to changing environments, or in the case of a business, a changing market. Successful companies survive, transition, evolve, exploit and pivot over time. They are fit for purpose.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent. It is the one that is most responsive to change.
Motorola as a cautionary tale
Recently, there was media coverage about how Motorola has essentially died. It was slowly broken into pieces and sold off to various other companies. Google bought its cellphone business, Motorola Motions, for $12 billion a few years ago, and just unloaded it to Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo for $2 billion. Ouch.
At one point in time, Motorola owned 60-70% of the cellphone market, had 150,000 employees and was one of the leading tech innovators in the world. They’re the ones who brought the mobile phone to the masses. They invented the police radio. They invented the car radio. They commercialized independent satellite communication.
There was a lengthy period of time during which everyone would have assumed that Motorola would be around forever. Until they weren’t.
There was an era when Motorola was fit for purpose. Until it wasn’t.
Motorola was a product company with a legacy of good R&D and solid commercialization, but they lost touch with what customers wanted. It’s an important cautionary tale for all of us.
How does pharma remain “fit for purpose?”
What does this mean for pharma? How does pharma remain “fit for purpose?” And if fit for purpose is ultimately defined as “uniquely solving customers’ needs and wants,” then who are pharma’s customers, and what do they want?
Pharma’s customers include the people who write the checks – the large payers, government and private – and those who use the product – the patients who use their drugs.
Pharma’s primary customer
But the primary customer is still the physician, the major gatekeeper and driver of pharma’s business. They are the professionals with the training and the legal right to prescribe drugs. So, that leads to the next logical question, “What do physicians really want, what do they care about, and is pharma actually stepping up and delivering what their customers need?”
Yes of course doctors want highly effective, convenient, affordable and safe drugs to include in a therapy regimen. But what else?
What kinds of tools and information would be helpful to extraordinarily busy professionals? Is it fresh data on a clinical trial, drug prescribing recommendations, insurance coverage information, a relevant CME program, or patient education downloads and patient education websites? Referral resources and support?
And can pharma help?
Who will last and survive?
True, these aren’t necessarily new customer requests. Pharma has often produced clinical or patient materials as “value adds” to give reps something to talk about. But now pharma needs to begin adapting to an environment in which doctors have less time to spend with patients and yet are being measured on patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes. Physicians need help, and they need honest partners.
Those pharma brands who adapt to these new requirements will likely be, in a Darwinian sense, those companies that will last and survive.
There are so many partnership opportunities available for pharma. From one-stop-shop information portals to in-office specialized education programs, pharma can fill the gap between a doctor’s lack of time and a patient’s informational needs. These partnerships enhance the company’s brand, boost their product value proposition and ultimately create better patient outcomes that reflect positively on the healthcare industry.
Staying “fit for purpose” is more than creating the next best product or drug, it’s recognizing and adapting to the changing environment and needs of the industry. It’s creating value in a space that may be overlooked.
Physicians and patients need the education and information that pharma already have at their disposal. Packaging the information in useful and user-friendly ways is one way to deepen pharma’s connection with patients and doctors and prove that it’s still “fit for purpose.”