Evidence shows that when patients are treated as partners in their care, significant gains are made in safety, patient satisfaction, and health outcomes, said the World Health Organization (WHO) in leading the observance of World Patient Safety Day this month.
Through the theme “Elevate the voice of patients!,” the WHO calls on all stakeholders to take necessary action to ensure that patients are involved in policy formulation, represented in governance structures, engaged in co-designing safety strategies, and are active partners in their own care. This can only be achieved by providing platforms and opportunities for diverse patients, families, and communities to raise their voice, concerns, expectations, and preferences to advance safety, patient centeredness, trustworthiness, and equity.
For the research-based pharmaceutical industry, patient-centric drug development is not just a strategic choice — it is a moral imperative. By placing patients at the heart of the biopharmaceutical industry’s efforts, we honor their trust in the mission to advance medical science that is more personalized, effective, and, above all, safe for every patient around the globe.
“The first principle to which we all adhere is to put patients first because patients are our priority and are central to what we do. Patient-centered care can only become a reality when inputs from patients are included as a core part of the process… by making them part of crucial policy discussions, the design of initiatives and collaborations, and capacity building efforts,” said Dr. Diana Edralin, president of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) in her message for the World Patient Safety Day, celebrated on Sept. 17.
Patients who actively engage with and participate in decisions about their health are more likely to stick to and be satisfied with their chosen treatment path, according to a 2021 Economist Impact report, commissioned by Janssen, entitled “Empowering the patient voice in healthcare decisions.”
The report found that when patients are empowered to be part of the decision-making process, they are also more likely to build better and more trusting relationships with their healthcare providers, which enables them to work as partners in achieving better health outcomes. This shared decision-making, based on a foundation of mutual trust and shared goals, drives more appropriate and effective use of healthcare resources and better health outcomes, potentially eliminating wastage or unnecessary costs in the health system.
The report identified four key takeaways. First, a concerted multi-stakeholder effort is required to empower patients. Governments must lead national efforts to enhance patient empowerment through policies and legislation. Healthcare professionals must be both willing and able to support shared decision-making. Patients must have access to knowledge and skills, as well as an environment that enables them to be truly empowered to make decisions about their health.
Second, culturally relevant approaches to shared decision-making — developed in partnership with healthcare professionals and patients — are needed.
There needs to be a shift from paternalistic to patient-centered care models founded on the fundamental right of patients to participate in decisions about their healthcare. Cultural sensitivities and personal preferences must be taken into account when designing health-communication models and tools, such as patient aids for shared decision-making.
Third, health and media literacy should be prioritized in national healthcare policies across the region. Australia’s National Statement on Health Literacy is designed to drive national and community initiatives on health literacy; China has government-driven National Health Literacy Promotion initiatives; and researchers in Japan have piloted educational programs to increase health literacy in clinical and community settings. The Department of Health (DoH) launched the Healthy Pilipinas website to promote health literacy among the general public and included health literacy as one of the key strategies in its Health Promotion Framework Strategy 2023-2028.
Lastly, systematic processes must be implemented to involve patients in drug approval and reimbursement decisions in a meaningful way. Patients are seldom involved in decisions related to drug approval or reimbursement in Asia. Patients, policymakers, and industry alike need clear guidance on how to ensure that patients are part of the decision-making process, and more needs to be done to formalize the structure of engagement to move from ad hoc to regular interaction and the co-creation of solutions.
The guidance on patient engagement has been clearly established in the biopharmaceutical industry. Through the PHAP Code of Practice and adherence to regional and international laws and codes, the research-based industry supports patient safety by acting responsibly, ethically, and professionally. We act with integrity to improve patient care and build trust with those we serve, primarily the patients, their families and caregivers so that all healthcare decisions are made in their best interest.
Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). PHAPrepresents the biopharmaceutical medicines and vaccines industry in the country. Its members are in the forefront of research and development efforts for COVID-19 and other diseases that affect Filipinos.