Playing Football Without The Ball – Why Are Life Sciences Not Making The Team?

2022-08-23 |  Su Jones

I‘m not sure if it’s the weather at the moment, but I’m feeling frustrated. I’m currently reading multiple inspiring thought leadership pieces, discussing how to create successful partnerships in healthcare systems but so many of them are missing any mention of Life Science Organisations. I feel like we’re playing football without a ball!

It's well documented that historical practices and behaviours within Life Sciences have eroded trust over the years. And whether we like it or not, we still suffer from a degree of reputational damage even now. For those like myself who have worked in the sector in various roles over the years, I do still feel a sense of unease – but I’m proud we are continuing to make progress, and the facts support that.

Trust And Industry Reputation

Industry rules and codes of practice that require healthcare professionals to disclose benefits have underpinned a seismic change. In July 2021, the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry published its first ABPI-Ipsos Pharmaceutical Reputation Index. This raised a key issue; the changing attitudes of the general public towards the industry as a result of the pandemic.

Overall, favourability towards the pharmaceutical industry rose from 46% on 30th June 2020 to a high point of 55% on 26th March 2021. While it’s important to remember that opinions have been affected by other factors, such as Government approaches to lockdowns, one thing has been made clear; when the general public were asked whether they were aware of the pharmaceutical industry's role in society, the answer was yes. And this awareness has increased due to the pandemic.

With this awareness comes a responsibility to act with integrity at all times. Let’s not forget the importance of reputation for shareholders. It’s therefore no surprise that this awareness is rightfully at the forefront of CEOs’ minds as they continue to strengthen relationships with the general population.

One thing that is intrinsically linked to reputation is trust. We cannot deliver the required innovation in healthcare that will create a more sustainable set of systems without it. And there are strategic ways to build this trust effectively.

At PEN, we believe that to set off on the right track, it’s imperative to embed trust into your strategic partnerships through:

  1. Diversity, ethnicity and inclusion practices
  2. Patient activation
  3. Tools to select “best-fit” potential partners

1. Trust Nurtured Through Inclusive Practices

Encouraging diverse perspectives enables stakeholders to bring forward their best ideas openly. Play-it-safe approaches, or shutting down ideas too quickly runs the risk of preventing transformation. True innovation requires the ability to explore and resource the potential of new ideas, and should be nurtured so they can benefit everyone.

More and more companies are now taking diversity seriously, and are creating ethnicity, diversity and inclusion policies and practices. And this is something we excel in here at PEN.

Our organisation is rated as one of the top workplaces for women and we want to continue to build on this in 2022. Companies therefore need to aspire to see EDI principles included in the operating models of strategic partnerships if they want to see tangible progress.

2. Trust And Patient Activation

In 2021, BMJ Open collected data from 4,885 UK resident adults, 3,233 of whom received the vaccination invite for Covid-19. 2,967 identified as belonging to white ethnic groups, while 234 of these adults identified as belonging to non-white ethnic groups.

The finding suggested that the difference in uptake of the vaccine between ethnic groups is linked to their levels of trust and healthcare experiences. Members of non-white ethnic groups report inferior NHS healthcare experiences, potentially explaining their lower reported trust in medical professionals.

At PEN, health inequalities are something that we continue to focus on. In a recent edition of our newsletter “Second Opinion”, we curated a series of studies highlighting the linkage between gender-based health inequalities and outcomes, which you can read here.

If we are to see a turnaround in the entrenched issues of health inequalities, we need to build a new level of trust with all patients that are experiencing unwarranted and unfair differences in health outcomes. Setting metrics to monitor this through KPIs for strategic partnerships is a key approach to securing this outcome.

3. Trust And Partner Selection

After reading an insightful report from The Kings Fund published in June 2022, I highly recommend adopting their five key questions to improve approaches toward partnership work. We should not underestimate having a framework that serves as a robust tool to select partners with confidence.

While the adage about “work with the willing” can serve true for some organisations, true innovation that can deliver next-generation sustainable healthcare doesn't always come from the most obvious and willing partners. Partners need to be selected wisely!

PEN’s expertise firmly sits in supporting sustainable healthcare models enabled by strategic partnerships. We have the assets to support organisations to make transformational changes, which are underpinned by the latest tools that drive quantitative and qualitative approaches in selecting potential partners.

Want to get picked for the team? Then let us work with you to accelerate that journey.