Lundbeck: Keeping the Patient Journey in Mind
FEATURE STORY – By Steve Boller and Tim Hunt
Empathy is a skill that measurably impacts job performance.
Empathy is an essential part of the human experience. We know when we have received it from others, and we know when we have not. It is an innate trait, but also a skill that can be learned and improved. For many types of professionals, including sales representatives, it is a skill that measurably impacts job performance.
The relationship between healthcare provider (HCP) empathy and patient outcomes has been studied extensively. For example, Dr. Helen Reiss’ 2017 journal article “The Science of Empathy” cites numerous studies that show how the level of empathy the HCP feels and demonstrates to patients has been shown to impact patient outcomes.
But to best help patients, empathy should not begin and end with HCPs. Empathy for patients should be present in every aspect of the healthcare value chain. Empathy is a core competency necessary for patient centricity in health care.
A Patient-Centric Approach
As a pharmaceutical company committed to improving the quality of life of people living with brain diseases, Lundbeck has consistently approached all aspects of its business with a patient-centric approach. Patient centricity defines Lundbeck’s culture. This is one reason why Lundbeck U.S. has been recognized for corporate reputation by patient groups.
To carry its mission forward, Lundbeck’s commercial training programs are designed to go beyond product knowledge and selling skills. Lundbeck seeks to help reps understand the disease states its products treat through the eyes of patients.
In 2020, Lundbeck launched an innovative training program in support of one of its products, a novel antidepressant. The program helps its sales reps articulate the lived experiences of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) when they interact with HCPs. Early data show that the program is helping reps focus on the patient during HCP interactions, and the program’s design has enabled seamless continuation of the learning experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
About Major Depressive Order
MDD affects more than 17 million adults in the United States in any given year. It is characterized by low mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure, but often includes low energy, fatigue, issues with sleep and difficulty concentrating. For some individuals, major depression can result in severe impairments that interfere with or limit one’s ability to carry out major life activities.
The training program was rolled out at Lundbeck’s winter 2020 North American sales meeting, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began impacting the United States. It was designed to support both existing sales representatives as well as new representatives not yet with the organization at the time of the national meeting.
Reps were introduced to the power of storytelling with a keynote presentation, reviewed key clinical information through the eyes of patients and went through an interactive patient journey experience. To bring it all together, the Lundbeck account managers synthesized this information to craft and tell a more compelling patient story. In the weeks after the meeting, chatbot technology was utilized to keep the patient stories alive.
The centerpiece of the program is the MDD patient journey experience. The brand training team partnered with TiER1 Performance to design an experience that puts reps in the shoes of a patient and evokes a genuine emotional response that leads to greater empathy and understanding.
- Reps accessed a web application on their iPad and selected one of three patients.
- The hotel ballroom was set up with large displays that represent different aspects of patients’ lives such as home, the workplace, a primary care provider’s office and a psychiatrist.
- The web app took reps on a guided audio tour through different aspects of their patient’s life. The story was told through narration set to music with emotive visuals.
- Reps visited the displays and used augmented reality to interact. The augmented reality technology triggered the next chapter of the story.
- As reps experienced the story, they completed reflection questions in the app that helped them connect their own thoughts and emotions to the patient.
- After completing the story, participants picked up a name tag and wrote in someone they know, such as a friend or family member, who has suffered from depression that they will keep in mind as they go about their work.
- After the national sales meeting, reps heard from their patient via a text-based
chatbot to keep the experience front of mind.
- The web application was developed to function either at a live event or as a self-guided virtual experience. This functionality allowed Lundbeck to reuse the MDD Journey in a variety of settings, either in-person or virtually.
Keeping Momentum During COVID-19
Shortly after the Lundbeck North American meeting, the pandemic forced sales representatives out of the field. During the shutdown, just before re-engaging with customers, Lundbeck account managers were asked to utilize the self-guided functionality of the Patient Journey application. This time, they followed a different patient story and reignited the empathy for patients they felt during the virtual reality experience at the meeting.
Results and Feedback
The true measure of success for this unique patient journey experience will be the passion and empathy Lundbeck representatives display as they talk about patients with their customers over an extended period. However, immediate results are already visible.
In the weeks following the national meeting, Lundbeck account managers utilized the patient profile page of the interactive sales aid 52% more often than they had in the previous trimester. Initial reactions from learners were highly positive as well.
This increased focus on the patient, driven through empathy, is already furthering Lundbeck’s patient-centric mission.
Steve Boller is a market development director at TiER1 Performance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tim Hunt is a sales training manager at
Lundbeck. He can be reached at email@example.com.