Reuters Events Pharma USA Conference 2022

At the 2022 Reuters Events Pharma USA Conference in Philadelphia, the BVA Nudge Consulting North America team joined changemakers, leading solution providers, and patient experts from commercial, marketing, medical affairs, patient engagement, market access, and RWE who are forging the path towards innovation and drastically improving health outcomes.

Here’s what they learned:

Image credit: Reuters Events Pharma


It’s no secret that the pandemic has accelerated change at scale across the healthcare industry. In many ways it may be the necessary push pharma needs to break old habits and innovate faster. However, many companies are having trouble keeping up in a world where actual behaviors are changing so much faster than rules and regulations.

Behaviors are changing overnight, but is the industry changing with them? 

The sector of life sciences is known for being decades behind the media and tech industries. However, with the increasing use of real-time data feedback in healthcare, we can begin to learn, improve, and change behavior of patients, healthcare providers, sales reps, and more, at an unprecedented rate. However, vast amounts of data are no good unless it can be understood and translated into something useful. This is as true in behavioral science and health communications as it is in big data—information does not equal action.

As a result, many industry experts agreed pharma should be looking for out-of-industry expertise to escape their rut and drive innovation.  To that end, Gail Horwood, Chief Marketing & CX Officer at Novartis and self-declared “outsider,” shared three areas of focus for moving forward:  

1. Stop over-indexing on bringing in people, technology, and tools that already do well.

2. Invest in resources for creating behavior change.

3. Work together to share insights because the state of the current ecosystem makes it so no player can make progress alone.


The consumerization of healthcare has changed expectation around product and service design to be more centered around individual users. As the primary driver of product, aligning with consumers is critical for staying relevant as we experience rapid cultural and behavioral shifts.

However, as Prakash Pothamsetti, Business Unit Head of Axtria put it, “the distance between the healthcare consumer and pharma is increasing every single day.” It’s clear that there is a disconnect between healthcare consumers and the industry at large. As written by Deloitte Insights, “Many life sciences companies claim they are patient centric given they are making and marketing products for patients. However, the patient perspective has traditionally been viewed through the lens of the physician, the regulator, or the health plan.” This all begs the question: how well do we really know our consumers? 

Laurie Meyers, Executive Director of Engagement and Experience Design at Genentech notes, “Patient centricity is about paving a smoother path to travel down. Patients may see the goal but don’t have the tools, systems, and strategies as an individual to get there. It requires more than understanding patients along different points of the treatment journey but also layering an emotional and functional behavioral lens.”

True patient-centricity, then, will be impossible to achieve without the deepest insights that only the field of behavioral science is equipped to provide. And a truly patient-centric experience can only be created on top of those insights with behavioral science-based programming, communications, UX, and service design.


Address Racial & Accessibility Inequities:

The success of creating lifesaving drugs is vastly overshadowed if they can’t reach the nearly 150 million people in the US who are part of underserved populations. Patrice Matchaba, MD, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Novartis reiterates, “Health disparities in the US based on race are not only unethical but they also cost lives and waste resources.” In his talk he revealed the extent of health inequities faced by marginalized patient populations and what pharma must do to address them: 

1. Build a trusted ecosystem and address the historical mistrust of pharma among underserved patient groups.

2. Provide communities of color with the intellectual capital and opportunities to be part of research and development.

3. Grow the visibility of underrepresented groups in healthcare and encourage diverse leadership in patient advocacy and among HCPs.

In another discussion, a panel of patient engagement experts discussed how universal patient access to digital tools is essential for a patient-centric practice. The impact of digital inaccessibility is far-reaching and adversely affects a large segment of people with disabilities. By creating customer-facing digital touchpoints, we can increase access and engagement for patients and other stakeholder groups. Teachaccess.org has already made headway with many name brands like Microsoft, Google, Walmart, and Verizon. 

Mitigate Affordability Issues:

While many health inequities are deeply rooted and require collective cultural changes, insurance design is a rather accessible change that should be addressed. The way insurance plans are designed currently disproportionately burdens low-income communities and people with chronic illnesses. Out-of-pocket costs can create massive ripple effects and widen socio-economic disparities. With proper incentive and behavioral design, many of these challenges could be significantly reduced.

Counteract Bias and Ensure Medical Innovation Thrives:

Sandy Milligan, head of R&D at Organon shared a jarring statistic: “Scientists research treatments that fit what they see in their daily lives. When most scientists have been men, this means only 4% of the R&D spend in the US goes to women’s health.” Talk about confirmation bias in action within healthcare innovation! Increasing transparency and inclusivity throughout treatment development is paramount for improving equity and innovation.

Partner with Advocacy Groups to Build Trust & Gain Insights:

Community engagement is another important approach for patient centricity. Leveraging relationships with caregivers, patient ambassadors, healthcare providers, nurses, pharmacists, community safe havens, and patient advocacy groups have proven to be a powerful tool. Striving for a collaborative, patient-driven culture that supports patients through connected experiences, trustworthy information, and diverse community needs brings healthcare closer to consumers. Organizations like CVS and Walgreens have already been using their local presence to connect with communities and combat disparities. The importance of making it easy by removing friction, a key tenet of Nudge theory, cannot be overstressed.

Essential for Some, Good for All” :

The impacts of abiding by Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) guidelines are not only good for everyone but they’re also good for the trajectory of the life sciences industry. As we’ve seen, inclusivity saves resources, provides opportunities for untapped market potential, and bridges the gap between cThe impacts of abiding by Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) guidelines are not only good for everyone but they’re also good for the trajectory of the life sciences industry. As we’ve seen, inclusivity saves resources, provides opportunities for untapped market potential, and bridges the gap between consumers and healthcare. At BVA Nudge Consulting, we call these WIN-WIN-WIN opportunities. The pursuit of these mutual benefits often strengthens relationships between customers and businesses. It’s clear the winning path forward for pharma is one of transparency, collaboration, and a new understanding of patient centricity.  Behavioral science provides the tools to do all of these more successfully.

If you’d like to learn more about behavioral science in pharma and healthcare, please get in touch: contact@bvanudgeconsulting.com

Emma Spahic

BVA Nudge Consulting North America

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