Why is a compassionate approach so crucial to the future of healthcare?

We’ve talked about compassionate healthcare a fair bit in this blog, and it’s something we’re very eager to explore more in our work. But what exactly does this term mean, and how will it benefit the healthcare sector now and in the future?

In a hospital setting, a compassionate or empathetic approach to healthcare essentially means HCPs will strive to understand the unique circumstances a patient faces and acknowledge this throughout their treatment. Depending on their respective backgrounds, certain groups of people will have had wildly varied experiences when it comes to medicine – both positive and negative - and will have very different reservations and worries as a result. HCPs opting for an empathetic treatment path will recognize these unique and occasionally challenging elements of the care process, and will endeavor to provide the best quality care for their patients - whilst considering individual needs and rejecting a one-size-fits-all approach.

In terms of a compassionate approach to the clinical trial process, this involves taking the opinions, thoughts and concerns of a patient seriously rather than dismissing or ignoring them when creating a new type of medication. For example, let’s pretend a number of patients have expressed satisfaction with a particular drug considering its effectiveness, but are concerned about some of its side effects, or simply don’t have a positive experience when taking it. A non-compassionate approach would involve the research and development team ignoring these comments and continuing to develop the medication without any form of alteration. On the other hand, a compassionate approach would result in these concerns being viewed as legitimate and worthy of further investigation, with potential changes to be made to the drug in order to better suit patient needs and preferences.

It’s easy to see why many developers don’t want to take the time to explore these worries – it’s not cheap or quick to bring a new drug to market, and if it’s already being taken by the general public, it’ll have been in development for at least ten years and at an average cost of $1-2 billion. Investing even more time, money, and effort in tweaking a drug that works perfectly well when it comes to treating the condition in question might be seen as unnecessary. Side effects are common with almost every treatment or therapy out there, and perhaps the biotech company sees this simply as one of those unavoidable things.

Additionally, the drug development market is becoming increasingly competitive, with groundbreaking discoveries for some of the world’s most stubborn diseases becoming more and more common. If a patient feels that their needs are not being met or their opinions not listened to, there are a growing number of alternatives which they might switch to. A biotech company might develop the most effective drug ever in terms of treating a particular illness, but it nobody with this condition wants to take it, then the developers will take a big hit – both financially and reputationally.

In the grand scheme of things, investing in something as important as social listening to support the clinical trial process is really not that expensive – especially when you consider both the moral and practical value that arises from taking these aspects of the process into account. Using natural language processing to determine the wants and needs of patients will, in the long run, lower the cost of the clinical trial processing by only moving forward with trials which are likely to be successful – simultaneously lowering the price of the drug for the people who need it the most.

Compassion in the clinical trial process is something that more and more biotech companies are becoming aware of – alongside some of the difficulties they face in navigating this new area. That being said, the overwhelming benefits of social listening through natural language processing – such as increased trust and better patient outcomes - hugely outweigh the negatives, with an empathetic approach to drug development firmly cementing itself as the more responsible and successful option, from a moral, ethical and financial perspective.

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