Feature Stories

Astellas Executive Interview Series – Doug Noland

Nov 2, 2017

“Patient Focus” is the first of five core values that define our Astellas Way culture. To ensure we are sincerely living this pillar, we established the Patient Experience Organization last November to identify how Astellas can continue improving patient outcomes and experiences across the organization.

Doug Noland, executive director of the Patient Experience Organization, recently spoke at this year’s Patient Summit USA in Philadelphia about the progress the team has made in its first year. In our latest installment of the Executive Interview Series, we spoke with Doug about the overall vision of the Patient Experience Organization, what makes it unique in the pharmaceutical industry and how it gives a voice to our patients. 

What led to the formation of the Patient Experience Organization? How does it distinguish Astellas in the pharmaceutical industry?

The Patient Experience Team was established to ensure the achievement of our patient-focused vision established by our senior leadership. We began by questioning if there was even more we could do to serve patients at Astellas. We invited the National leader in Patient Satisfaction and Service Improvement to conduct a comprehensive critical assessment of our efforts across all aspects of our business. This bold step was an industry first. Through this assessment, we identified a number of opportunities to better serve patients, their caregivers and healthcare providers.

Can you define what it means to have a “patient-focused” culture and why it’s good for business? 

Everyone is talking patient focus these days, but most of pharma remains deeply rooted in a product focus. Being patient-focused requires that we engage with empathy to discover what matters most to patients. Truly listening, with a deep desire to understand, provides us an opportunity to bring more focus to our innovation. I believe there is no greater opportunity for pharma today, as with a full understanding of what matters to patients, we can begin addressing those issues from the earliest stages of drug development. We believe that doing so and delivering improved experiences and outcomes is the very essence of value.

A patient-focused culture allows us to tap deeply into the urgency and passion of every one of our employees across every function. Through our early internal research at Astellas, we learned 85% of our employees strongly agree that being patient-focused is not only the right thing to do, but may also be good for our reputation and business results. As such, it is important that we create alignment in our purpose and approach to ensure that we can work effectively across all functions to ensure we are making a difference for patients.

What progress or key activities have been achieved by the team to date?

The Patient Experience Organization was formed in November 2016. During our first year, we focused on internal efforts to accelerate our patient focused culture, and identify and close gaps across all functions of our organization. We are continuing to address opportunities like health literacy and improved service and support models to deliver clearer communications to patients. To date, hundreds of employees across the organization have come together to deliver higher quality experiences and outcomes for the millions of patients that we serve.

How will the Patient Experience team continue advancing the patient voice at Astellas? 

We are now beginning to focus on collaboration with other healthcare stakeholders to address non-treatment related gaps in care. To achieve this, we are building out a top tier team to collaborate with providers, payers and patient advocacy groups. We understand healthcare can be complicated and overwhelming for patients. Only by working together can we truly deliver the highest quality experiences and outcomes for patients. It is time for pharma to have a seat at this table.

Likewise, we are building out a patient understanding team to ensure that we understand the impacts the behavioral side of health has on outcomes. Rather than do this through a typical market research approach, we are searching for a behavioral psychologist with deep experience in healthcare to help us identify and address the non-treatment aspects of care that are preventing better outcomes.

These are just a couple of examples of the work that we are doing to understand and address what matters most to patients.