Virtual care is not the end to the means, but the means to the end. In this day of rapid innovation and discovery, it is easy to deploy multiple technical remedies that inadvertently create excessive burdens. We must hold patient centricity at the core and the right technologies will follow. The future is unfolding before us and care is moving to the home including clinical trials, IoT, labs and even pharma. These are all critical advances in the future of healthcare, but we can never lose sight of the patient. Everything we do must remain centered on the patient.
Patients are at the heart of what drives all medical professionals and is why many choose this career: to help people. John Whyte M.D., Chief Medical Officer for WebMD joined us to discuss this more and how we can continue to put patients at the forefront of our thinking as we enter the new digital age. John is a popular physician and writer who has been communicating to the public about health issues for nearly two decades. He leads efforts to develop and expand strategic partnerships that create meaningful change around important and timely public health issues.
Prior to WebMD, Whyte served as the director of professional affairs and stakeholder engagement at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Whyte worked with health care professionals, patients, and patient advocates, providing them with a focal point for advocacy, enhanced two-way communication, and collaboration, assisting them in navigating the FDA on issues concerning drug development, review, and drug safety. He also developed numerous initiatives to address diversity in clinical trials.
The key element in my choice of career is that I was always interested in communicating to people. How do I communicate to that patient in front of me to adapt healthy lifestyle changes?... I wanted to follow them on that journey and be that primary care physician for them, but I was simultaneously thinking: How do you also do that for populations of people?
- John Whyte M.D.
The importance of storytelling
Whyte worked for nearly a decade as the chief medical expert and vice president, health and medical education, at Discovery Channel, the leading nonfiction television network. In this role, Whyte developed, designed, and delivered educational programming that appealed to both a medical and lay audience. This included television shows as well as online content that won over 50 awards including numerous Tellys, CINE Golden Eagle, and Freddies.
Of his time at Discovery Channel, we asked what the greatest lesson he learnt while there. He remarked that the art of storytelling had been his most important learning, saying that "Too often we are so focused on data and excel spreadsheets that we don't recognize the power of storytelling. That is what I learnt while working with Discovery Channel, who also taught me that you can have the best information, but you shouldn't assume that people are going to listen... because they don't. They have a lot of other options at hand, so you need to both educate and entertain people.
This is the same principle that I have learnt with patients! You can't throw too much at them. You can't ask them to change ten different things immediately. In a story on diabetes I can't give them all the facts and teaching points all at once. Compelling stories and characters with important information included within them is the best way to teach them and keep those patients alive and healthy.
- John Whyte M.D.
What is the patient centricity principle?
"For the last five years or so, particularly during my time at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, I've been focused on the idea of patient centered drug development. The patient should really be at the center of the healthcare system and shockingly they are not. I think that Covid is changed that, but speaking as a physician the focus has always been on the physician. What is going to keep the physicians happy? How do we educate physicians? The physician has been in power and controlled everything for a long long time and the recipient of the care (the patient) is considered last. We need shared decision making and need to make patients equal partners. Covid has accelerated the changes that we started to see in patient experience, connectivity with patients and control of data and administration.
Convenience is an important factor for all organizations to be considering moving forward, as no one is going to want to drive 30 minutes or take the subway for an appointment, wait another 30 minutes to be seen for a 10 minute appointment that took away your whole morning. We need to shift the focus from being on the doctor's schedule and instead adapt to the patient's convenience.