It's important to distinguish between "patient involvement" and bona fide "co-creation." Involvement is vague; the term runs the risk of becoming a tick-box exercise that companies employ as a marketing tactic. But co-creation is decidedly more active and specific. It means direct, ongoing input from the end users who will be interacting with solutions in the future. It involves seeking user feedback throughout every phase of a product's development, from conceptual design to testing to roll out.
In many industries, this has been the status quo for some time. Pressure-testing, beta roll-outs, focus groups and feedback forms are the norm when it comes to building apps, electronic devices and other consumer-facing technologies.
But in healthcare, the concept has taken longer to catch on. This is in part due to the industry's complexities and regulatory landscape. It's more logistically challenging to include hundreds of people with diabetes in developing an insulin-monitoring device, for instance, than it is to A/B test features of a productivity app like Evernote.
With the rise of emerging technologies and the resulting explosion of health data, however, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are now considering patient buy-in to a greater extent.
In the past, healthcare providers and institutions were considered the primary stakeholders and decision makers in healthcare. Today, however, a growing cohort understands that putting patients at the center of the process is key to addressing real — not just perceived or assumed — user needs. This evolving mindset pertains to both rare diseases and management of more common conditions like migraine, mental health or cardiovascular disease. The reality is that in our digital age, if consumers can't find a suitable solution via conventional healthcare, they'll go elsewhere.
Co-creation can help identify these gaps. At the same time, it has the potential to improve transparency and co-ownership across all aspects of the healthcare continuum. For users, this could lead to better quality of care — and quality of life — while lifting the veil on an industry that's often considered opaque.5