…Finding ways to provide value for patients in our healthcare system, by supporting increased competition, providing the best care, improving the affordability of medications by reducing out-of-pocket costs, and closing the gap between list and net prices. To do this, we must move away from today’s volume-based model to one that better recognizes and accounts for value.
As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Patty Fritz. Patty is the Vice President of U.S. Corporate Affairs for UCB, Inc., a global biopharmaceutical company focusing on creating value for people living with severe diseases. In her role, Patty leads efforts to create value for patients and their families through strategic engagement and positively influencing the healthcare environment and policy landscape. Outside of UCB, she serves as chair of the board of directors for Georgia Bio and as a member of The Carter Center Board of Councilors.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a young girl, I was in awe of my grandmother, who was a nurse. Listening to her tell stories of taking care of people inspired me to become a nurse, and I went on to work in the emergency room and intensive care unit for nearly two years.
In my time as a nurse, I realized that patients didn’t just want to be seen as their condition. They wanted information and an active role in their care. I also recognized that we still had gaps in treatments and new solutions were desperately needed. With this insight, I found my passion in innovating new medicines and shifted to a career that could help me deliver value to patients, including differentiated medicines, a caring experience and improved access to solutions for their diseases.
In my current role, I have the fortune of working each day with my colleagues across the organization to help patients with severe diseases that have significant unmet needs. Because the diseases we tackle are chronic, and every patient has a unique journey, our goal is to enable them to achieve their best, whatever that is for them.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
While leading our regulatory affairs team at a meeting, a mother shared her child’s epilepsy journey. Hearing about her daughter’s first seizure and the years of searching for treatments shifted my perspective from a more clinical view to a very personal, human experience — the impact on the child, the family, and all that goes along with living with and caring for those with a chronic, severe disease, like epilepsy. I also heard how a UCB therapy was a life changer for that child and the family. The impact of innovation is not just treating a condition — it changes lives. This encounter further activated my purpose and passion that drives me at a level in a way I could not have imagined. Hearing the child’s mother speak was a gift that has kept me running at more than 100 percent every day since.
Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field?
Having been with UCB for more than 25 years, I’ve made an impact in several leadership roles including Regulatory Affairs, Operational Excellence, Government Affairs, Policy, Corporate Affairs, and UCBCares®, our interactive platform that provides live support from specialists and gives customers the care and answers they need.
One of my most significant accomplishments has been helping transform UCB from a primary care company to a specialty biopharma pharmaceutical leader focused on severe diseases. I’ve also been involved in the regulatory approval process for several of UCB’s products, a key part of bringing new innovations to people impacted by severe and chronic diseases.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At UCB, we go beyond just treating a person or their symptoms, it’s about seeing the person as a whole — from their emotional to physical well-being — and finding solutions that improve their care and overall quality of life. To do this, we start with one simple question, “How will this create value for people living with severe diseases?”
By putting patients at the heart of everything we do, we aim to enable people to live their best lives, by delivering impactful solutions patient’s value and seeking to create better outcomes for patients.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
UCB is focused on creating value for people living with severe diseases. As a testament to that, we’ve received approvals from regulatory authorities for new indications for several conditions that have a profound impact on patients’ lives. Most recently, UCB received approvals for novel indications for which there were no alternative therapies available, or there had not been a new therapy in 20 years.
UCB also invests in new technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure we are targeting diseases with the greatest unmet needs. These technologies help to ensure that when new innovative treatments advance, we are providing them to the right patients at the right time.
We believe groundbreaking research best flourishes in innovative ecosystems and have recently expanded our U.S. research presence in Boston, Massachusetts and Seattle, Washington. We’re testing hypotheses on what drives disease progression and can modify disease, and researching new ways to better connect science to the needs of patients. Through innovations like these, we are helping people living with severe diseases achieve their goals.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
There are so many, although a few stand out for me.
First, not all innovation makes it the finish line. This was particularly difficult to experience, especially after spending years in research and development on certain projects with the hope that they would deliver life-changing experiences for patients in seeking relief. Despite the disappointment, these projects fuel our continued learning and development for future innovations.
Second, in research and development, the goal is to define and execute development programs that eventually result in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving a new treatment and then our team commercializing it. While it was very clear that the goal was to bring innovation to the patient, I assumed wrongly, that an approved product would be easily accessible to the patient. Today, I recognize the complexity of the market and the role of payers in care and access decisions. The role of ‘rebates’ serves as a perverse incentive, meaning that even where you have a clear value story, accessibility for the patient is not a given.
Third, patients value a meaningful care experience, which means providing more than just than just a medicine. Our relationship with patients extends beyond medicines to include programs, partnerships, communities, and philanthropy that support their overall care experience.
Fourth, continually build your network. Ensure that you have others to tap into when you are challenged or want to seek different perspectives. It is easy to get comfortable within your own space — stretching your thinking and continuously learning is essential.
And finally, and most importantly, is to practice humility and recognize that at the center of innovating new medicines is the patient. It all starts there — they know best what they need, what the gaps are and importantly what they value.
Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
There are many factors, but I would start with the complexity of the system, the focus on affordability, the drive toward value-based care that influences access to medicines, and most importantly, the challenge of modernizing our systems and processes to realize the benefit of the scientific advances of today. I have heard it said recently that we are living in a time of “Star Wars medicine” — with Flintstones-era regulatory and payment systems. Frankly, these trends are pushing the U.S. rapidly toward a tipping point within the healthcare landscape, where we need to stop building and tweaking the existing infrastructure and start building entirely new data-driven systems.
Today, we have data from many sources, including technology, AI and machine learning, and the ability to leverage alternative forms of evidence, which means that we can bring more efficiency and effectiveness to our decision making — from discovery to delivery. This will enable us to take some waste out of the system. With advancements focused on those most likely to respond, there is also an opportunity to the eliminate the cost and time of trial and error in treating complex, severe disease.
We also need to prepare ourselves for the shifting U.S. demographics, — including a growing number of seniors aging into Medicare along with an increase in the prevalence of chronic disease in the country. Together, these are creating a tremendous burden on a system that has not been modernized to keep up with the innovation nor embraced the wellness movement or coordinate care early enough. We need to lean in so that our seniors can live well longer!
You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
At our core, we believe that patients must be at the heart of everything that we do.
- Finding ways to provide value for patients in our healthcare system, by supporting increased competition, providing the best care, improving the affordability of medications by reducing out-of-pocket costs, and closing the gap between list and net prices. To do this, we must move away from today’s volume-based model to one that better recognizes and accounts for value.
- Put the patient at the center of the innovation to ensure we are getting it right the first time. From innovation, to discovery, to delivery, it is all incredibly time and capital intensive, so we must ensure the solution meets the patients’ needs from the start.
- Modernize our regulatory system and payment models, using all the tools that are at our finger tips today to fit and accelerate the latest scientific advances.
- Share data and information with the appropriate context, helping to shine a light on information that helps patients, physicians, researchers, and other stakeholders make informed decisions.
- Leverage data, technology, and AI and machine learning, and blend these into a multi-disciplinary approach to optimize decision making from discovery to delivery.
Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
At UCB, we exist to serve patients and everything we do is in the name of optimizing our value to them and their care experience. To achieve this goal, we need to continue partnering closely with patients and the entire health ecosystem to bring better medicines to market faster and more sustainably. This approach should be carried beyond UCB to the entire healthcare ecosystem.
To start, we must connect players — both existing and new — across our healthcare system together in the search for solutions, and think beyond what we know today. To deliver innovative solutions today, we must leverage key elements that can accelerate system change such as data, technology, and the millennial workforce. I am confident that together we can shape a healthcare system fit for the future that realizes the benefits of breakthrough innovation.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
Recognizing that the current challenges in healthcare require strong and potentially new leadership abilities to enable change, I spend a lot of time not only reading about healthcare topics, but also about leadership development. One of my favorite blogs is Health Affairs along with their journal.
I also read everything Brene Brown writes — especially, when I need a reboot. My most recent read was her book entitled, Dare to Lead, and she also has a number of YouTube videos, which I enjoy. Additionally, recently I read Contagious Culture: Show up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization that Thrives by Anese Cavanaugh, which is great when thinking about change management as well as self-management.
Outside of books and podcasts, I am fortunate enough to be part of our Women in Leadership initiative at UCB, where we share key skills and promote the value of women’s inclusion in key leadership positions. I encourage others at their own organizations to join, form, and support their own groups that further education beyond their day-to-day roles as well.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patty-fritz-01aa0912/?locale=de_DE
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/UCBUSA
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UCBBiopharma/
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!