Dr. Melva Covingtonmelva
Global Evidence and Value Development


An experienced health care executive and current project leader with Sanofi in Bridgewater, New Jersey, Melva Covington has emerged as an industry leader in medical R&D. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master of public health and a PhD in education, she went on to pursue a master of business administration at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.


Melva will be one of the distinguished speakers at the Patient Centric Clinical Innovation Conference.


Why is the Patient Centric Clinical Innovation Conference important to clinical research professionals?
The Patient Centric Clinical Innovation Conference is critical to many professions who work in the area of clinical research. It spotlights the needs and perspectives that are important to patients who rely on effective interventions and services for needed care. It compels us to ask focused questions and develop solutions by putting patient needs first. Researchers can sometimes get quite excited and engaged in their work. i.e., thinking about new dimensions of exploration, quality of life questions to improve functionality, understanding of unique nuances in cancer cell discovery; as they should. However, some things may have little to do with the reality of the life that a patient or caregivers live on a day-to-day basis. For example, a question based on a complex protocol or study design may be quite long with cumbersome or unfamiliar language, which may be hard to understand or translate for a patient. Our ability to design and communication clinical research and its feasibility from the eyes of gracious individuals who have volunteered their time is also important. This partnership enables the development of valuable research, and hopefully improved health outcomes, in an emphatic and insightful manner.


What initiatives are on the horizon at your organization towards patient centricity in 2016?
At Sanofi, we seek to offer healthcare solutions in the most devastating conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, immunology, care rare disease and cancer. Being able to serve patients from diverse, targeted populations as partners of choice in our clinical research is one goal on which we are clearly focused. Relative to clinical trial design, we have processes in place to capture patient or patient advocacy input are integrated into each step of the drug development process through a portal. This can begin as early as pre-clinical period in examining the early mechanisms of action.  So that by the time we get to designing and conducting a clinical trial, we have familiarity with the views of patients and relationships have been establish by clinical development team. These teams are thinking about the impact of treatment and clinical trial protocols on patient experiences and outcomes. We strive to have “Patients as Partners” throughout the process; this is how I advocate for patients as they operate, particularly those from diverse communities.


How has patient centricity evolved in the last several years?
Well, we have been talking about patient centricity for years. The description of it has changed in that there was a time in which called this concept “Participatory Action Research” or “Concordance.” Many advocates have been trying to get the voice of patients, their families and communities to be an integral part of research and analyses of care outcomes throughout modern history. I believe that what have changed are the pressures existing in the healthcare environment. For example, there is the escalation of healthcare costs, shrinking budgets of payers, shifts in population demographics, and rise in consumerism as patients pay more for care and technologies that enhance access to information.

These kinds of phenomenon individually and in synergy have changed how we view our health and our healthcare delivery system. More importantly, it has changed how we make decisions (risk/benefits assessments), access resources and demand accountability in the quality of healthcare services provided.


What is your favorite social media platform for being more patient centric? Why?
I tend to focus on the few sources, simply because I have limited time for such engagement. I mostly use LinkedIn and Twitter, although I have started using Periscope for live streaming – it’s pretty cool! They are universal in my work and run efficiently in achieving my purpose.


If budget wasn’t a concern, what is one thing you would implement today for patient centricity?
Budget is always a concern because money is not limitless. However relative to research, I would love to envision an environment in which patients and their caregivers could have convenient and easy access to information as they engaged in the research process. For example, if they could not travel, we would have 1st class transportation to pick them up or even better, arrange for equipment to be installed in their home via telecommunications (or friendly community-based centers) or provide low-cost samples through 3D printing.


What kind of content or communication do you believe sparks a patient’s interest?
The communication that addresses the issues that they face in a knowledgeable and respectful manner in which can understandable and better manage their condition.


When it comes to reaching different demographics of your patients, which sector(s) will you be paying more attention to in 2016?
I am not able to answer specifically for all patients. However, Sanofi is interested in reaching patients who might benefit from the therapies that we produce. So we assess this through strategically assessing environment factors that impact our patients and stakeholder coupled with credible information to address unmet healthcare needs in the US population.


If you had to describe your patients in one word, what would it be?
I don’t work directly with patients. However, I would want to describe all patients as “empowered” to make choices that are best for them, their families and communities in which they live.