Simplifying the Path to Better Patient Outcomes
By Tommy Bramley, PhD |
There is no doubt that key stakeholders and the healthcare industry as whole are skilled in adapting to meet the rapidly changing needs of patients and providers. Even operating under the substantial pressure of the COVID-19 global pandemic in recent months, we have continued to make significant progress in the ways we bring therapies to market and how we support patients. We’re personalizing therapy regimens, enhancing telehealth capabilities, and providing far more holistic treatment than we were even 3 months ago. We’re understanding more each day just how interconnected health, social, economic and environmental issues are, and how they’re all impacting patients on an individual level.
The healthcare system, while resilient in many areas, can be complex, and there are inherent tension points that continue to challenge our way of delivering and innovating for better patient outcomes. These tension points include:
- Patient expectations don’t always match up with patient realities.
- Advancements in services don’t always match up with advancements in science.
- The hype surrounding technology doesn’t always match up with a thoughtful implementation strategy.
How can we achieve better equilibrium across these tension points and simplify the path to better outcomes?
Patient Expectations vs. Patient Realities
Consumers today expect full control over whom they do business with and the level of service and information shared during every experience. These principles are now shaping patient mindsets and driving expectations in healthcare. This trend has been particularly evident as we manage concerns related to COVID-19, with more consumers than ever before seeking out advice, clinical information, testing and care with a heightened sense of urgency.
An empowered patient wants information at their fingertips. In fact, 81% of consumers agree that patients need to have access to as much information as possible when making healthcare decisions. And today, patients have moved expectations upstream—76% believe manufacturers have a responsibility to provide information and services that help them manage their own health.
When that information isn’t proactively provided to them, patients often turn to informal channels such as WebMD, Facebook and other online forums. These resources can be tremendous avenues to build community and receive emotional support, but when patients rely too heavily on informal channels for clinical information, it can create challenges for providers. There are so many factors that influence a patient’s experience on a therapy—their clinical profile, age, socioeconomic status, level of health literacy, etc. The ways in which these factors interact may not be fully considered or understood when a patient receives guidance informally.
Ideally, patients are an active and collaborative part of their treatment journey, guided by expert resources such as a clinical professional that is accessible, trusted and able to provide tailored information to match a patient’s needs. As patient expectations continue to evolve, we must adapt patient support services in real-time to complement their growing empowerment.
"Patient support services allow us to approach pharmaceutical care with a blend of human empathy and technology advancements, which is key to unlocking better patient outcomes."
Advancements in Services vs. Advancements in Science
In addition to changing patient expectations, the industry is also experiencing unprecedented scientific advancement. Manufacturers continue to develop groundbreaking, complex therapies and patients around the world are getting healthier and living more comfortably as a result. HIV, for example, may have a complicated regimen, but today’s treatments have greatly reduced mortality risk and enable patients to live long, full lives. Cell and gene therapies are rapidly expanding the realm of curative possibilities, and the FDA anticipates approving 10 to 20 of these therapies on a yearly basis by 2025.
However, we must admit there are parts of the system that are lagging behind. Patients, especially those with chronic conditions, often need to interact with multiple providers throughout their treatment journey—primary care physicians, disease state specialists, behavioral health providers, etc.—which results in health records and data scattered across various sites of care. In order to set patients up for success, we must ensure that the services and systems we operate within are continuously advancing and innovating at the same rate as science, while still preserving privacy.
We’ve already made significant strides in implementing tools that leverage artificial intelligence (AI), like electronic benefit verification (eBV) and electronic prior authorization (ePA). Now is the time to be thinking about what’s next—how will increasingly complex therapies challenge barriers to access? What kinds of solutions and processes should we be developing now to alleviate those barriers later? We will need all parts of the ecosystem – manufacturers, payers, providers, pharmacies and service providers – aligned on what patient success looks like and committed to assessing how their unique set of systems must evolve to create the most value.
As we look to alleviate challenges and advance our services to match advances in science, technology plays an important role, and, we need to approach it thoughtfully.
Technology Hype vs. Thoughtful Implementation
Technology has been dominating healthcare investments in recent years, with all players in the industry facing pressure to implement the latest advancements. In 2018, the healthcare industry alone invested nearly $2.5 billion in artificial intelligence (AI). In the quest for the next great technology solution, we can’t forget the ultimate beneficiaries of our investments: patients. The goal of technology should not necessarily be to get things done solely through technology, but to improve the patient experience throughout the care journey.
Before a new technology solution is threaded into a workflow, we should consider: What value is this going to create for the patient? What potential challenges or roadblocks should we anticipate? What does this require from the rest of the healthcare system to work effectively? As we adapt to the new realities of healthcare, we must challenge ourselves to think critically about whether or not the newest discovery will be the most effective way to facilitate better outcomes. We can’t let the hype surrounding new advancements overshadow their utility.
As it stands, technology is incredibly effective at collecting and aggregating data. We’ve seen in real-time the importance of quality aggregation and accurate dissemination of data as COVID-19 began to take hold of our communities. That said, the real challenge lies in the interpretation and application of data. That’s why technology must be leveraged and monitored by an expert who can translate data into personalized clinical interventions infused with empathy and human connectivity. We need to implement technology into our workflows safely and responsibly, ensuring it is put into the right hands, at the right time, with the right level of control. By pairing modern technology with regular clinician engagement, we can reach patients on multiple levels to encourage continued adherence.
The Value of Patient Support Services
Each of healthcare’s tension points require industry expertise, but it’s clear that we shouldn’t be tackling them in silos. Patient support providers are a vital link that enables the type of industry-wide collaboration that is needed to address access, affordability, and adherence issues now to make a substantial impact in the future. As we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re proud of how manufacturers, distributors and the patient support industry have stepped up to protect vulnerable populations and do everything they can to combat this health crisis.
Through patient support services, we can develop programs equipped with experts who have a deep understanding of the clinical, emotional and environmental factors that influence a patient’s care journey. And, we can create mechanisms to disseminate data and communicate across the healthcare continuum quickly, consistently and reliably. Patient support services allows us to approach pharmaceutical care with a blend of human empathy and technology advancements, which is the key to unlocking better patient outcomes.
 Iconoculture. Healthcare Decision Making. June 2018. https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3884175
 Accenture. Great Expectations: Why Pharma Companies Can’t Ignore Patient Services. March 2014. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/~/media/Accenture/Conversion-Assets/Microsites/Documents2/Accenture-Patient-Services-Research-Note-Infographic.pdf
 U.S Food & Drug Administration. Statement from FDA Commissioner on new policies to advance development of safe and effective cell and gene therapies. January 2019. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-and-peter-marks-md-phd-director-center-biologics
 Financial Times. Why big pharma sees a remedy in data and AI. January 2020. https://www.ft.com/content/4743d76c-af9b-11e9-8030-530adfa879c2