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Streamlining Access: Delivering Value Throughout the Hub Experience

By Lash Group

In the healthcare space, value can be hard to define, and even more difficult to deliver in light of multiple stakeholder priorities. Fortunately, though, complexity often drives innovation. And as the healthcare market demands integrated support program services, pharmaceutical manufacturers are finding that the hub model approach is how they can align support with stakeholder priorities for brand success. But the question remains: how can you interject value throughout the hub experience?

Hub Models: Definition and Drivers

Using the hub approach effectively requires an understanding of what a hub is — by definition and by its benefits — as well as where the approach originates. The literal, Merriam- Webster dictionary definition of the word “hub” is:

  • The central and most active part or place
  • The airport or the city through which an airline sends most of its flights
  • The center of a wheel, propeller, fan, etc.

What each of these definitive phrases has in common is the notion of centralization; however, asking various stakeholders across healthcare what a hub is often elicits varying responses. This is because the hub model’s healthcare application differs based on those stakeholders’ needs. To effectively define the hub approach, let’s look at the value centralization delivers in healthcare. In terms of support program centralization, hubs: 

  • Offer a single point of contact that streamlines patient and provider access to specialty drugs
  • Prevent potentially redundant resources
  • Increase short- and long-term access to products
  • Deliver comprehensive healthcare management services
  • Are a centralized, strategic approach that interjects value

Simply put, the hub model streamlines the delivery of valuable services to patients, providers and payers. And the hub can be delivered in three key ways:

  • As a mandatory single point of contact to register/ certify and receive medication
  • As a highly preferred and centralized access point to manage the entire patient and prescriber experience
  • As needed for a central point of access to a particular component such as affordability support

The hub model was born out of an increasingly chaotic and challenging healthcare environment wherein providers are seeing shrinking reimbursements and increased payer management, compliance and management considerations, a low threshold for billing and coding errors. These provider pressures then become manufacturer challenges as they create an elevated need to differentiate a product among providers, and thereby patients. Hubs provide the opportunity for pharma to address multiple challenges through a single point of contact and overcome access barriers. 


The evolution of hubs


The hub model has come a long way since its inception in the early 2000s. Early iterations of the hub approach measured effectiveness with data-driven KPIs — “vital signs” that proffered a view of tactical outcomes such as the number of hotline calls, aggregate payer information, the average answer speed and Patient Assistance Program/Benefit Verification turnaround times. While these measurements are important, hub data has evolved over the last 10 years to include not only the vital signs, but also the “value signs” — speed to therapy/time to fill, duration of therapy, prescription abandonment rates and patient literacy/ risk assessment scores. This evolution is a response to stakeholder needs, regulatory requirements and technological advancements. Manufacturers have learned that it’s these value signs that differentiate a product and shifted to proactive service offerings that leverage the value of centralization. Figure 1 represents the evolution in service offerings as manufacturers change how they position the hub. 


Finding alignment


Value delivery demands alignment not only in terms of matching strategy with resources, but also when it comes to finding crossover between the priorities of many customers. The hub model accomplishes two things: aligning services through a single point of delivery and aligning patient and provider access to required therapies. As such, effective program design means tactical and strategic alignment. As healthcare stakeholder needs often compete or differ, manufacturers need to approach this alignment with the customer in mind, addressing key triggers to access barriers as well as stakeholder goals and initiatives. In addition, services and programs must be scalable to the evolving needs of these stakeholders and, to an extent, their customers. 


But what about manufacturer objectives?

With providers focused on clinical outcomes and manufacturer goals encompassing product performance indicators (speed or duration of therapy), a critical part of hub model design must be identifying and prioritizing objectives. Engaging as early as possible will ensure the hub targets all relevant initiatives and players, explicitly aligning on which outcomes take priority. With service priorities changing over time, one trend in program design is the anchoring of manufacturer services to affordability or clinical education support to blanket the mix of priorities. Then, as the product matures, coverage and formulary issues tend to course correct as provider and patient knowledge grows.

What manufacturers will see as they find alignment within the hub design is that the key success indicators are — and must be — tenets of patient access. Figure 2 demonstrates the value drivers to keep in mind in terms of access barriers.


Creating customer value throughout the hub experience

Optimal outcomes can be achieved if the hub is positioned properly. Figure 3 represents a case-based, Lash Group example of outcomes for an oral specialty agent with a specialty pharmacy network, measuring access and adherence data for hub patients against outcomes for those who went direct to the specialty pharmacy. 


Best practices for interjecting value

The key to adding value throughout the hub experience is focusing on value across the continuum, from program design through outcomes measurement. “Injection points” for value throughout the patient and provider experience include: 

  • Decision to treat: Once the decision to treat has been made, shift the focus to efficacy and speed, flexing to integrate with the prescriber workflow and offering product education for the provider, portal enrollment and site management services.
    - Impact point: days to dispense metric 
  • Enrollment: Depending on the enrollment requirement and customer needs, enrollment — or a request for assistance — is the first opportunity for a manufacturer to leverage the value of streamlined access. Enrollment is where patient engagement begins (with welcome kits and affordability program opt-in) and where providers can benefit from e-prescribing and other services available within online portals. It is also where online co-pay card programs can be introduced to offer patients, physicians and pharmacies instant access to copay assistance.
    - Impact point: days to dispense and abandonment metrics 
  • Prior Authorization: When required by a payer, PA presents one of the first and most optimal points at which seamlessness in the patient journey can be achieved. Electronic Prior Authorization (ePA) capabilities built into provider portals allow providers
    to initiate — and receive responses to — real-time PA requests. Moreover, ePA requests can be submitted with enrollment to further streamline the HCP workflow and expedite the patient’s time to therapy. This integrated solution also allows support program providers to provide PA tracking and denial follow up assistance to reduce the burden on the healthcare provider’s office.
    - Impact point: days to dispense, payer denial metrics

  • Assessment and Action: From Benefit Verification to determining a patient’s cost-share responsibility, this is where assessing a patient’s situation and the resulting program appropriateness will take place, as well as where additional stakeholders — payers and specialty pharmacies — may be introduced. It is at this interaction level that the benefit streamlined coordination becomes evident, as multiple support requirements and options can be managed and referral to specialty pharmacy triage or nurse educators takes place.
    - Impact point: days to dispense, abandonment, payer denial metrics

  • Logistics: From enrollment tracking to drug distribution management, the hub as a single access point means centralized processes for ongoing support. This is where patients and providers receive reassurance of access to required therapies.
    - Impact point: days to dispense, abandonment, duration of therapy

  • Adherence: Adherence programs increase patient compliance, and therefore brand performance, with services from refill reminders to continued product education. Within the hub model, adherence programs are supplemented by the manufacturer’s ability to intervene when access challenges arise for continuous patient support.
    - Impact point: duration of therapy, brand loyalty
Throughout the patient journey, the hub is collecting actionable data that allows for continued program refinement based on stakeholder needs. Private payers, for example, expect pharma to demonstrate how a product helps to achieve desired health outcomes. Supplemental data from the hub can help manufacturers demonstrate these outcomes. Moreover, key learnings throughout the phases above should inform the manufacturer’s ongoing strategy. In some cases, it may prove valuable to work backward from outcomes to choose and position services within the hub. 

Inherent value

Throughout the support program experience, an inherent benefit of the hub model should play out: manufacturers are able to maintain consistent product messaging from the decision to treat through the time therapy is complete. The hub in action is a relationship at work (see Figure 5). This is a critical factor in improving the patient perception of the product and care, and a way that the hub streamlines value delivery with end-to-end support. As hub models continue to evolve, program design may trend toward more self-service options; however, these advances should not replace the high-touch elements of the hub. The element of personal service within the hub is often what drives trusted brands toward success. 

Choosing a provider

Benefit design that accommodates different brands with different needs is critical to a program’s success. Support program service providers should be able to tailor a program to stakeholder and manufacturer needs, from simple to complex. Lash Group has proven success in developing early brand loyalty while reducing long-term cost, aligning our resources with brand objectives and strategy. We’ve helped manufacturers:

  • Build a marketshare through patient conversion and adherence
  • Create market differentiation—with consumers and physicians
  • Increase the share of voice and loyalty within the key physician base
  • Optimize patient access while preserving profitability
  • Build disease and drug awareness through patient education
  • Leverage technology to impact uptake and demonstrate value to payers
  • Leverage technology to streamline and expedite time to therapy
  • Offer increased efficiencies reduced administrative burden for providers through e-services like our FlexConnect Copay program and ePA portals 
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