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Why Pharma Must Prioritize Patient Engagement to Thrive in the Next Decade

August 10, 2020

Will recent events accelerate value-based care and patient centricity in the life sciences industry?

Though patient-centered care has been a focus across the health sector for the better part of a decade, it’s been relatively slow to transpire. Recent events, however, triggered rapid mass acceptance of telehealth and other technologies that enable connected care and patient-centered experiences. And the organizations that had value-based technologies already in place were well positioned to adapt to this shift. Those that didn’t are now realizing the urgency to build the digital infrastructure that enables connected, patient-centered experiences.

This is particularly true for the pharmaceutical industry where the adoption of risk-sharing contracts and outcomes-based reimbursement models are becoming more commonplace, and where patients increasingly expect pharma companies to provide services that complement their products and work more closely with their providers across the care continuum to create a seamless experience.

Simultaneously, the rise of personalized medicine and innovative specialty drugs is further driving the need for pharma companies to build stronger inroads to the patient.

Patient-centered care is the new reality

According to a study by Accenture, 76% of patients believe pharma companies have a responsibility to provide tools and services that complement their products, and 84% believe they should be collaborating with providers and payers to create a more seamless, integrative experience.

It’s no surprise patient expectations have risen –– they want their healthcare experience to match the consumer experiences they’ve grown accustomed to in other areas of their lives. And rightly so.

At the same time, outcomes-based incentive models have completely shifted the power to the patient. Success is no longer based on the number of prescriptions written. Instead, pharma companies are increasingly having to demonstrate their therapies are improving health outcomes. This makes it more important than ever before for pharma leaders to figure out how to orchestrate the patient journey and provide the tools that track outcomes and satisfaction, improve care and encourage engagement.

Pharma companies now must work more closely with patients, providers and payers –– form partnerships and collaborations –– to ensure patients not only obtain access to the right therapy but also that they are supported through the entire treatment journey.

This collaboration is also key to advancing the development of specialty and personalized drugs and therapies. Not only to better understand the patient need, but also to track and support patient adherence and measure clinical outcomes and milestones –– which is often necessary to negotiate full reimbursement with payers.

Of course, this necessitates integrating dynamic technology systems that facilitate the exchange of sensitive healthcare information between patient healthcare organizations, but which also includes patient-facing technologies like mobile health applications, telehealth, patient monitoring, and personal health record tools. This infrastructure will be pivotal to establishing and maintaining patient engagement and obtaining objective and subjective data–– which is necessary to improve health outcomes.

Virtual trials could become the standard

There is now a major business case for patient-facing technologies and systems that allow for virtual delivery of care, and this has only escalated in recent months. For example, in clinical trials, the move towards virtual was already beginning to take shape over the last decade but has become more important than ever.

Patient-facing, cloud-based technologies are being used to raise awareness for trials via mobile devices, capture data remotely using sensor technologies, and streamline clinical trial monitoring for direct electronic data entry. In many cases, this is speeding the time to drug launch as data capture and entry is no longer taking weeks –– it’s being done in hours.

Remote monitoring and telehealth technologies are also enabling pharma companies to track efficacy and safety, along with other key health indicators, and encourage greater patient compliance. This has the potential to lower drug development costs and ultimately improve patient outcomes. Virtual trials also allow for more widespread participation, which can mean more accurate and diverse trials that better reflect the population.

Because pharma companies are assuming greater ownership for the outcomes patients achieve, the need to be connected to the patient through the entire journey is mission critical. Most leaders know this but aren’t sure how to get to that point, especially when limited time, budget and other constraints are considerations.

Migrating from entrenched, legacy systems can feel like a major upheaval, but with flexible, configurable systems, the good news is it doesn’t have to be done all at once. Simply digitizing one core process rather than undergoing a complete digital transformation will build the infrastructure from which to build upon down the road.

Where to start the digitization process

Complete digital overhauls can be costly, but it is possible to start small with one process, prove out the concept and expand upon it over time. This not only makes it more approachable from a budget perspective, it also supports more effective change management by getting the team used to using the system in increments. As you begin to realize bottom-line benefits and prove out the process, your team will be better positioned to identify and prioritize the next area to digitize –– and it can make securing a budget easier.

Where should you start? The first step is to adopt a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. A cloud-based CRM built for life sciences, like Salesforce, will be table stakes in the digitization process. This will serve as your team’s single source of truth ––or hub–– for all patient information. There are a few key functions of Salesforce, specifically Salesforce Health Cloud, that make it appealing for pharma companies:

Guided program enrollment: a guided program enrollment tool can handle patient onboarding, insurance verification, arrange copay programs, improve treatment adherence, and provide the team with standardized processes for a more seamless patient experience.

Omni-channel patient services: opens access to program and drug information for patients, making it accessible wherever they are. It can also be used to facilitate more data-driven, personal conversations with patients and others on the care team, which helps pharma companies work with healthcare providers to create personalized therapeutic support programs.

Digital informed consent management: enables teams to manage enrollment and consent forms remotely and capture patient consent virtually.

With a cloud-based CRM in place, assess core business processes and begin to map them out with your team. Where is there friction in the experience –– both for your team and your customers? Which represent the biggest strain on resources or account for the most revenue generation? These may be places to start the digitization process. Some areas to start digitizing or applying automation might include:

● Insurance verification and benefits investigations
● Script approvals
● Patient enrollment into clinical trials or programs
● Prior authorizations
● Therapy program adherence

The point is, pharma teams can start small and expand over time. Digital transformation doesn’t have to happen overnight –– and in fact, it’s more effective when it’s treated as an evolution versus a one-time event. The key, however, is to align with a configurable, cloud-based solution, as these offer the most flexibility and scalability to grow with your organization over time.