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How Health Analytics Can Improve the Patient Experience


Brad Sitler looks at the challenge for pharma of engaging patients and helping physicians provide them with the right information at the right time.

Brad Sitler looks at the challenge for pharma of engaging patients and helping physicians provide them with the right information at the right time.

To remain competitive in today’s marketplace, the role of pharmaceutical sales and marketing is shifting beyond selling a bottle of pills to building relationships with patients in the hope of helping them find the best treatment options and insuring adherence to their therapies. Not only can this positively impact a manufacturer’s bottom line, but it can also result in improved patient health and ultimately lower health care costs.

The challenge for pharma companies lies in building substantive and direct relationships with patients without the benefit of being present at the point of care delivery. First, the cost of identifying and engaging patients is often prohibitive. Further, there are the barriers of regulations and legal issues that impact a brand’s interaction with patients.

So how does a pharma manufacturer identify and engage patients and develop programs that help physicians and other care providers deliver the right information, at the right time, through the right channels to these patients? This can be accomplished by partnering with providers and health plans so all stakeholders are working together to improve the odds that patients are more actively engaged and adhering to their treatments plans.

Through these collaborations, pharma can benefit from the availability of blinded patient data (they are able to see the impact of program interactions, but not patient names) from providers. And physicians can benefit from the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by pharma on market research to better understand the attitudes, perceptions, needs, and behaviors of patients.

While all of this data is beneficial, it is often a daunting task to manage and make the most of all of this information to ensure patients are informed, supported, and motivated to manage their disease.

For pharma, the goal is acquiring patients who will truly benefit from the program and ensure that the interactions are delivered at the pivotal decision point for patients. For providers, there are multiple brands and now generic drugs from which to select in most of the large chronic disease categories. And for almost every branded drug there is some patient support program. Given the number of branded patient support programs in each chronic disease category and the number of chronic disease categories, it becomes prohibitive for a physician to maintain awareness and understanding of all the various programs given that they are only able to spend 15 minutes with each patient on average.

In order to effectively influence patient behavior with limited resources, it is imperative to identify which patients would benefit most from additional support (interventions) in managing their disease and direct resources accordingly. Collecting, managing, and acting on this information may seem like an overwhelming proposition. However, pharma, providers and plans are increasingly turning to the use of health analytics.

By using health analytics these stakeholders can work together to ensure they identify patients at risk, implement interventions, and deliver improved outcomes at a lower total cost-of-care. Current health care reimbursement model rewards volume. More tests, medical procedures, office visits, and treatments lead to more reimbursement. However, in the post-reform arena, reimbursement will increasingly reward the highest quality care and best patient outcomes at the lowest reasonable cost. This requires that focus is brought to tools that can help reduce the waste associated with inappropriate variation while identifying how to most effectively engage the individual patient in their own care.

SAS’s research tank Center for Health Analytics and Insights explores how to bring together pharma, providers and plans to form collaborative partnerships and develop solutions that will identify ways to engage all health care consumers more effectively in their own care based on their individual circumstances, medical needs and personal motivations. These data driven approaches will give payers and providers more sophisticated ways of directing the right intervention at the right time to the right patient.

There is evidence that if all parties focus on the understanding and addressing individual needs of the patient, then improved outcomes and lower costs will follow and everyone is positioned to succeed. However, it does require an analytic driven approach to sales and marketing, contracting, patient support offerings to enable collaborative partnerships with all the stakeholders in delivering care to the individual.

The benefits to all parties are there. The challenge is realizing them.

About the AuthorBrad Sitler is Principal Industry Consultant, SAS Center for Health Analytics and Insight.

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