Life sciences companies have an essential role in partnering with providers to deliver targeted communications about medication efficacy and adherence – not only where COVID-19 is well-established, but alsoin areas of emerging risk.
As the global COVID-19 pandemic has continued to develop, it has become apparent that people at the highest risk for complications are those who were already experiencing chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and heart disease.
For example, a recent report1 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 90% of adults hospitalized with the novel coronavirus disease had at least one underlying condition. The most prevalent2 underlying conditions were hypertension (50%), obesity (48%), chronic lung disease (35%), diabetes (28%), and cardiovascular disease (28%).
As a result of this increased risk of severe impact from COVID-19, it is more urgent than ever that patients with these chronic conditions adhere to their prescription medication advice and schedules. Essentially, the healthier these patients are and the more their chronic conditions are well-managed, the greater their odds of fighting off complications that result from the virus, should they acquire it.
Life sciences companies have an essential role to play in partnering with providers to deliver targeted communications about medication efficacy and adherence – not only in areas where COVID-19 is well-established, but just as importantly, in areas of emerging risk. These areas of emerging risk can be pinpointed by identifying counties where there is currently a low prevalence of COVID-19 cases, but that also have a high percentage of residents who are vulnerable to the virus due to underlying chronic conditions.
To this end, life science organizations can leverage analytics driven insights such as maps that illustrate on a county-by-county basis3 the populations most vulnerable to experiencing poor health outcomes related to COVID-19. Armed with this information, life sciences commercial effectiveness teams can collaborate with healthcare providers to help them understand which patients to target for extra education on medication adherence, as well as how life sciences companies can assist with cost-reduction strategies. These maps are based on two major factors.
The first factor in the analysis involves publicly available data from the CDC and other sources about geographic locations where the virus is already present. Of course, this data changes day-by-day, if not hour-by-hour, so it forms a snapshot in time.
Second, we have leveraged our proprietary Commercial Internal Benchmark database of the U.S. population that tracks risk factors based on pre-existing conditions. Informed by our clinical analytics and actuarial experience, the analysis identifies the effect that these factors may have in contributing to the spread of the pandemic.
The result of this analysis is a set of heat maps4 that highlight the counties across the nation that are at high-risk of developing into COVID-19 hot spots as result of a higher prevalence of underlying chronic conditions. These maps show the relative presence of five of the most high-risk chronic conditions – diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease and immunosuppressive conditions – that contribute to worse health outcomes associated with COVID-19.
As a result of this geographic analysis, life sciences teams can target which providers to contact with the aim of helping them understand which patient populations to target to help mitigate COVID-19 risk prior to the occurrence of a local outbreak. By identifying these risks on a county-by-county level, commercial effectiveness team can partner with providers to focus resources where they are likely to have the most beneficial effect.
To cite one example, commercial effectiveness teams can use this geographic analysis to determine the locations of which providers to target with information they can share with their patients about medication-affordability programs, helping providers work with their patients to overcome one of the most significant barriers to medication adherence. Further, these heat maps can direct life sciences teams to areas of patients that could benefit from educational programs that inform them about the importance of following medication instructions – both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similarly, life sciences’ marketing team can leverage heat map information to gain insights about locations where providers may benefit from increased support of medication adherence information through direct-to-consumer advertising. By delivering general and COVID-19-specific educational messaging, life sciences companies can reach a wider population, which may be particularly helpful for underserved areas that lack sufficient numbers of providers.
Once the pandemic has subsided, life sciences companies can perform similar analyses to demonstrate the effectiveness of their own programs in helping reduce the impact of COVID-19 in patients with various chronic conditions, as compared with providers, patients and geographic areas that were not targeted with these programs. These analyses hold strong potential to serve as a powerful testament that illustrate why providers should collaborate with them in the future.
In the meantime, life sciences companies can perform a valuable service to the providers they work with by helping them identify the right populations to target for medication adherence and education outreach, which will pay dividends in the form of improved population health today and beyond.
John Pagliuca is Vice President, Global Life Sciences, and Prasad Dindigal is Vice President, Healthcare & Life Sciences, both at EXL.