How technology will play a big role in advancing pharma approaches in patient support.
Patient hubs are becoming the heart of communication between pharmaceutical companies and patients for select therapeutics. Yet this form of communication is imperfect and requires improvement for the patients who need direct communication with the manufacturer—and in order to truly make this service comprehensive. There are many things that should be considered when planning (and, ultimately, executing) patient hub programs. As you may surmise, utilizing technology will be one significant trend in the coming year—specifically, using technology to best address patient needs.
“Technology paired with deep therapeutic expertise have been the catalyst for evolution in the patient hub space over the course of the last 15 years,” says Kathy Spencer-Pike, senior vice president of commercial services, CoverMyMeds. “A guiding principle I gained during my career in pharma is to deliver the best possible experience to patients and providers. That translates to patients receiving access to their medication as quickly as possible along with necessary training and education to support adherence.”
These technologies help to automate routine parts of patient hub programs, such as prior authorization and benefit investigation/verification, explains Spencer-Pike. This then saves human intervention for meaningful activities, such as exception management, that help meet the unique needs of each patient.
“Connectivity between the entire care team—including providers, pharmacists, caregivers, and patients—is also critical to ensure efficient care coordination throughout the patient journey that helps support improved patient outcomes,” adds Spencer-Pike.
Irene Infanti, subject matter expert, Zensights, a consulting and software solutions company, believes that it’s critical to move patient hubs to an “omnichannel methodology.”
“The industry needs to be creative and remove barriers to help patients gain access via non-traditional channels,” says Infanti. “There are still a lot of phone calls and faxing in this space. Getting to online access with chat and text capability while maintaining patient privacy and healthcare compliance will become more important each year.”
While the patient should always be front and center when planning for and executing patient hub programs, drug manufacturers can also benefit from streamlining digitally via new technologies.
“Pharma leaders building their commercialization strategies—including patient access, affordability, and adherence programs—can leverage technology to automate traditionally manual, repetitive processes,” says Spencer-Pike. “When technology helps do some of the heavy lifting, the patient journey can be simplified through an optimal balance of automation and human intervention. This approach also helps reduce burden and burnout among care teams and helps free them up to focus more on patient care instead of paperwork.”
In addition to standardizing processes through technology, organizations must know and better understand patients’ needs. According to Suzette DiMascio, executive vice president of FFF Enterprises/InCircle Review and advisory board member for Zensights, technology has helped to put the patient at the center. Bil Daniels, director of patient support services, LEO Pharma, adds that manufacturers should take the time to understand the specific needs of their customer base, which can vary by disease state. As a result, this will help them to determine what type of patient support model they should deliver to the marketplace.
Azfar Agrawal, senior manager of patient support services, LEO Pharma, provides the example that some patients may be open to digital engagement, whereas other patients may not be—adding that it’s important to meet their needs in their preferred way.
But technologies shouldn’t be the “north star.” Companies are sometimes led to believe that particular healthcare vendors are the best option for their patient hub program without fully considering patients’ needs.
“Manufacturers spend a lot of time mapping the ideal patient experience and always try to create their program to complement that patient journey,” says DiMascio. “Many times, I think they [companies] get swayed by the vendor that gives the best presentation, and choosing the wrong partner can impact particular patient disease journey that they’re trying to assist.”
The north star should always be the patient. What needs do they have? What needs aren’t currently being met? How can the technologies utilized for these programs meet their needs and standardize processes within the pharma company? New technologies and strategies are bound to emerge this coming year; and hopefully, they change things for the better.
Meg Rivers is Pharm Exec’s managing editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.