While the full impact of COVID-19 on our industry continues to unfold, several trends have begun to emerge. Clear shifts in consumer behavior, communication channels, and healthcare access have impacted our space and could forever change the way our companies work — for the better.
Changes already under way span across specialties and geographies. Providers report dramatically reduced numbers of patients seen for non-COVID-19 related concerns. More than 80 percent report declines in patient volumes, most of them calling the reductions “significant.” Many report that patients receiving ongoing therapies are seeking care nearer their homes or via telemedicine. The trend of remote practice is expected to continue after the coronavirus crisis has passed.1
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve all experienced disappointment with our healthcare system at times. From script to fill, we’ve been impacted by the way different players work in disjointed ways, the way technology systems don’t talk to each other, and the cumbersome processes for patients and healthcare providers.
Change often takes a sudden, brave — and in this case, involuntary — leap into the future. Between strict industry regulations and historical, fully ingrained systems and procedures, it’s been hard to move the needle. The novel coronavirus pandemic has introduced an unexpected external force that can’t be ignored — changes are coming.
Changes on the Care Horizon
Whether it’s the immediate rise of telemedicine or the sudden need to respond to inaccessible doctors, here are seven trends we see emerging from our shared, modified reality.
1 Bring Healthcare to Patients
Instead of bringing people to healthcare, the need for social distancing has magnified an existing trend of bringing healthcare to people. Research conducted prior to COVID-19 already indicated a patient preference for telemedicine when connecting with their established providers.2 When patients fear the increased likelihood of contact with a coronavirus carrier in a clinic waiting room, they are even more likely to want to receive treatment safely in their own homes.
Historic barriers to adoption, including uneven reimbursement, regulatory limitations, and physician reluctance to adopt new technology, have been swept away in the pandemic.3
In this new remote care delivery situation, there’s an opportunity for biopharma to tap into this trend and add tighter end-to-end value to the patient relationship and experience with treatment. The link from a DTC advertisement, to a video chat with their physician, to Rx via mail order pharmacy, wouldn’t require a patient to ever leave home.
2 Social Services in Healthcare
Medical care accounts for only 10% of health outcomes. Food, housing, legal assistance, etc. are primary drivers. All other contributions to health outcomes can be attributed to genetics, environment, social circumstances, and behaviors.4
Biopharma has the opportunity to maximize value-based Medicare and Medicaid payment structures by offering patient support that effectively connects patients with healthcare providers and local social and community services. By surrounding and connecting patients with nearby resources, we focus care on the whole patient, versus treating narrowly on one condition specifically.5
In other words, communities of care extend beyond doctors’ offices to include and incorporate all those who participate in a patient’s well-being. It’s about taking care of people, not just patients.
3 Collaborative Patient Care
Patient engagement provides reassurance and a plan for those who don’t know how or when to adjust their treatment for the pandemic, especially those with chronic or difficult conditions. Adherence to medications, usually the greatest patient concern, can be problematic. Health outcomes improve when all HCPs, including primary care, specialists, pharmacists, and patients collaborate.
In a recent survey we conducted, one patient with a rare illness reported, "I've started taking halves ... I can't risk side effects and having to go in to see my doctor right now." If that's because the patient fears contact with coronavirus carriers at the doctor's office, knowing how to avoid or mitigate potential side effects can simply be a matter of proactively reaching out to the patient by telephone or email. Collaboration doesn’t have to be complicated.
To deliver on the full potential of expensive and complex treatments, collaborative care provides the opportunity for biopharma to deliver the right treatments and care pathways to the right patients, ensure adherence, provide complementary care, and collect data to prove and improve outcomes.
4 HCP Engagement
Post-COVID, pharma sales rep access to HCP offices will rebound somewhat, but the overall downward trajectory will continue. Declining numbers of accessible physicians and declining duration of sales visits have challenged us for years to find new ways to engage with physicians.
Since e-detailing is not nearly as effective as in-person, there’s an opportunity for biopharma to try new strategies now. An increased emphasis on DTC/DTP, the use of data, tools, and patient experience and outcomes will become key differentiation drivers with HCPs.
To counter the loss of direct access to HCPs, leading pharma companies will drive omnichannel engagement with HCPs that is centered around optimizing patient care.
According to McKinsey’s research,1
“Two-thirds [of surveyed physicians] say that pharma should “stay out of the hospital/clinic until the pandemic is better controlled.” These are strong signals that pharma leaders will need to consider carefully how best to “reenter” in the right way and time.”
The future of healthcare requires fast, seamless, flexible, real-time data integrations. The journey of a prescription, from a script in the doctor’s office to a patient taking their first dose at home, includes many handoffs through many separate technology systems. Nurses and patient navigators are challenged to find an order’s status, and extra calls are often required to get accurate information.
While the opportunity for end-to-end integration has always been present since the introduction of electronic health records (EHRs), the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the benefits for biopharma to integrate across the entire value chain, e.g., hubs, SPs, distributors, etc. Unlike historical reports and records, real-time data integrated across multiple sources makes accurate information available promptly, driving the right actions to maximize outcomes for patients and HCPs alike.
More than facilitating financial access to medication, patient initiation and engagement begin with helping patients through the challenges that come up between the moment a prescription is written and when they take their first dose.
Engagement begins with personal patient communication. In fact, our survey shows patient-provider communications to be two of the top three beneficial resources for those patients. But to be truly personalized, those communications should be delivered in the manner or medium the individual prefers.
Personalization enables providers to deliver coherent experiences across channels: digital, contact centers, field, click-to-chat, SMS, email, video, web, mobile, fax. Communications not specific to one’s needs and not integrated across channels are easy to ignore, so for communications to be effective and produce action, personalization is essential.
Fortunately, age-based market segmentation can guide message channel selection. While some may see personalization as adding to their administrative burden, they might instead consider the opportunity for biopharma to use data-driven rules (e.g., based on Rx data, SP data, patient-reported data, etc.) to deliver the right messages and touchpoints at the right times.
Additionally, there is also potential for remote monitoring and data integrations to drive personalization by better identifying potential patient needs before the patient raises their hand and says “I have a need.”
7 Data Science & Operational Science
Data science is the study and analysis of quantifiable actions and methods. Operations science systematically applies learnings, best practices, and improvements to the transformation of resources for creating and distributing goods and services.
For most industries, data collection is the most expensive part of process improvement. Healthcare, on the other hand, collects data at every step and every turn, making possible in-depth studies of the interaction between demand and production and their variability.
The future for biopharma is about using data to drive beneficial systemic change through analytics. That means biopharma has the opportunity to deliver many forms of work based on programmable, data-driven work instructions to (a) track process completion, (b) enable analytics for continuous process improvement, and (c) continually improve service effectiveness and patient experience.
- COVID-19 and commercial pharma: Navigating an uneven recovery
- Patient Preferences for Direct-To-Consumer Telemedicine Services: A Nationwide Survey
- Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?
- Review of strategies to address social determinants of health and health disparities to improve health outcomes
- Health Care Steps Up To Social Determinants Of Health: Current Context. (22)