KEY TAKEAWAY: Patients are demanding care and solutions that are coordinated, convenient, customized, and accessible, and a number of nontraditional health companies are coming forward to address these emerging expectations, even as many large pharmaceutical companies focused on traditional markets have lagged behind.
Life sciences companies have a window of time to frame their patient engagement strategies for operating in the new, customer-centered, digital ecosystem— or risk the new players keeping them constrained within the traditional pharma model.
Historically, the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture your prescribed tablets and formulas were not trusted go-to sources—for information or for support or counseling—compared to a physician, nurse, or community group, for example. But these companies are increasingly seeking to step in and answer these questions—and to help patients navigate the complexities involved in receiving the original diagnosis, deciding on treatment, securing financial assistance, connecting with other patients and community experts, and supplementing clinical education.
Changes in technology and the health care ecosystem are increasing the patient’s role in decision making and reshaping their expectations from health care companies and is driven by several factors, including patients’ ability to change their own outcomes based on behavior, financial scrutiny due to cost-sharing models that push more costs onto the patient, the industry’s shift toward evaluating out- comes to determine value delivered to the patient, and the availability of technology solutions empowering patients with more information and the ability to play an active role in managing their well-being.
We’re also seeing a broad “consumerization” of health care products, expanding the ecosystem beyond the traditional players of providers, payers, big pharma, and health care data companies to include retail giants such as Nike, Apple Inc., and FitBit, as well as thousands of innovative mobile-application developers. As such, patients need to be thought of and engaged as traditional consumers when it comes to their use of health care products and services.
The explosion of research in the area of patient engagement further speaks to the need for timeliness on the part of pharmaceutical companies implementing and executing engagement strategies, and nonprofit and public sector organizations can play a key role in making this happen. There is no shortage of creative, patient engagement ideas from respected health systems such as Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic.
It makes sense that pharmaceutical companies would look to establish their brand for patient engagement services. Being able to deliver consistent service to patients and health care providers alike is paramount in building trust and loyalty.Conversely, and unsurprisingly, poor execution can drive the optics of a company’s brand in the wrong direction.
With regard to patient engagement, there is emerging support for moving away from a reactive approach, in which coordination between stakeholders, therapy, and care is limited or ad hoc, to a proactive model in which engagement tools and support bolster both patients and health care providers.
The bottom line is that there are any number of ways to structure patient services within an organization; so if the current structure isn’t effectively supporting and executing the patient engagement strategy and therapeutic outcomes, alternatives and precedents should be considered.
No matter where patient services resides, a common platform across the organization and its vendors is becoming increasingly important, and is an effective way to leverage data as a strategic asset. Indeed, ownership of data has shiffted to the forefront of patient engagement strategies. Whether engagement services are delivered in-house or by an external partner, life sciences companies are taking back control of their data by building a common, integrated platform for all of their vendors to use.
Over the last three to five years, we have observed life sciences companies beginning to implement cloud-based platforms on which internal and external users can access the same platform, allowing the company to centrally control data access, ensure data quality, easily generate real-time reports, and quickly distribute system updates to all users.
Once a strategy is in place, companies can engage with patients throughout the product life cycle.
This report is great and pharma organizations should be aligning their organizations to increase patient engagement and think of new ways to reach and interact with patients. This means striving to continually improve engagement through a patient centered approach at a time when a lot of people are going to have a hard time justifying the ROI.
Biogen’s MS site is a great example of a patient engagement strategy, but Biogen should be testing it to ensure it provides patients with answers THEY need. Given the news that Biogen wants to “control costs” it is likely that they will be laying off more people at a time when investment in digital is really needed, especially around patient engagement.
Pharma knows they need patient engagement strategies but getting the budget and actually executing are still distant for a lot of companies.