Pharma & Patient Summit USA Virtual

Dec 1, 2020 - Dec 4, 2020, Digital Conference, Networking & Exhibition

The number one event in North America where patient-centric leaders formulate strategy

Digital companions: helping improve patient treatment journeys

The virtual health explosion isn't going away. This just at the start of an era of digital enhancement



Early analysis of the unprecedented shift from traditional face-to-face healthcare towards virtual digital care during the pandemic show that patients have embraced this new care paradigm and expect it to endure beyond 2020.
 
Patient surveys carried out globally by therapeutics company, Medisafe, during March and April of this year revealed that more than 40% of patients turned to digital health for the first time during lockdown. According to data from Accenture, nine out of ten patients reported that the quality of their virtual care was as good or better than before.
 
Digital tools, such as video conferencing, online chats and apps, not only helped solve problems caused by lockdown restrictions, but also addressed problems, such as capacity issues and difficulties accessing over-burdened HCPs, that existed before the pandemic.
 
Whitney Baldwin, Lead, Patient Experience Center of Excellence at Accenture thinks the shift, which he says has been long overdue, demonstrates that patients are not only willing to adapt, but keen to do so if it leads to better care, outcomes and convenience. 
 
There is, therefore, a huge opportunity for pharma but only if it realizes that in a changed world, old approaches will no longer work. “Pharma tends to look at things in isolation and often look at patients in the context of their treatment journey,” says Baldwin. 
 
“But patients don’t live in that world and they look at their treatments in the context of their life. All the other digitally enabled services, whether that be Uber or Airbnb or whatever, influence their expectations and they look at healthcare and ask why is it so hard?
 
A permanent shift
“The reality is that the old model sustained itself but this forced shift has changed things and I think it’s going to be permanent. Doctors will do things differently and patients will do things differently from now on. And so the entire eco-system has to figure that out and pharma must be part of it.”
 
Pharma must now build on the momentum and invest talent, time and money in expanding and enhancing tools and platforms it uses to communicate with and provide care for patients, he says.
 
New ways must be found to walk alongside patients throughout their treatment journeys, equip them with tailored education and provide personalised support whenever and wherever they are. Learning from patient input and feedback to keep enhancing the patient experience is also vital, says Baldwin. 
 
This is where digital companions can play a role, says Omri Shor, founder and CEO of Medisafe, a therapeutics company that creates digital companions to help patients manage their medications effectively.
 
For the foreseeable future, healthcare will have to rely on digital technology to fill the gaps where previously there had been a more human element, says Shor. “One of the biggest concerns among patients during lockdown was how they were going to contact their healthcare professional in order to access their medicines. 
 
“Digital companions have the power to enable continuous connectivity with the patient to not only ensure they are taking their medication correctly, but to provide them with the reassurance and clarity they are seeking. The benefits are enormous, not only to the patient, but to the pharmaceutical company too.” 
 
He gives a practical example: “One example would be that you have a biologic drug that you have to store in the fridge. You have to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes prior to taking it but if you don't take it out to get it to room temperature for those 30 minutes, the drug will be ineffective. 
 
“And if you wait few hours, the drug will go bad. So at that point, you're in a tough situation, not only because you're now supposed to inject a drug that won’t work, but at the same time, it's $3,000 a dose that you just left outside the fridge. So that really calls for an integrated solution that can help patients manage through all of this mess.”
 
Understanding the patient journey
Up until now, pharma companies have developed apps that have focused solely on one therapeutic area or a particular drug. This proved unwieldy for patients with co-morbidities or those prescribed multiple drugs and take-up has been poor.
 
Enabling patients to use such apps regardless of what drug they are on will therefore be important, connecting data and enabling a true understanding of the individual journey. This can then be turned into insights that can lead to different actions for those patients, says Shor.
 
“We partner with pharma to create a therapeutic area of focus to support the patient with their whole medication regime throughout their entire journey.”
 
Desiree Priestley, Director, Patient Support Strategy & Insights, at Otsuka, recognises that pharma must rise to the challenge and respond to evolving patient demand for convenience in new ways.
 
“The pandemic has solidified the consumerism of healthcare. Patients want to interact with healthcare in the same way they interact with Netflix or Amazon so we have to figure out how to get into their lives just a little bit easier. Digital fills a really nice niche there and it‘s more of an on demand option.”
 
But she says pharma cannot do it alone.
 
“Collaboration is vital to bring value to patients and ultimately improve outcomes,” she says. “We have to figure out how to partner together better because I don’t think we can solve this on our own,” she says.
 
“And as well as bringing value to patients, how do we bring value to payers, providers and ultimately, speaking as a for-profit organisation, for pharma? I think digital fills a lot of the gaps because it increases communication among that sort of ecosystem, but it’s complicated.”
 
Pharma as co-creator
Haider Alleg, Global Head of Digital Excellence at Ferring Pharmaceuticals predicts some sort of co-creator arrangement going forward. “We see digital companions as a huge part of the ecosystem but the reality for us is do we want patients to come to us for a pharma-developed digital companion or do we just want a seat at the table to understand the value we can bring to the system?”
 
He says that since Covid-19, the company has been approached by both patient and HCP associations asking for help in improving the value being offered to patients. “It is a very interesting model to become a co-creator and be in the second row of the car and not necessarily driving it.”
 
While it may not be driving the process, pharma nonetheless has much to offer, adds Alleg. “We have market expansion capability, data privacy, an army of lawyers. In the bigger scheme of things, I predict this is what is coming.”
 
One important set of stakeholders is the regulators, says Alleg, whose input will be important in establishing consistent rules around the
development of such technologies to enable everyone to ‘work as a happy family around the table’, as currently, he says, there is little clarity.
However, Baldwin suggests that pharmaceutical companies themselves should shape the rules rather than waiting for regulators to act first.
 
“Sometimes we do a little bit of shadow-boxing with the regulators by assuming they won’t let us do certain things,” he says. “There are plenty of examples in prior history of companies going to the regulators, showing them the outcomes, and making them feel they could be part of the process.”
 
The human experience
Priestley agrees and suggests it is a challenge that should be taken back to pharmaceutical companies. “The appetite for pilots is certainly greater than it was before COVID and I think going and seeking those recommendations from regulators is incredibly helpful. Maybe we just have to get the courage to do it instead of always thinking that the way we’ve always done it is the way it’s going to be. I think we do have to challenge it because if it’s the best thing for patients then everybody would theoretically come together and want to do that.”
 
So, what makes an effective digital companion and would the success metrics have to change?
 
According to Priestley, it all boils down to adoption numbers and patient satisfaction. “It’s worth going to the patient and asking them what they want and what they need. Something I continually hear, especially on the rare diseases side, is that they want transparency to the data that is associated with them. 
 
“And they want to be able to learn how to interpret it over time, so there’s definitely a health literacy component too. Being able to share their data with their healthcare professional is also very important.”
 
Ultimately it is the experience of the patient of using such tools that will decide their success or otherwise, says Shor. “We want to see connectivity and that, in the end, leads to good medicine adherence. It starts and ends with the human experience. If the companion can help a therapy fit into a patient’s life in a different way and improve their experience, they are going to use it.”
 

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Pharma & Patient Summit USA Virtual

Dec 1, 2020 - Dec 4, 2020, Digital Conference, Networking & Exhibition

The number one event in North America where patient-centric leaders formulate strategy