Partnership Is Key To Better Patient Programs

Digital patient support programs hold great promise to boost health outcomes, but firms will only succeed if they find the right partners



Online shoppers do not struggle when using Amazon or eBay. Over the last 20 years, ecommerce providers have coalesced around a common set of tools to help shoppers find what they want.

As the healthcare sector focuses on developing digitized patient support programs, it needs to understand how a similar sense of usability will emerge.

At a recent webinar, organized by eyeforpharma and S3 Connected Health, we polled 234 participants to understand how they see patient support programs (PSPs) developing.

It is clear the stakes are high; 40% said they were 'a significant way to make medicine more holistic', while 38% said PSPs would be 'the primary or essential way to support patients' in the future.

The senior pharma execs participating in the webinar also saw the next generation of PSPs as part of a new business model that generates mutual value for patients, healthcare providers and those footing the medical bills.

This is a far cry from where we find ourselves today, where nurses typically provide PSPs focused on a medicine – the logistical support for getting it, and practical support for taking it. These current PSPs are expensive, geographically limited and offer the same services to all patients. If they are digital, they are often poorly connected and fail to adapt to changing patient data.

The evolution of support
In the near future, we will see PSPs connected to devices and sensors that measure key indicators of a health condition, such as blood glucose or stress levels. Using historical data from a cohort or individual patient they will be able to predict future therapy needs. Secured in the cloud, they will be accessible by doctors, nurses, care providers and patients through an interface tailored to their needs and knowledge, available on smartphones, tablets and PCs. In this way, PSPs will support value-based care focused on overall health outcomes, rather than simply augmenting a specific drug or therapy.

Medtronic provides an example of how PSPs will exploit technology through its collaboration with IBM. The pilot study uses monitors to offer continuous feedback on a patient’s glucose level to help predict future therapy needs and avert crises. The system also monitors health factors such as food, sleep and stress.

Solutions like this show how monitoring, data analytics and behavioral science can combine to coach individuals to make food and lifestyle decisions that complement therapy and lead to better outcomes.

Pharma will see more integration with such technologies, especially in behavioral science and psychological understanding – 46% of webinar respondents said they wanted to integrate these tools and products with PSPs and 42% wanted to integrate connected devices and sensors.

Yet, many of today’s PSPs are focused on specific brands or disease areas, with little effort to make systems more inclusive. With an increasingly co-morbid patient population, there is an increasing need for support across multiple conditions and associated therapies. Plus, the challenges patients face go far beyond a specific condition or therapy, extending throughout their everyday lives.

As Doug Stover, VP, Global Patient Experience, Neurology, at UCB put it: “We currently think about the patient. The challenge is how do we think like the patient.”

A civil partnership?
Pharma firms that do this through partnership will perform better than those that plough on alone. Third parties have developed expertise in areas such as patient data, digital services and behavioral science.

A cultural shift is required to learn how to interact with those organizations developing these technologies, says Stover. “We need to learn how to reset our organizations with respect to partnership.”

For Sander Ruitenberg, Worldwide Head Digital Solutions, Immunology, at Novartis, such organizations have created a great incubation space to develop innovations, something pharma might find difficult or be unable to recreate.

Encouragingly, 24% of firms are investing in the next-generation of PSPs, according to the webinar survey. However, another one-third were only making 'sporadic' investments, and one-fifth were only at the planning stage of such investment. One in ten respondents said their company was not investing in any form of PSP.

Today’s small-scale, nurse-led, old-tech PSPs lack scalability; through digital products and services, and behavioral science, pharma firms can create PSPs that help patients make changes in their everyday lives, irrespective of drug or therapy (as easily as online shoppers hop from one ecommerce site to another).

Only then will PSPs play their part in transforming the healthcare industry to benefit patients, pharma firms, care providers and funding organizations alike.

Watch the eyeforpharma webinar here.

Jim O’Donoghue is President, S3 Connected Health

Jim will be chairing Day 1 of the eyeforpharma Patient Summit Europe in London on 16-17 October. S3 Connected Health will also be presenting on the topic of ‘If everyone is different, why do we treat all patients the same: Design for patients as people and the real world challenges they face’ at eyeforpharma’s Patient Summit USA in Philadelphia on 23-24 October.


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Patient Summit Europe 2018

Oct 16, 2018 - Oct 17, 2018, London

Prove IT: The Business Case For Adding Patient Value

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