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The Future of Pharma: Technology's Opportunity to Improve Patient Care


Engaging people and supporting them through all aspects of therapy management needs to be a priority.


Tech innovation is impacting everyone, everywhere — including those in need of specialty medical care. Although there has been robust innovation across the healthcare industry as a whole, patient services and engagement tools, specifically in pharma, are lagging behind. The idea that doctors can simply write a prescription and send patients on the path to healing just isn’t the reality. People, especially those with a chronic condition or comorbidities necessitating multiple medications, require well-rounded, ongoing support to be successful in their medical treatment. Healthcare relationship management and patient engagement platforms can provide that level of support.

The Current State of the Industry

More and more people are being diagnosed with chronic conditions. In fact, research shows that chronic diseases like heart disease will affect an estimated 164 million Americans by 2025. Additionally, the consumption and spend on prescription medication continues to climb, with 2018 data revealing that 5.8 billion prescriptions were dispensed at a total cost of $344 billion. However, only 30 to 50% of those medications were taken as prescribed. On top of this, physicians are stretched increasingly thin and not always able to dedicate the time required to help patients manage their increasingly complex medication regimens.

The treatment journey for a patient who requires specialty care is unique and full of barriers that change and shift over time. These barriers are often interdependent, but fortunately, they are usually addressable. Patients face hurdles when it comes to the initiation, adherence and persistence of medication, including inability to afford the medication, misunderstandings about the benefits of the medication and the manifestation of side effects.

On top of these barriers, there is the added burden of the condition itself, like keeping up with the specifications of how to take and store the medication, as well as close monitoring of symptoms and ongoing trips to the lab for tests. Juggling these added responsibilities, on top of facing the condition and its effects, is a lot to manage.

Pharma companies are optimally positioned to provide support to patients who are prescribed medication for one or more chronic conditions, as they are the experts on both the medication and the population the medicine is targeted for. However, current relationship management technology in the pharma industry supports patients through a one-size-fits-all approach and operates more like data collection services for industry insights, rather than valuable resources for patient support.

Patients can benefit from a tool that combines next-generation, omnichannel technology with the human touch of specialized, on-staff nurses to support them through their medical therapy. By tapping into augmented healthcare technology, pharma manufacturers can address the barriers that inhibit access to and adherence of prescribed therapies and provide solutions to overcome related challenges.

Technology’s Role: The Opportunity for Patient Engagement and Services

We live in an age where technology’s main role is to support innovation and make lives easier. In the healthcare industry, large tech companies are continuously trying to apply tools like AI and e-commerce to make a meaningful difference in the lives of healthcare professionals and ultimately, patients.

We’ve seen this with Amazon’s major moves into the healthcare space through the introduction of its joint venture health system, Haven, its virtual care clinic for employees, Amazon Care, and the continued emphasis on its virtual pharmacy and home delivery initiative, PillPack. This type of innovation should be applied to the patient services and specialty care space.

Rather than relying on relationship management platforms that generalize patient support, the future of medication management and patient services requires tailored technology to address barriers where and how the patient prefers — whether it’s an SMS text message, an email or a phone call. Every patient is different. The hurdles, questions and symptoms vary from patient to patient and over time. Therefore, patient services platforms should be able to adapt to deliver support, responses and reminders in a way that will best inspire action and adherence for each individual.

Following the lead of most modern technology, these tools should certainly be patient-specific, but they should also benefit manufacturers and make it more attainable to have a 360-degree view of all patient interactions and processes, in addition to allowing each role within patient services to access the platform and coordinate touchpoints accordingly. Having a reliable, integrated, configurable, HIPAA-compliant tool makes the level of support patients require a reality based on true insights.

Management of medication, particularly for chronic conditions, is also a unique opportunity for increasingly popular innovations like machine learning. The ability to use machine learning to anticipate and prevent barriers to medication adherence before they arise greatly assists in protecting the patient from veering off their recommended course of treatment and avoiding potential adverse events. Harnessing technology to identify and resolve challenges to support patients is key to the future of relationship management and patient experience platforms.

Technology continues to evolve by the minute, as do the needs of people who require specialty care. If we want to succeed in addressing the rising population of chronic diseases, as well as the increasing responsibility on patients, engaging people and supporting them through all aspects of therapy management needs to be a priority.

Jessica Lens is the COO at Human Care Systems. Jessica joined HCS in 2012 and has designed patient support programs in a wide-range of disease areas and therapy classes. She currently heads the team that designs the company’s innovative treatment experience platform, Resilix. Jessica has a master’s degree in Clinical and Health Psychology from Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Prior to joining HCS, she was a psychologist with the Police Academy of The Netherlands.

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