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PATIENT SUPPORT PROGRAMS: FAILING OUR PATIENTS IS NOT AN OPTION

Woman being pushed in wheelchair

Our patients need help. This year, diagnoses and treatments for every kind of condition have been delayed, patients have found it harder than ever to access and pay for care, and they’re facing undreamed-of challenges in the rest of their life at the same time. They need assistance, and so far, they’re not overly satisfied with what the biopharmaceutical industry has provided. When asked in our recent survey with DHC Group and WEGO Health what grade they would give pharmaceutical companies in the overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 57% of patient influencers give pharma a C or lower.

The patient support program (PSP) can be reinvented by focusing on three areas:

  • helping ease the financial burden of the patient
  • improving the overall patient experience
  • focusing on mental health

(This post includes data and content abridged from just one of the topics covered in our whitepaper, “The Aftermath: COVID-19 Insights and Recommendations: How the Pandemic Will Forever Change Pharmaceutical Sales & Marketing.”)

EASING THE PATIENT FINANCIAL BURDEN

In our recent survey of over 100 physicians, 76% percent asked for enhanced patient assistance programs and financial support, and 46% asked for better adherence programs.

Moving forward, pharmaceutical companies have the opportunity to more closely partner with payers, as well as to offer more comprehensive copay programs to take the burden off the patient, especially as insurance premiums are likely to continue to rise.

Companies like Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Bristol-Myers Squibb made early moves to provide free or deeply discounted medication to patients who lost healthcare coverage due to COVID-19: actions that served to demonstrate goodwill, set up patient loyalty, and ensure continuity of treatment.

IMPROVING THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE

Beyond financial assistance, there’s no question that PSPs can better serve the patient experience. The pandemic has reminded us that PSPs did not already provide the level of multichannel support or connectivity patients have become accustomed to when interacting with brands like Google, Amazon, or Apple. COVID-19 will be a catalyst for pharma companie to rethink and reinvent the PSP.

A sound digital foundation will enable pharma to stay in step with consumer demands as digital adoption and self-service options, direct transactions, and virtual engagement become the expectation and not the exception,” said Tom Swanson, Head of Industry Strategy and Marketing, Health & Life Sciences, Adobe.

Think single sign-on passwords and face or fingerprint ID for access — patients should be able to manage copays, track adherence, get proactive alerts, plug-in wearables, view medical records and other data, and secure refills. PSPs may also connect patients via telemedicine to their healthcare providers. There may also be opportunities for patients to connect with others like them, with whom they can empathize, through the PSP of the future.

TAKING CARE OF MENTAL HEALTH

The isolation, desperation and hopelessness felt during the pandemic will have a lasting global impact. Experiences ranging from work, concerts, travel, theatres, etc., may never be “back to normal” as we knew them. Understanding the mental impact this has on patients will be key in treating them.

“How can we be of greater service to come together for the good of the patients?” asked Tricia Brown of Merck. Serina Fischer, VP, Neurodevelopment Franchise of Takeda, is also seeking ways to help consumers. “We are concerned for our patients — for their overall health, their mental health, their access to coverage and care,” she said. “How can we step up to be there for them in new and meaningful ways?”

The DHC patient influencer study offered some answers. When asked to rank the greatest concerns among patient communities since the outbreak, mental health was ranked second. Patients feeling depressed or hopeless are far less likely to be adherent and proactive about their treatment. This will need to be addressed by more expansive and engaging PSPs that are about not only patient assistance and copay management, but about connections, too, taking into consideration the overall well-being of the patient. Pill-plus programs that emphasize more complete care will win the admiration, attention and loyalty of patients and HCPs alike.

For further details, including additional research findings, expert opinions, and practical recommendations, download our recent whitepaper, “The Aftermath: COVID-19 Insights and Recommendations: How the Pandemic Will Forever Change Pharmaceutical Sales & Marketing.