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POINT OF CARE: A WHOLE NEW WORLD

Telemedicine appointment

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely upended the ways in which healthcare professionals (HCPs) interact with patients. The concept of point of care – the moments when healthcare professionals (HCPs) – has transformed forever. The momentum is in place for ongoing, increased, and ingrained use of telemedicine by patients and their providers.

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

“The concept of patients scheduling an appointment, taking two to three hours off from work to drive to their doctor’s office, sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes, wait again in the exam room for another 15-30 minutes, and then finally see their physician has fast become outdated,” said Paul Ivans, Founder and CEO of Evolution Road. “I don’t think that people going forward will approach seeing their doctors the same way as they have in the past. Pre-pandemic, option ‘A’ for seeing a doctor was via an office visit. Moving forward, option ‘A’ might be a remote visit.”

Practices’ offices closed, appointments drastically decreased, elective surgeries were postponed, and patients even avoided going to the hospital for emergency events. HCPs, worried about both their patients and their practices, quickly pivoted to telemedicine as rules relaxed and payers broadened reimbursement.

WHAT OTHERS SAY

But 59% of physicians recently surveyed reported being satisfied with telemedicine as a proxy for live appointments, clearly indicating early acceptance of the channel despite the unplanned changes. They also felt that their patients were satisfied with the experience.

Pharmaceutical executives concurred, predicting an overall positive impact of telemedicine on the industry, with 45% expecting the impact to be “positive overall,” compared with 22% “no impact” and 16% “negative impact.”

“The entire patient journey is evolving before our eyes,” said Serina Fischer, VP, Neurodevelopment Franchise, Takeda. “We must actively understand that evolution and help shape it in new and innovative ways.”

The increase in telemedicine will lead to benefits for both HCPs and patients, including:

  • Reclaimed time in HCPs schedules
  • Increased reliance by physicians on nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses, and other non-physician HCPs
  • More choice for patients
  • The need for a better organized patient flow
  • Integrated prescription order flow

But challenges remain, including:

  • Gaps in coverage and reimbursement of telemedicine
  • Regulation and licensing uncertainty
  • Higher no-show rates in telehealth than in person
  • Workflow and adoption struggles
  • Technical difficulties

WHAT CAN PHARMA DO?

Pharma must work differently as we enter this new ecosystem of connected health. Opportunities and needs include:

  • Driving awareness of the availability of telemedicine by providing patients and HCPs with tools to connect. This includes re-evaluating existing doctor locators and discussion guides to ensure telemedicine options are included.
  • Supporting telemedicine by ensuring HCPs have easy access to shareable patient education, financial assistance, and extended support materials they can share during and after appointments.
  • Revising patient journeys to map out new integration points with telemedicine where patient assistance is most needed.
  • Working to ameliorate the decrease in new patient starts that has occurred across many therapeutic areas, which demonstrates that while HCPs were able to continue relationships with diagnosed patients, they have not yet adapted to using telehealth for diagnosing new patients or on-boarding treatment for naive patients.
  • Investigating partnerships with at-home diagnostics companies for therapeutic categories in which these devices can be useful for patients and HCPs, both for diagnostic purposes as well as for ongoing monitoring.
  • Intouch Group and DHC Group have created the most comprehensive, data-driven, forward-looking paper on the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on U.S pharmaceutical commercial operations. Interviews with 30 senior-level stakeholders were conducted; surveys were fielded to more than 50 pharmaceutical executives, 112 physicians, and 157 patient influencers; and thought leaders provided extensive input. Click here to access the full whitepaper.