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Taking advantage of new advances in tech-driven engagement to boost patient support and adherence
Technology now plays a more prominent role in healthcare than ever before thanks to the increased digitization of traditional healthcare communication pathways. From advancements within the electronic health record (EHR), to e-prescribing, and mobile platforms for patient engagement, technology is facilitating access to relevant and timely information for clinicians and their patients and helping everyone connect in new ways. This increase in connectivity extends the reach of support from the healthcare provider’s (HCP) office directly to the hands of the consumer when people become patients, effectively helping everyone drive their own health journey. When people become patients with a chronic condition, innovative applications of technology can make the difference in persistence—and success—on treatment.
Technology’s role in simplifying and streamlining therapy initiation and adherence
Adherence begins at the point of prescribing. The moment someone is prescribed a new medication or therapy is the moment adherence begins or goes off-track. In large part, physicians view adherence as the patient’s responsibility—as they should—however, their trusted voice can have a big impact on whether patients will take advantage of available adherence support programs, so their partnership is key. And often, they don’t know what support is available to patients.
Patients and physicians can get lost in the number of steps it takes to prescribe, then onboard to a therapy, and utilizing adherence support becomes an afterthought, whereas effective patient engagement to aid persistence should begin the moment a therapy is prescribed. It is at this point that technology plays a key role in supporting a patient’s ability to stay on a long course of therapy. Today, manufacturers can leverage technology in three key ways to implement a ‘digital-first’ approach to patient support:
Successful patient support begins with physician awareness. Embedding entry pathways to patient support right within the clinical workflow of a physician—via the EHR—helps raise awareness with the physician about what support is available. Giving them clear actionable information, in turn, increases the chances that they will introduce programs to patients. And this increases the chances that support will be utilized by a patient—having been introduced by a trusted source, at the right time in their treatment journey.
It also sets the stage for a holistic treatment experience for the patient. An experience that begins the moment their medication is prescribed, where they can access and activate both financial assistance, as well as adherence support, and even hub services if applicable. Creating this holy grail of a single-entry point for all patient support is becoming more and more attainable through advancements in connected technology.
Once patients have been onboarded, ensuring they have ongoing support throughout the course of therapy is key, and it’s important to provide that support in ways that are relevant and personalized to each patient. Physicians faced many challenges in delivering patient support materials during the initial stages of COVID, those challenges marked an inflection point for how patient support is delivered. Now extending beyond pamphlets and print outs, to digitized, personalized, and more accessible patient support information that is easily accessible beyond the point-of-care. Digital support programs that fit into people’s daily lives—such as SMS/MMS programs—are more efficient and effectively deliver critical adherence support to patients. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine,1 medication non-adherence causes an estimated 125,000 deaths and can cost the healthcare industry as much as $290 billion annually.
Technology can help manufacturers create highly customizable engagement programs that help support adherence by providing access to educational resources, dosing reminders, nursing services, motivational messages, and other resources that patients can access directly on their mobile phones. Mobile programs provide critical resources and guidance to patients during their care journey. Mobile programs are accessible and also provide valuable information about the patient's therapy, diagnosis, and potential side effects delivered right to their hands via the device they use most often during the day.
Personalizing patient engagement and support programs
Every patient has a personal disease experience, leading to different needs and preferences for support. Programs don’t have to be complicated to meet the needs of every person. Smart applications of technology mean that they can be self-driven by the patient to fit their own needs, as long as the support pathways are presented at the appropriate times.
One primary function of patient support programs is to help patients manage side effects so that they can stay on therapy longer. In a 2020 case study in an oncology indication, a high percentage of breast cancer patients were discontinuing the use of the medication due to early negative side effects of treatment. The patients were not aware of the actions they could take to mitigate those side effects, which were often resolved shortly after. By providing patients with access to nurses via text, as well as targeted and timely messaging when they needed it most, patients were given the necessary information for side effect management, as well as motivational and inspirational messaging to help empower them during their therapy. The results showed that 85% of the program participants found the program helpful in starting their medication and 34% of participants engaged with an oncology nurse resource as advertised by the text program.
Digital solutions across the care continuum
Life science brands are using digital solutions to augment touchpoints and implement more personalized patient engagement support programs that fit into a patient’s lifestyle while optimizing the full care continuum. There is value and importance in empowering patients while they start and continue their therapies. Barriers such as cost and poor communication around patient safety, plus side effect concerns prevent patients from starting their therapies and remaining adherent.
Digital programs help overcome these barriers by connecting the physician and patient throughout the patient support program. One example is a text support program that follows a patient through the point-of-care, point-of-prescription and throughout the adherence journey.
Digital programs allow patients to drive their adherence programs and provide valuable feedback about their experience on the therapy which is then shared back to their HCP. Providers receive feedback from patient surveys and self-reported biometric data at key points which can help inform patient care and support adherence. For example, patients are prescribed the therapy and join the interactive text support program where they can activate their co-pay savings card and start receiving timely messages including medication reminders, disease education, side effect management, and patient empowerment through motivational and inspirational quotes. Digital solutions keep the patient and their care team connected, helping drive greater adherence to therapy.
Personalization is key for pharma patient engagement programs. When it comes to patient support, “one size fits all” programs are not effective. Pharmaceutical manufacturers should look for patient engagement partners and solutions that allow for customization for different patients’ lifestyles and that reach the patient throughout the care continuum.
About the Author
Sara Goldman is VP Patient Engagement at OptimizeRx.