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Hubs and other patient services need to stress the personal
Patient services hubs are more and more common. Although the recent growth in patient services hubs is due to the growth in specialty products, there is room for growth across every therapeutic area. For example, I worked at Merck-Medco in the mid-1990's developing and implementing disease management programs to help manage high cholesterol. Medco also had active programs in congestive heart failure, diabetes and smoking cessation. The goals of these programs were much like the hubs of today—appropriately increase drug access, improve adherence rates and improve healthful behaviors. These programs utilized all the services hubs have today—healthcare staff, algorithms to identify and escalate patients when needed, and a call center.
However, we went further than the typical hub of today—we interacted with patients routinely with personalized efforts to support the needs of the patient. This last piece is what is missing in the typical hub today. This is where I see a missed opportunity. Access—this is the main goal of today's hubs. Recently, this journal provided a comprehensive review of hub evolution, which highlighted four key trends:
There is very little evidence of industry efforts to go after the opportunity to create two-way communications with patients or towards behavior changing initiatives, although there is a lot of discussion about doing exactly this.
After having worked with hubs, I see this focus on only access as a missed opportunity to build strong relationships with patients and learn more about their lives. If these "beyond the pill" services were implemented, it would mean opportunity to solve other looming issues in pharma, such as:
The hub concept is a growing trend; another recent article, in the Harvard Business Review, discussed the process by which one large pharmaceutical company did two significant things:
The goal of the article is to describe a process to help a company identify opportunities and get internal buy-in for the opportunities. It is interesting that, as the leadership went through the exercises, they realized they need to refocus the business on enhanced patient services—services beyond access to drugs.
Access has been low-hanging fruit but it is no longer enough. We need to take this to the next level and put in place services that can not only support the traditional acquisition lever but can also support retention, an aspiration in pharma.
Dyan Bryson, the owner of Inspired Health Strategies, LLC (www.inspiredhealthstrategies.com), is passionate about building comprehensive patient services hubs and helping companies becoming more patient-centered. Dyan utilizes her 20+ years of experience on both the client and supplier sides of the industry to help her clients understand and exceed the needs of their customers.