Shedding the Secondary Label

Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - April 2022
Volume 17
Issue 2

It's time to include hubs in the patient treatment journey

Early on in my career while working in a pharmacy, I witnessed the dilemma that thousands of patients in the US face daily: the choice between paying for an expensive drug or paying for other life expenses. Despite working in a healthcare field, I was unaware of programs that could support patients struggling to overcome reimbursement, financial, and adherence hurdles.

My interest in helping these patients eventually led me to research options and join the world of patient support services. Today, I lead a team that annually helps more than 200,000 patients on specialty therapy get the support they need in real time.

Yet, I still think back on my time in pharmacy when I, like so many of my colleagues, didn’t know about the options available to patients, mainly because they are considered a secondary service. As a healthcare professional (HCP), it took me 15 years to understand all of the resources that are available to patients to assist them with getting on—and staying on—therapy.

This led to two key questions to focus on:

  • How could we expect a patient who has just been diagnosed with a new disease state to possibly understand services most HCPs are unaware of?
  • How can we better educate HCPs about these programs?

Over the past year, my team has been working to develop solutions that respond to these questions, with one overall theme emerging: when enrollment in patient hub services is a primary step in the patient treatment journey, support services increase in both awareness and usage. This is cemented in research that shows while almost two out of three people (63%) with chronic conditions said they would opt into pharma patient support programs, 80% were unaware of programs that might be available to them.1 With this knowledge on hand, it’s vital that the pharma industry develops products and services for patients that ensure patient hubs are not seen as secondary services.

Build options that patients want

It’s no secret that healthcare paperwork can be painfully time-consuming and slow. For patients with chronic or complex diseases, the paperwork required to access medical care can seem never-ending. This can often lead to missed steps that could mean missed doses of life-saving drugs, especially during the patient hubs’ busy months of insurance re-enrollment.

To combat this, our technology team used healthcare research and user experience expertise to create a patient portal that would offer patients an option to submit paperwork electronically, complete with a patient journey tracker, next steps, and other key information. In the first year, 40% of patients chose this portal over simply uploading paperwork with no other data, or mailing data in. It also shaved weeks off the re-enrollment process and gave patients better insight into the process.

Integrate services for better HCP education

With so many patient support programs, it’s impossible to assume that providers or their staffs will remember all the pharma-sponsored ones, especially when they are focused on the clinical aspects of care. This led us to examine integrating patient support program information directly into providers’ workflows for better education around program availability, while also eliminating the need for extra steps for already-busy physicians to follow. One way to accomplish this is by integrating directly into electronic health records (EHRs). This enables the patient programs to exist within the HCP workflow.

Just these two small changes put patient support programs at the forefront, making them easier to understand and accessible, and ensuring socioeconomic factors are remembered on top of clinical factors (for patients and providers), getting patients on—and keeping them on—the necessary therapies.

About the Author

Josh Marsh is Sr. Director of Operations, Cardinal Health Sonexus Access and Patient Support.


1. “Patient Experience Survey Uncovers Strong Desire for Support Services from Pharma Manufacturers,”, Feb. 25, 2020.

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