Pharma manufacturers spend more than $5 billion annually to ensure patients gain access and adhere to costly treatments by offering patient support programs. Already faced with uphill challenges to access complex therapies, any changes to a patient services program have the potential to disrupt the patient experience, and ultimately, brand performance.

In fact, our market research estimates that a poor transition can often lead to service disruptions, not to mention patient and provider frustration. It’s an issue many pharmaceutical manufacturers face, often resulting in the decision to remain with the incumbent vendor despite dissatisfaction or the desire to pursue a partnership that is better aligned with brand goals and objectives.

Regardless of the impetus and rationale for changing partners, there are crucial considerations to ensure a transition maintains prescriber confidence, minimizes the impact to provider workflows, and prevents lapses in therapy. To this end, our team has identified potential roadblocks to avoid, and key learning opportunities which have contributed to successful transitions.

1. Planning Makes Perfect

The first step of any hub transition is to conduct a thorough deep dive into the data structure, transition logistics, dosing/administration cadence, and any relevant state regulations.

Data Migration

Without a doubt, the largest component of a successful patient hub transition is the transfer of data. No two companies will store data the same way, and, when working with different incumbent vendors, it’s important that the new vendor takes the time to understand the relevant data structures and nuances. Understanding the required information and possible values for each field will prevent headaches later in the patient transfer journey.

Once the type of data needed is agreed upon, small sample files over the course of the transition timeline with production data is critical to prepare for the cutover. It’s also important to think through the handling of open prescriptions by determining which entity will provide the next fill, how prescriptions will be transferred over to remain active, and how to avoid disruption to providers and patient treatments.

State Regulations

An important consideration when planning a transition is understanding how a pharmacy move may affect prescribers. While some states may allow certain designations, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, to prescribe products, as an example, other state regulations may require an MD or DO. If the dispensing pharmacy is in a different state with different regulations, you may need to do outreach and education with your prescribers about the changes, particularly with controlled substances.

2. Communication is Key

Patient and healthcare provider engagement is one of the most important aspects of any patient support service—when you are transitioning a hub, this communication is even more important.

Patient and Provider Preparation

With the goal to ensure no gap in therapy, preparing both patients and providers for hub changes as early as possible can ensure a smooth transition. This communication should start months in advance, detailing changes to services, program contact information, or new processes. Patients and providers often have questions and concerns during a transition, so increasing staffing in the beginning of a transition can help ensure continuity of care and prevention of any loss of confidence caused by delays in response time.

Understand Special Handling

Part of communication for patient hub transitions also includes understanding any special handling agreements. Oftentimes, certain patients or HCP offices may have unique preferences or may even require extra support. This information should be transferred from the previous vendor along with detail on what agreements and special handling has been offered historically. In additional to special handling, any escalations that are in flight or recently closed out should also be detailed and transferred to avoid disruption in care.

3. Phasing Transitions

Let’s face it, no one likes change. Any time the process changes for patients or providers, a concerted focus surrounding all stakeholders is needed to be successful. While this starts with communication, there’s often a larger focus on how to roll out more complex changes.

The Invisible Phase

This step is often the most important. The migration of patient data from one company to another may not always be the right time to introduce new tools or program enhancements. Despite the fact that there may be new channels to help communicate with patients, the transition itself should go virtually unnoticed by patients and other external stakeholders. The best transitions result in users only realizing their interactions have become more efficient and effective. This means the program should offer comparable service offerings, enrollment channels, and communication methods.

Introduction of New Tools

Once the migration of data is complete and external stakeholders have adapted to the change, then the new hub can introduce new services and capabilities. For some, this means slowly introducing texting and email for programs that were previously completely manual. For others, it may mean introducing EHR integrations or e-prescribing. Depending on the quantity of enhancements, this phase may be broken down into several waves to ensure that the patient support team can give the time, energy, and training needed for maximum adoption.

While challenging, when planned and orchestrated carefully, these transitions can be smooth for all stakeholders.

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