Whether it is a customized music playlist or your favorite smartphone apps, the expectation is that technology can deliver results in an integrated, hiccup-free format—what we want and when we want it.
If only it were that fast and seamless in all aspects of healthcare technology.
Today, patients and providers bring these expectations to their experiences with healthcare services, and many offerings frequently fall short of their desires. According to GE Healthcare Camden Group, while a recent study puts patient satisfaction with their healthcare experience at a mere 19%, manufacturers have the opportunity to transform both patient and provider experiences in a profound way by offering a next-generation service hub.
Once the exclusive province of high-cost specialty drugs, hub services are now a key differentiating feature for lower cost, middle tier, and many retail-distributed brands that require the same patient support, such as complex reimbursement requirements or higher touch case management, among others.
Stakeholders turn to online resources as they compare therapeutic options and then navigate the access process. Patients (and HCPs) bring a heightened awareness of cost sharing to their decision making, and hub services can play a key role in facilitating co-pay information, first start tools, and patient assistance programs (PAPs) at this early stage of access. Hubs also have an important position in encouraging adherence through the hurdles patients face in filling their prescription, and are key to providing variable data analytics about the brand. The nimblest, most responsive hubs now provide flexible, more efficient services known as Hub-LiteTM, bringing the resources once associated with high-cost specialty drugs, plus a focus on cost effectiveness, to a broader and less costly range of brands.
The trend is broadening, encompassing more widely distributed, less expensive brands as well. As Pharmaceutical Commerce’s Nicholas Basta explains: “The concept of ‘hub lite’ is now spreading throughout the industry. Competing against generic offerings, and showing better health outcomes through better adherence to therapy, are justifying the effort.”1 Whether planning a product launch or managing an established brand, how you customize your hub services is a key aspect to ensuring the success of your brand. As service hubs become increasingly important for brand success, manufacturers need to pose some key questions to ensure they get maximum benefit from this suite of tools. Following are some timely issues for manufacturers to consider as they evaluate hub options:
- What are the current obstacles to uptake for my brand?
- Where are we the strongest, relative to other brands in the therapeutic category?
- What would my team want to know about brand analytics that we currently do not?
- What do we do well internally and what tasks would we ideally outsource?
How you answer these strategic issues regarding your brand’s goals will have a direct impact on how you evaluate and design or update to the optimal hub to support your brand. Regardless of where your brand is in the product lifecycle, there are some fundamental choices to consider:
Internal, External, or Hybrid?
Chances are your organization is dependent on a hub model, whether it is an access portal, a co-pay program, a patient adherence program, or brand analytics. Look for a hub services provider that can offer you a flexible and modular approach as you build out to a more robust suite of services. Find a provider that has the ability to adapt to any pre-existing systems that you want to keep, and one who is willing to design new service modules around your existing program, such as digital or website capabilities that will let you customize the hub program to match your brand’s specific needs.
Timing is Everything
In situations where you have hard deadlines, like a launch, development time may be one of the most significant decisions to consider as you evaluate hub providers. Look for responsiveness from your hub partner. While most hub development programs can require 90 days of development time, select hub service providers can shorten the turnaround time considerably—for example a completed hub service in 30 days—due to their modular approach. Know what is realistic for your situation and determine if time to completion of your hub is a nice-to-have or an imperative for your brand.
What Spells A Win For Your Brand?
Know what roadblocks or market perceptions you want to address related to your brand. For example, manufacturers are often frustrated by the timing and drop off early in the process as patients and their HCPs navigate benefit verification for a new script. Under a traditional model, benefit verification can take three to four days and require the HCP to invest time and staff resources to complete the process. Each step in the benefit verification process will require telephone calls, emails and/or faxes, and multiple entries of the same data.
Electronic benefit verification (eBV) is a next generation service that can dramatically improve brand access for both patients and HCPs for drugs dispensed at the pharmacy and for those that require medical buy and bill for in-office procedures and care. Hub services with a fully functional self-service eBV capability will give patients and prescribers an accurate response about formulary coverage within seconds, rather than days, of a query, thereby initiating therapy quicker. Forward-thinking hub providers will also help you link the eBV to an electronic query for prior authorizations, should payers require it, again addressing potential barriers to therapy before they become an issue.
To facilitate better uptake, brands that can provide accurate, real-time information on product availability at local pharmacies will be seen as partners by prescribers. And manufacturers that facilitate digital information handoffs between their hub and the HCP’s electronic medical records will go a long way to building strong long-term healthcare partnerships.
Hubs were originally designed to support costly specialty medications which frequently required resource-intensive services. Today, hubs have become an integral part of middle tier and many less costly brands which benefit from a mix of rapid electronic tools and human touch points with the patients, providers, and HCPs who use their brand. Search out a flexible, responsive, nimble hub provider because they will certainly be seen as an extension of your brand.
1. “Hub Services Special Report 2016,” Pharmaceutical Commerce, April 16, 2016.