Taking the Necessary Steps to Enhance the Patient Experience

As life sciences companies continue to preach patient centricity or a patient-first approach, it seems they are still not delivering a level of experience that meets patients’ wants, needs, and/or expectations. DT Consulting and Carenity, part of EvidentIQ, conducted a survey of 543 patients across the U.S. and Europe in the second half of 2021 and found they rated their overall experience with pharma-created information or services as “fair” at best.

Based on DT Consulting’s Customer Experience Quotient (CXQ) metric, no type of content offered by pharma provided a “good” or “excellent” experience and the telephone was the only channel that pharma uses to engage with patients that rated as “good.” Overall, across all channels, the average CXQ score was 28—out of 100.

“At the core of their missions, life sciences companies are built to develop products that deliver the best possible outcomes, not necessarily experience,” explains Maria Whitman, Global Head of Pharma and Biotech, ZS Associates. “But increasingly, companies are recognizing that our health is only 10-20% rooted in our genetics. Eighty percent is determined by other determinants of health, including environment and behavior, pointing us to more personalized care. In the past, the focus was efficacy and safety. Now there is much greater emphasis on experience and outcomes.”

For example, Whitman mentions how companies are making progress in finding new ways to collaborate with patients, incorporate their perspectives in the process earlier, and make it easier for them to participate in clinical trials. But there are still ways companies can improve in these and other areas.

Improving the Experience at the Start

Norman Putzki, Global Head of Development of Neuroscience, Novartis, believes pharma needs to get patients more involved at the very beginning—in the early stages of drug development.

“It is standard practice in our industry to collaborate with academia to evolve knowledge or to work with tech companies to develop diagnostic and therapeutic solutions,” Putzki says. “But we must also involve people living with conditions at critical decision points to gain insights and apply meaningful trial endpoints. By learning from patients’ experiences and what matters most to them, companies can turn insights into impactful R&D strategies.”

For example, Putzki says the neuroscience team at Novartis learned that they needed to find better ways to alleviate the burden on patients during clinical trials, so they applied technology advancements such as remote monitoring and assessments to increase patient flexibility and meet their needs wherever they are. Meanwhile, Rob Laurens, Chief Patient Officer, BBK Worldwide, suggests companies can improve the clinical trial experience in other ways by offering services that recognize patients’ individual needs.

“Programs should include elements such as: a range of travel options—not just travel vouchers; interpreters not only for study visits, but also for travel and compliance assistance; home health study visits when possible and participant-preferred; and more,” Laurens explains. “Addressing each patient’s particular barriers to participation not only achieves the practical goal of maximizing retention and compliance, but also communicates clearly that the sponsor and the site staff fully appreciate that individual patient’s experience and contribution.”

But companies need to ensure they are meeting patients’ needs throughout the process. Nicole Hoadley, SVP, Client Services, Snow Companies, says they have recommended clients assemble a Patient and Care Partner Co-Creation Council whether they need help with a single question, a product innovation, a brand-specific program, or something else.

“The Co-Creation Council is not about market research in the sense of looking for validation of resources that are already developed,” Hoadley explains. “Instead, it is about ensuring the organization develops products and solutions together with the community. The Council aims to infuse patient and care partner voices and ideas into the creation process so that the outcome meets real patient needs. There are no assumptions in this model; it is a collaborative process which helps companies be nimble and swift to meet patient needs across their product portfolio.”

Taking Experiences to the Next Level

In order for companies to really practice a patient-first approach, Maria Kirsch, General Manager, Patient Services, EVERSANA, believes it takes a combination of data from multiple sources that can truly inform decision-making, a dedicated care team available to navigate affordability and adherence barriers, and the right technology to not only create a better patient experience but also drive efficiency and optimization across the delivery model.

“Organizations delivering the right balance of high-tech and high-touch solutions to drive real impact will win,” Kirsch says. “Ultimately, it means the patient controls everything—from finding out about a therapy, to connecting with a clinician virtually to obtaining insurance approvals and then selecting delivery methods, all remotely. Plus, once you have the medication, it means you get reminders when and where you want them to help you stay on the treatment.”

Newer technology is also providing avenues that can enhance the next-generation patient experience, according to Vishal Singal, Patient Engagement and Digital Health Lead, Axtria.

“For example, virtual reality (e.g., virtual rooms, digital twins, etc.) can provide access to quality healthcare, and show the real-time impact of patient lifestyle choices in the future and demonstrate how these factors impact outcomes,” Singal explains. “Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystems, with a focus on electronic patient-reported outcomes (ePRO), can provide patterns, trends, and associations that create personalized communication for issues such as pain, access to services, and medication management. And blockchain can empower patients by giving them access and control to their longitudinal patient history (behavioral/clinical) enabling access to quality advice, thereby breaking barriers and patient resentment while trying to access quality care.”

But even with the recent explosion in new value-added services for patients that take advantage of some of the latest advancements in technology, Danny Sigurdson, CEO, Courier Health, believes a gap still exists in integrating and coordinating the end-to-end patient experience.

“A huge percentage of patients either never start therapy or drop off unnecessarily because of disparate technologies, which lead to uncoordinated processes,” Sigurdson explains. “Patients thrive when the path to therapy is carefully orchestrated for their personal journey. This starts with awareness efforts that educate and nurture patients before initiating therapy. It continues with clear communication and expectation management through the onboarding process, with live patient support as required. Finally, the tailored delivery of materials balanced with live ongoing support drives stronger adherence. This is what it means to be truly patient first.”

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