June 2022 | Point of View

Patient centricity in life sciences: Improving the patient journey via human-centered design

Leverage analytics and products to better understand what patients need in a digital world

Patient centricity in life sciences: Improving the patient journey via human-centered design

The journey for life science organizations to address and accelerate patient centricity is important—but also complex. The easiest solution to build a path toward success? A focus on three key areas: 

  1. Strategy and structure 
  2. Data and analytics 
  3. Products and platforms 

Our last article on the topic focused on that first area, analyzing what makes up the foundation of a patient-centric life sciences organization—while also explaining the benefits of adopting an operating model that puts patients first and the importance of cross-enterprise and ecosystem collaboration. 

This piece will cover how (and why) a focus on the second and third areas can help pharma companies improve their core competencies across the patient-centricity framework. 

These elements serve as the bedrock of understanding, measurement, and transparency as it relates to the patient journey. 

Leveraging analytics, data-driven insights, and new technologies—everything from wearables to apps and platforms—allows pharma companies to better track and monitor a patient’s journey, gathering data points and qualitative feedback that can help improve the patient experience, bolster products and platforms, and measure success against key patient outcomes. This in turn will pave the way for effective patient engagement, continuous program improvement, and better decision-making—not to mention better clinical outcomes for the patients.   

After all, patient centricity is not a destination—it’s an ever-evolving mode of operation that requires constant adaptation to patients’ feedback and needs. Those who do it well will have a huge leg up on the competition as digitally enabled, patient-centric life sciences organizations. 

Digital capabilities are crucial to providing services tailored to the patient journey 

To do this effectively, life sciences companies must work to engage patients through a range of communications channels—including portals, apps, digital care management tools, nurse and general call centers, chatbots, emails, text messages, and even paper mail—so patients can receive information in the ways that best suit their needs and preferences. 

This must be a highly coordinated effort. Think of nurse ambassador programs, for example: A full-fledged program will involve in-home visits, online ordering, digital scheduling, and omnichannel communications for appointment reminders to help facilitate the use of complicated medications. And each of these modes will be interconnected and complementary so as to avoid redundancy, dead ends, and disjointedness, helping the patient feel a natural progression as they move through their care journey. 

Similarly, patient support programs that help patients access costly drugs and treatment regimens also need to effectively employ a range of tactics and channels as part of their operations if they expect to deliver quality experiences and reduce the financial burden on the patients. Offering co-pay cards, call-center support, and help with ancillary costs like Uber/Lyft rides to appointments or home-based medical equipment are certainly good on their own. But a platform-based approach that incorporates advanced analytics capabilities to track activity and support real-time adjustments is essential to reaching the next level of performance, cost reduction, and engagement.  

That’s the kind of centralization and connectedness we have in mind when we talk about “digital” life sciences organizations. AbbVie’s work on various Real World Evidence Initiatives is a prime example. Focused on monitoring patient engagement and utilization of patient services and products—and aligning them to the care journey—these initiatives are aimed at allowing real time decision-making. 

Or consider Novartis, which created a patient onboarding portal for those who are beginning a new course of Novartis drugs, enabling the company to remotely monitor clinical trials in real time. Amgen, another leading biopharmaceutical company, helped one of its partner organizations develop a digital tool that gives patients insight into other treatment options and resources, empowering them to seek the care that best fits their needs—regardless of the impact to the company. 

Innovations like these—that take understanding the patient journey, along with the importance of measuring the effectiveness of different interventions along the course of that journey, as table stakes—are gaining ground across the life sciences industry, changing how success is defined and measured.  

Data & analytics: The importance of measurement 

New digital tools and technologies are giving life sciences companies greater insight into clinical trial success, drug effectiveness, and the overall patient journey—this in turn better enables them to identify unmet patient needs and pain points. Continually uncovering and analyzing these pain points creates opportunities for ongoing improvement and personalization, enhancing patient experiences with timely interventions and targeted, omnichannel communications.  

But none of that works without effective measurement. 

Here are five ways pharma companies should start measuring the patient experience: 

Create patient and caregiver journey maps 

Life sciences companies can increase their understanding of patient and caregiver journeys by mapping out key events or “moments that matter.” Similar to capability maps, journey mapping can identify meaningful intervention points—including initial diagnosis, ongoing appointments, and surgical or pharmaceutical intervention points—by collecting and analyzing claims data and patient/caregiver interviews. Collating this data in order to map out what happens under certain conditions or in particular circumstances will allow companies to proactively provide support and intervention when and where it’s needed most. 

Objectively assess required capabilities 

Capability maps—visual representations of the organization’s capability building blocks, which are unique combinations of people, processes, and technology—are essential to a robust, nuanced understanding of what, in any given organization, enables a successful patient journey. Comprehensively mapping out the organization and its key programs and functions will enable a better understanding of how patients interact with services and products, where gaps and disconnects lie, and when to make improvements.  

Track patient feedback

To improve tracking, life sciences companies should consider a multipronged strategy involving survey metrics, utilization metrics, and the monitoring of adverse events. It’s also important to monitor the utilization of existing support programs and systems such as call centers, nurse ambassador programs, medical information systems, apps, emails, and portals. Tracking adverse events is a legal requirement, too, so providers and life sciences companies must make sure they remain in compliance.  

Examine cost and access metrics  

By looking at patient adherence patterns alongside cost and access metrics, pharma companies can determine whether their patients are running into financial obstacles or other access problems. It’s important to pay special note to measurements like average out-of-pocket cost, formulary tiers, and patients’ abilities to access medication at their regular pharmacy. If high costs correlate with low medication adherence, that may mean the organization will have to consider ways to alleviate financial burden. 

Use KPIs to closely follow medication adherence 

Understanding when and why patients switch to different medications or stop using them altogether is a critical metric for understanding the patient journey. After all, pharmaceutical companies lose an estimated $637 billion in revenue annually due to poor patient adherence to medications for the treatment of chronic conditions. Contributing factors to poor adherence can include cost, side effects, administration methods, dosage, and access to medication and care —knowing which of these are in play, and to what extent, alongside data on refill and switch rates can help organizations determine whether additional interventions or medication adjustments are necessary. 

Products & platforms: The value of applied technologies 

Mature data and analytics capabilities are absolutely essential to building integrated, effective products and platforms. That’s because measurement supports the ongoing refinements that allow applied technologies to not only maintain but also extend their utility over time. 

Life sciences organizations should have the same level of commitment to the design of their products—and the technologies that support those products—as they do for their patients. Demonstrating this in actual practice requires the development of platforms and products built to provide transparency and information about the conditions its therapies treat, offer answers to urgent questions, effectively manage both in-person and virtual care, and provide meaningful ways of monitoring and measuring the entire patient journey.  

Here are some essential technologies that growth-oriented life sciences companies should be leveraging as part of their platforms and products: 

An integrated patient portal

Developing a one-stops-shop app for patient communication and information access should be a priority. An integrated patient portal can track past enrollments, visit summaries, opt-ins, medication adherence, and visit scheduling. Organizations should also consider creating complementary digital applications offering LiveChat or ChatBot functionality. Opening up more direct lines of communication will provide more ways to address patient and caregiver questions, better coordinating care.

Companion apps and wearables

Digital apps and wearables that measure patient vitals, offer medication logs, and provide medication reminders can prove invaluable to patients and providers alike. These allow physicians to remotely monitor a patient’s journey through chronic diseases and medical conditions, as well as track symptoms. These products combined with telehealth will also eliminate unnecessary office visits for routine check-ups, therefore reducing the overall burden on the patients and the healthcare system as whole.  

Digital logs

Creating a central repository for patient data is another way to provide support for both patients and caregivers. We recommend integrating digital log capabilities into an organization’s portal so that patients can submit and track medication adherence and adverse events.

COVID-19 has introduced challenges—and opportunities—for life sciences organizations 

While the demands of the pandemic accelerated digital transformation across the healthcare industry, it also produced new challenges and exacerbated older ones. Many healthcare organizations were not prepared for the dramatic increase in Medicare telehealth visits, which rose to 52.7 million in 2020 compared to 840,000 in 2019, nor were they—or anyone—expecting 47% of consumers to increase their digital engagement. Those changes meant less face-to-face interaction with patients, with little else to fill in that gap.  

For pharma companies, the need for rapid vaccine development, testing, and approval revolutionized traditional processes for life sciences companies almost overnight. It’s imperative that the design of patient-centric programs, platforms, capabilities, and resources remain a top priority as well. 

This is true now, and into the future; patient centricity is not a final destination that, once reached, is the outcome of a singular initiative or project. It is an ongoing way of operating, and it requires the strategic coordination and continual growth and development of technologies and business processes and functions.  

Using our three main focal points—strategy & structure, data & analytics, and products & platforms—as a road map, pharmaceutical companies can reach that patient-centric state of being, playing an essential role in improving health outcomes, reducing costs, and driving collaboration to make care and treatment more effective, affordable, and accessible. 

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