As published in PM360 magazine by Chris Dowd, SVP Market Development, ConnectiveRx
The statistics relating to patients’ adherence to their prescribed medication regimes continue to be alarming. Non-adherence can account for up to 50% of treatment failures, around 125,000 deaths, and up to 25% of hospitalizations each year in the U.S.1
Between the time a therapy is prescribed and when they actually begin treatment, patients have the daunting task of integrating medication schedules, managing side effects, and affording their therapy. All and all, support is crucial. However, despite increased investment by pharma companies in patient support services and overwhelming evidence that patients value these services—80% of patients surveyed by Accenture rated them valuable or extremely valuable—very few are aware of them.2
So how can pharma companies, healthcare providers, and pharmacies increase patient adherence and compliance? Focusing on three key areas can make the difference between a patient starting and staying on therapy or not.
Growth of Hub Services Improving Patient Outcomes
When a Bain & Co. survey asked, "What are the top improvements pharma companies need to make in order to make your interactions with them more valuable?" the top response (53%) was to “Provide more targeted patient support programs."
When U.S.-based healthcare providers were asked in a recent Bain and Co. survey, “What are the top improvements pharma companies need to make in order to make your interactions with them more valuable,” the top response (53%) was to “Provide more targeted patient support programs” and the second-most popular response (51%) was to “Provide a single source of content.”3 This is what hubs do for the most difficult segment of the pharma industry—specialty medications.
Effective hub services programs combine three core functional skill sets to help patients get on prescriptions as quickly as possible: 1) a team of people who genuinely want to help patients; 2) processes that simplify rather than complicate the process for providers and patients; and 3) technology that adds speed, accuracy, and enhanced functionality to the processes and is invisible to patients and providers.
The high touch aspect of a hub program is critical, as the human connection is imperative in establishing and maintaining positive relationships between the brand, the patient, and the provider. From the moment a patient, caregiver, or provider calls a case manager, their experience will be measured by whether they had a pleasant and informative experience.
In addition to the human element, electronic services, or e-services, are one of the most important foundations for successful hub programs. Providing electronic benefit verifications and electronic prior authorizations through integrations with healthcare providers and insurance providers is the new frontier. Knowledgeable hub team members interacting with a prescriber can maximize the completeness of electronic prior authorizations by requesting supporting comments or attaching clinical documentation.
When all stakeholders have a single view of the patient, built from a centralized database, misalignment and duplication errors are avoided. Building an integrated analytical view across hub and other patient support programs transforms the way brands use data and accelerates informed business decisions to drive outcomes that directly impact patients and providers.
Mobile Tools Put Support Literally in Patients’ Hands
Meeting patients where they are has never been more critical in helping ensure they successfully get on their medication and stay on it. The exponential rise of remote medical care during the pandemic has elevated the mobile platform to a key tool in the healthcare ecosystem. As patients become increasingly comfortable relying on their smartphones for remote care, the mobile channel can also offer a key way to provide access to support services.
New mobile tools offer patients a simple and seamless way to access support services and connect them to alerts, reminders, and support communities, ultimately helping to boost adherence. These tools—including live chat with nurses and case managers, access to copay support, and the ability to match patients with others experiencing similar challenges—leverage the patient’s phone to integrate the therapy journey into their daily routines and help empower them to take a more active role in their own care.
Mobile support has been shown to lower medication drop-off rates while helping increase enrollment in patient support services and leading to higher rates of patient satisfaction. For example, results show 2% to 6% less initial drop-off and 30% less drop-off after three months when brands invest in mobileCare Manager, a platform that offers a variety of mobile tools and strategies, for their patients.4
The Evolution of Pharmacies in the Patient Journey
Three key elements are impacting the evolution of pharmacies and the role they play in how patients move through their prescription journey.
1. Rise of Digital Pharmacies: While they perform many of the same functions as traditional pharmacies, digital pharmacies are changing the prescription process by enabling patients to access care virtually; order medication online and have it delivered; and use mobile apps to manage their medications, request refills, and schedule and track deliveries. Telehealth is a key differentiator for digital pharmacies, and so far, appears to be most useful for simple, straightforward prescriptions, particularly in areas such as sexual health, hair growth, and smoking cessation.
2. Non-Commercial Pharmacies Can Speed Access to Medication: Today, nearly all doctors are e-prescribing medication, but when they want to order a specialty medication, they often must go to a website, download a form, fill it out, and fax it to a patient support hub. The non-commercial pharmacy (NCP), however, can accept e-prescriptions, so the provider simply needs to prescribe the medication to the NCP. Pharma manufacturers can set up patient support programs using the NCP as the intake channel for enrollment into hub services.
For example, rather than exiting the patient’s EHR and manually filling out a patient enrollment form, the provider selects Careform5 to receive the prescription for the drug, just like (s)he would any retail or specialty pharmacy at the point of prescribing. Patient data doesn’t need to be input because it is already in the EHR, and the relevant information is automatically transferred to the prescription. In-workflow EHR prescribing can give patients access to the medication days or even weeks faster.
3. Pharmacies’ Increased Role in Compliance: Major retail pharmacies are taking a more active role in patient compliance, offering services that help patients manage their mediations. For patients with complex mediation regimens in particular, packaging that labels dosing according to what medication the patient needs to take and at what time of day can simplify the medication journey and help patients easily identify late or missed doses.
For patients, the prescription experience is often challenging and a bit scary. Removing barriers to adherence by incorporating tools that make the process seamless and affordable can make all the difference between successful treatment and abandonment. Integrating hub services, mobile tools, and an NCP into the patient support mix has the power to significantly improve patient outcomes.
1. “Medication Adherence: The Elephant in the Room,” U.S. Pharmacist, January 19, 2018.
4. ConnectiveRx proprietary research, 2020.
5. ConnectiveRx’s pharmacy headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.