After the Storm: 6 Trends in Patient Support for a Post-COVID, Digital-First World

As the pandemic has catapulted healthcare into the digital age, patient support programs are changing. 6 trends are pointing towards PSPs being more important than ever in the 'new normal'

Sebastian is a founder and CEO of smartpatient, where he oversees strategic partnerships and the DTx pipeline.

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Dan is a journalism graduate from the UK. He aims to make the complex topic of digital healthcare accessible for both patients and experts, using simple and concise language.

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In a year defined by social distancing and an excess demand for healthcare, digital solutions have increasingly become the focal point of patient support. Here are 6 trends we are seeing in the industry in response to the pandemic. Read to the end to find out why these trends will continue in a post-COVID world and why a ‘digital-first’ approach to Patient Support Programs ('PSPs') will be more important than ever in the ‘new normal’.

1. Digital First: From Patient Support Program to Patient Support App

In the past years, more and more patient support programs started offerings digital channels; however, they often continued to rely on a nurse line as the centerpiece. The challenge: A limited number of planned calls (once per week/month) means relatively few touchpoints and places the burden on patients to instigate any reactive contact. Also, many patients shied away to go through the PSP enrollment that is needed for getting access to the nurse line.

Now, we are seeing a new generation of digital-first programs hitting the market. Their conversion funnel stems from the digital playbook: Instead of requiring lengthy enrollment and tedious entry of personal data, patients can start with a tap of a button and convince themselves of the value. Apps, in particular, can provide engagement levels unseen with call centers or web-based offerings; for example, users of MyTherapy, our platform upon which we run patient offerings, interact with the app an average of three times per day. Once patients are engaged, there is plenty of opportunities to provide meaningful education and support.

2. Open up: Convey the Value before Putting Out Enrollment Barriers

In years gone by, patient support programs were only for patients prescribed the specific drug. As a result, within an indication, there are often several product-specific PSPs, each of them built with great amounts of resources to provide information largely identical to the competitor's PSP.

We are now seeing a shift towards layered offerings. It starts with a generic, disease-specific level that covers all product-independent aspects and also serves to foster general disease awareness. Beyond that, there is a product-specific level. With a valid prescription, patients get access to features like initiation guidance and care pathways tailored to a product's specific adherence and persistence challenges. The resulting patient offerings deliver higher quality, are more cost-effective, and outperform existing approaches in terms of reach for both patient support and disease awareness.

3. Initiation Guidance: Digitizing the Roots of Patient Supports

In the early 2000s, the early PSPs put a lot of focus on initiation to ensure that patients learn how to safely self-inject and to reduce the associated burden for HCPs. Over time, PSP shifted their focus and have started to put a lot of emphasis on supporting adherence and persistence and - depending on the market - reimbursement.

Now, due to COVID, initiation is back on the center stage. Pharma sees themselves confronted with HCPs who hesitate to prescribe new drugs as they see social distancing as a barrier to guiding patients during initiation. Often, doctors rather stick to tried and tested products that are known to be safe. Pharma's task, therefore, goes beyond providing nurses injection training: They need to provide virtual care offerings that guide patients when they are on their own. And as remote care is probably here to stay even after COVID, virtual care during treatment initiation may become a standard practice of patient support for new launches post-COVID.

Digitally support your patients while giving your HCPs the tools and confidence to safely initiate in a remote setting

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4. Closing the Loop: Enabling HCPs to Understand Tolerability, Remotely

As a doctor, evidence is an important factor driving your decisions but it is not the only one; your view of a medication also derives from the tolerability and efficacy as reported back by your own patients. But how to close this loop in a world of social distancing, where face-to-face consultations are less frequent?

Increasingly, patient support offerings are supporting doctors in closing the loop with initiated patients even in a remote setting. One major success factor is getting workflow integration right. While EMR integration is the gold standard, it is not feasible in every therapeutic area, in every country, for every healthcare professional. Instead, different tools, from paper to digital, need to ensure broad appeal while offering a clear upgrade path to digital workflows.

5. Scaling Globally: From the Outset Plan for the Requirements of Different Markets

Another entry from the digital playbook. When working with something as scalable as software, it pays to invest more in a winning product and improve economics through broader use around the world. It is essential to provide a proven, easily deployable, and compliant tool to local markets rather than allowing a plethora of locally developed apps and websites to appear that lack the long-term funding to deliver success.

Next to technical scalability, global ambitions need to be fully understood when designing aspects such as the technical platform, consent management, and the user interface. Not planning for presumable 'details' like right-to-left languages or local storage requirements for health data from the outset may severely impact your ability to scale later on.

Digitally support your patients while giving your HCPs the tools and confidence to safely initiate in a remote setting

Learn more about our digital platform

6. A New Paradigm: Patient Support as Facilitator for the 'New Normal'

We believe that the trends we are seeing add up to a paradigm shift in patient support. In the old days, PSPs largely focused on safeguarding initiation or persistence, making them nice-to-have for some HCPs. The new, digital-first patient support offerings, solve a much more unmet need: Facilitating initiation and support in the new world of (partly) remote care.

From Patient Support to Commercial Impact

As the role of patient support is evolving, excellence in delivery is becoming critical. No pharma company can risk remote care to hamper the adoption of a newly launched product that has proven safe and effective in studies. Digital patient support is no longer about creative agency pitches. Instead, platform-based solutions like MyTherapy can de-risk any launch through a track record for acceptance, impact, and, scalability and by delivering to key success factors already on a platform level, such as:

We’ve Done it Before

These trends might be new for many companies in the wake of COVID, but they are ones we are deeply familiar with. We have released 70+ digital programs for the likes of Novartis, Merck, and Pfizer, which have been launched in 20+ markets around the world. Hundreds of iterations of our MyTherapy platform, ISO-13485 certification for quality management, and global regulatory expertise are among the factors that allow us to be at the forefront of this ‘new normal’ and help our partners meet patients’ and HCPs’ expectations.

Does it sound like we could help you achieve your global digital ambitions during COVID times and beyond? Then don’t hesitate to get in touch.