The trifecta of the Internet, smartphones and mobile apps continues to transform consumers’ daily lives, delivering access, convenience and affordability with regard to various products and services in unprecedented ways. This trend is only getting stronger with the growing commercialization of new disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT).
Consumers today expect their banking, media, commerce, transportation and what not to be facilitated at the click of a button–as and when they want it. How could then health care be immune to this cross-industry wave of consumerization? Indeed, digitally empowered patients are now increasingly expecting pharmaceutical and biopharma companies to deliver affordable–and impactful–drugs, as well as to personalize their treatment regimen, and recommend wellness management programs. They no longer want to be a “passive” entity, being told what drugs to take, and what instructions to follow as far as their diet and lifestyle is concerned. Instead, patients now want their say in the decision making process.
This dynamic has several implications for the pharma industry. As patients become more informed and form communities to share relevant experiences and data, drug makers must become more agile, revamp their business models, and empower patients to lead healthy lifestyles.
In short, pharma needs embrace patient centricity as its core business driver. Patients must be at the driving seat when it comes to designing and managing their care roadmap, with pharma and other stakeholders playing the role of facilitators.
We, at LTI, believe, pharma companies should focus on six dimensions of patient centricity, namely disease and geography prioritization, clinical trials, patient segmentation, patient/HCP engagement, treatment access, and personalized adherence.
Assessing the unmet requirements of various patient communities–across specific diseases and regions–and capturing insights from local domain experts is critical. Second, clinical trials have to be revamped at multiple levels–including analytics-driven site and investigator identification, patient e-recruitment, and remote subject monitoring via mobile devices and apps.
Third, drug manufacturers need to segment their target audiences based on cohort profiling, in line with specific disease patterns. Fourth, the industry must form alliances with providers to boost patient access to health care, beside educating patients through games and videos, and connecting with patients on social media and other channels.
Fifth, access to affordable and high-quality treatment should be facilitated through provisioning of care aid, finder apps and mobile devices for remote patient monitoring, e-consultation, and integration with HIMS and HER. Sixth, pharma can help patients diligently follow the treatment roadmap by chalking out a personalized adherence plan – spanning medication reminders, incentives, tracking of key health parameters, and behavior counseling.
I would cite three examples on this front to highlight the tangible way in which pharma companies have been harnessing various digital technologies to enhance patient centricity.
For the last 17 years, a prominent drug maker has been implementing the Malaria Initiative, which has improved access to antimalarial through partnerships between industry, governments and non-governmental organizations, and research and development of next-generation drugs. This initiative illustrates the vital role of technology in fostering patient engagement, by making patients active participants in decisions related to their care.
Engaging with patients can give pharma rich data around the former’s health condition, lifestyle requirements, and so on. But that’s no good if the data is not used properly. Hence, the industry must utilize patient data effectively for better R&D, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring. For instance, a leading European pharma company has collaborated with an online health data sharing platform to gauge the impact of psoriasis on patients, and accordingly fine-tune its drug development approach.
Making drugs that helps cure diseases and help people live healthier has been, and will remain, pharma’s core value proposition. But is there something more the industry can deliver beyond this in the digital era, where the Internet is driving unprecedented disintermediation across the board?
Yes, undoubtedly. A drug major has launched a program that judiciously mixes educational resources with interactive online health guidance tools to help consumers attain health and wellness goals. The portal offers personal health improvement primers relating to exercise, nutrition, weight control and stress management, among others, as well as information for managing chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes. Clearly, pharma can use digital intelligently, and cost-effectively, to bolster its value proposition, and significantly improve quality, access or convenience for patients.
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