Developing product and patient centric services

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What are the trends shaping the successful delivery of patient centric services?

The pharmaceutical industry is evolving rapidly and as times change, so do the industry’s challenges. One of the most important trends has been the rise in patients’ engagement with their care; as patients increasingly engage and make decisions around their own healthcare, care providers and other stakeholders must evolve their strategies to address their needs.

In response, pharma companies are trying to develop more patient centric approaches and ensure healthcare providers (HCPs) can offer patients greater support in managing their condition.

“This shift of paradigm means an honest appraisal and change of the status quo for most companies”

Pharma companies want to build stronger relationships with both patients and healthcare professionals and deliver valuable patient support information as well as research and educational materials. How can they achieve this?

Beyond the mantra

It is quite common to see pharma companies adopting the mantra of ‘patient centricity’ and it will soon become integral to business strategies – affecting everything from sales and marketing to manufacturing, pharmacovigilance and operations.

The ‘involvement’ of patients at all points of the lifecycle of a drug, from early development through to commercialisation, is the next big step for pharma that will lead to personalisation of the patient experience and better patient outcomes. This is the ultimate aspiration of the collective life sciences.

As the commercial value of being patient centric is realised, the industry will see more demand on patient focused strategies and initiatives linked to the development and launch of new molecules. Because of these patient centric strategies, there will be a notable increase in demand for patient solutions, such as patient support programmes and patient educational campaigns. Pharma companies must then develop scaleable capabilities and strategic partnerships with organisations that can meet this need. This shift of paradigm, where patients are truly the customers and HCPs are the conduit to them, means an honest appraisal and change of the status quo for most companies.

This will ensure that patients can truly have a voice. Normally through patient associations, patients can get involved in clinical development and act as consultants in clinical trial design and impact the implementation of post-commercialisation patient support.

Tailored technology

Patients have been moving away from traditional face-to-face interactions towards mobile or mHealth management for many years. Health apps are increasingly being used by patients to engage with and manage their own wellbeing. Patients can take their own blood pressure, body temperature, blood oxygen levels, glucose levels, and record this data. There are even smartphone-controlled patches that provide electrical neuromuscular stimulation to manage pain.

This shift has made it clear that patients have an appetite for more tailored and personalised health management. But it also means that there is yet another platform for engaging with patients and a new source of data that HCPs and pharma businesses can access to improve their operations. A survey of adult social media users with health conditions, conducted by PatientsLikeMe, showed that 94% would be willing to share health data to help doctors improve care and 84% would be willing to share information with drug companies to help them make safer products.

The challenge for all stakeholders is to collaborate and create tools and an environment where information is freely exchanged between patients, caregivers and pharma companies to improve everything from primary care to research and development, and even the manufacturing and logistics in between.

Building on compliance

Global serialisation regulations have digitised information sharing models throughout the pharmaceutical industry. The US Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) and EU Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) have created an information sharing platform that could revolutionise the way the collective life science industry, HCPs and patients engage with each other.

We are now able to identify and track every serialised drug product as it moves through the supply chain. The opportunity for improving care arises when the industry connects this information to the patient –

for example, linking medicines to individual patients can prevent prescription errors in hospitals. The NHS is currently trialling such a system – ‘Scan4Safety’. Six sites are implementing GS1 standards and using barcodes to identify every person, product and location. The approach involves scanning the barcodes of each patient and products used on a patient at the point of care.

The scan gives HCPs product information such as expiry data and batch/lot number and administrators the ability to digitally verify who gave what to who, where, and when. Digitising healthcare in this way not only improves patient safety but offers significant efficiencies; the Scan4Safety trial sites have already saved millions of pounds.

In the future, the entire eco-system of stakeholders involved in providing care will have the ability to analyse outcomes based on patient treatment patterns and deduce the best course of therapy for a patient of a given profile.

Serialised data and apps

Apps will also be developed that use serialised data to deliver real-time information to patients from participating pharmaceutical manufacturers, hospitals, pharmacies and regulatory bodies. Product descriptions, administration instructions, photos, videos and medicine disposition details (information on absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion – {ADME}) could easily be made available.

The increased level of support and reassurance this provides will have a hugely positive impact on patient adherence. If we imagine the anxiety around administering an injectable medication to an infant in a home environment – in an ideal world, a caregiver could scan the drug’s serialised barcode and instantly receive information on whether the vial has had any cold-chain excursions or even needs to be recalled, assuring them that it is safe to administer.

The potential of an application-based approach to improve adherence when comprehensive information on a medication is available immediately is incredible.

The future

It is the shared mission of the entire healthcare eco-system to empower patients to use products more effectively and enjoy optimal health outcomes.

There is little doubt that patients are wanting to better engage with their care – they increasingly want to do so digitally and are more willing than ever to share and receive information that will not only improve their own care, but that of others as well. mHealth and the digital information sharing pathways created by serialised data have created platforms that will enable patients to access and share their own data in ways never seen before. It is now up to pharma companies, their partners, and stakeholders throughout their supply chain to deliver on the promises of patient centricity.


Nagore Fernandez is Head of Patient Solutions, Ashfield Europe & Canada.

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