How to support patients throughout their entire care journey is an ongoing topic of conversation in the healthcare community and one we are constantly trying to improve upon as an industry.
Patient support shouldn’t end when their appointment is over. It has been proven time and time again that patient support programs increase positive outcomes, but they remain largely unadopted by patients. As the Vice President of Sales, Pharma Core Solutions at OptimizeRx, it is a critical part of my position to examine why these programs remain unused and how we can better equip Health care professionals with the right tools to encourage implementation of these programs. Being able to discuss solutions with fellow healthcare professionals during our first annual Innovate4Outcomes event proved invaluable while examining the issue at hand, while also brainstorming effective solutions.
Why do patient support programs have low adoption rates?
The first and most obvious answer is the amount of noise surrounding conditions, particularly chronic issues, on the internet. Patients spend little time with their health care physicians relative to a diagnosis and then are often left on their own to research what comes next. The first place most patients turn is to the internet, a landscape littered with false and inaccurate information surrounding any and all diseases and conditions.
Pharma and HCP’s need to take into consideration the importance of social determinations and adopt a multidisciplinary approach when supporting their patients. Not all patients will have access to the internet or a smart device in order to interface with a digital treatment support plan. In addition, by not including caretakers in patient support programs, HCP’s are limiting the success of such offerings.
Not all patients will want help from Pharma. When considering how to interact in these support programs, the distrustful patient must be taken into consideration. It must then become a priority of how to reach these patients before they discover inaccurate or harmful information about their condition from unverified sources.
"Discussing both the drawbacks of current patient support programs as well as ways to improve on the current structure in our first #Innovate4Outcomes event proved invaluable to outlining the first steps in how to see better adoption of these programs. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel at all. With minor changes, we can meet patients where they are and engage current behaviors to see better engagement, leading to heightened adherence to both these programs and treatment plans overall. "
How can we improve on current patient support programs to see increased adoption?
Improving on currently available patient support programs does not mean reinventing the wheel. My Innovate4Outcomes team looked at the current landscape of available programs and broke down the need into three core tenets focused on the patient’s emotional and physical well-being outside of their health care professional’s office.
- Create a seamless enrollment process that immediately highlights the “what’s in it for me” factor. We do not need to try to change behaviors to see an increase in adoption; instead, we need to work within existing behaviors. Let’s meet patients where they are, on social media, email, and the internet to seamlessly integrate with their lives. We should also give the patient ownership over their own program, allowing them to customize how they interface with us and on what grounds. Empowering the patient to feel like they are in control of their diagnosis and treatment plan encourages adherence.
- Data equals measurable results. As we meet patients where they are, we should employ artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms on the back end to create a feedback loop. By doing this, we can track what is and is not working for patients on the front end. While we’re at it, let’s take it one step further and make sure there’s data integration across devices so that patients have access to their computers, phones, and tablets, while doctors have the same level of access to patient data within the EHR and their daily workflow.
- Incorporate human interaction to see success. Employ Nurse Navigators to help patients case manage their diagnoses and treatment via their support program. Nurse Navigators will work to ensure there is an understanding of the patient’s journey and key inflection points for their diagnosis, including things like medication and side effect management into the process. In addition to this, focusing on things like broad health and wellness with coaching and nutrition specific to diagnosis, as well as social networking and positive peer influence adds another level of human connection we don’t currently see with patient support programs.
- Establish mutual goals with patients and providers. We can use patient support programs as an interface to communicate outside of appointments with providers and patients, establishing goals throughout treatment plans. Providers and patients can use these support programs for shared decision-making when it comes to both clinical and lifestyle changes, taking into consideration quality of life. This is a great way not to overwhelm patients; instead of handing them a long list of changes to make to their lifestyle at an appointment, health care professionals can feed them a balanced stream of information to make changes incrementally. For example, a lupus patient begins walking five minutes a day in week one, then adding gentle stretches in week two. By week six, they’ve built up to a twenty-minute workout routine that’s added value to their daily life without feeling overwhelmed in week one. This type of mutual goal setting can work for many treatment plans and keeps the doctor and patient in communication while giving the patient ownership over their goals and adherence.
Discussing both the drawbacks of current patient support programs as well as ways to improve on the current structure in our first #Innovate4Outcomes event proved invaluable to outlining the first steps in how to see better adoption of these programs. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel at all. With minor changes, we can meet patients where they are and engage current behaviors to see better engagement, leading to heightened adherence to both these programs and treatment plans overall.