Patient services: an unmet need
Research with patients shows that they want more information on disease risk in the pre-treatment phase and if pharma companies can engage with them at this early stage, they can build trust and extend a mutually beneficial relationship throughout the patient journey.
Increasingly, demonstrating value to payers means pharma companies need to show the broader benefits to patients beyond the actual therapy.
Payers are placing greater emphasis on pharma companies' approaches to address the unmet needs of patients and optimise their experience across the patient journey in both existing and new therapeutic areas. This provides a significant opportunity for UK pharma companies to take a stronger leadership position in the provision of patient services.
A recent survey, Patient Services: Pharma's Best Kept Secret of 2,000 UK patients demonstrates that there is an extremely strong market demand for pharma patient services and indicates a substantial opportunity for pharma companies to better address the unmet needs of patients across the entire patient journey.
Focusing on the pre-treatment stage specifically, the survey demonstrated that approximately 67 per cent of patients found this to be the most frustrating part of the patient journey, mainly driven by lack of notification of being 'at risk' for a condition. The survey further found that patients were most receptive and willing to engage in pharma patient services during this pre-treatment phase. This supports a strong market potential for pharma companies to capitalise on this by addressing the unmet needs of patients at this point.
Further, less than one in five UK patients surveyed were even aware of patient services available from pharma companies, such as obtaining information on a condition. In direct contrast, it appears that media channels and platforms outside of the pharma industry are providing a steady stream of disease state information.
"Pharma companies can begin to build trust and corporate equity with patients and establish and extend their relationship"
It is reasonable to assume that pharma companies could expect to see a projected improvement in patient adoption for the patient services that they currently offer as the survey findings demonstrate that nearly six out of 10 patients use pharma patient services when they are aware of them. Additionally, and not entirely surprisingly, 74 per cent of patients most valued services that provided information about their health condition. By providing access to independent high quality key disease state information, pharma companies can begin to build trust and corporate equity with patients and establish and extend their relationship with them throughout the patient experience.
In terms of how patients perceive patient services, the UK survey strongly demonstrated that once patients were aware of the services, they placed a high value in them across all disease states. In fact, almost three quarters of respondents rated pharma patient services as 'extremely' or 'very' valuable. Given such clear insight around patient adoption and value for pharma patient services (for patients already aware of them), the issue of poor awareness presents a clear and substantial opportunity for pharma companies to uplift patient utilisation and engagement with existing patient services.
What is clear is that pharma-sponsored patient services are available but not getting through to many patients. The big question is why this is the case, when many pharma companies are spending hundreds of millions in developing patient services. The explanation is straightforward: pharma companies need to invest as much in the communication and coordination of the services as they do in building them.
"87 per cent of patients wanted their healthcare professionals to be the primary source of information"
An additional key insight from this survey was that 87 per cent of patients wanted their healthcare professionals to be the primary source of information to decide what services they needed to manage their health, with 67 per cent of patients wanting patient services directly from their doctor as their most trusted adviser. Consequently, healthcare professionals should be the primary audience that pharma companies must engage with about their patient services, to ensure that they, in turn, make patients aware of them. Whilst this may present some initial challenges, it also presents significant opportunities for pharma companies to shift the conversation from a product-focused discussion to a patient-outcome focused one which outlines how their products – in combination with patient services – can help time-constrained healthcare professionals better serve patients and healthcare systems.
Pharma companies willing to embrace this broader approach and bring services to market that support and engage patients at the pre-treatment stage have a considerable opportunity to not only realise a first-mover advantage in specific therapeutic areas but maintain that advantage by providing services across the entire patient journey.
In so-doing, pharma companies will better support an already resources-constrained NHS which has been the traditional go-to resource for patients with a range of services that address unmet patient needs, better support healthcare professionals and move pharma industry closer to being an even-more trusted partner within the NHS.
These results were part of a larger international survey of 10,000 people. View more of the UK findings here: Patient Services: Pharma's Best Kept Secret
About the author:
Mark Fisher is senior manager, Accenture Life Sciences.
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