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Unlocking Patient Engagement: Tackling Access & Adherence Through Tech

7 min read
Scientists in lab coats looking at tablet

Recently, leaders from Accenture, AWS, and Conga came together to participate in a webinar, sponsored by Becker's Healthcare. During this session, Dr. André T. Dahinden, Managing Director of Life Sciences at Accenture, Gavi Hoffman, Senior Advisor for Product Management at AWS, and Tom Cowen, Head of Vertical Strategies for Healthcare & Life Sciences at Conga, shared their thoughts on the current challenges and opportunities for achieving optimal patient outcomes in the healthcare industry.

The panel discussed the exciting new possibilities that emerge when players in the healthcare ecosystem collaborate with pioneers in digital technology to develop timely, relevant, and accessible patient support systems—something desperately needed when Life Science resources are stretched to the limit. This article highlights some of the panel's critical insights on how strategic partnerships can help elevate patient experiences.


Healthcare & Life Sciences: An Industry of Opportunity

The U.S. healthcare system has faced unprecedented challenges due to the convergence of several post-pandemic forces. Despite these challenges, the panel believes that the healthcare industry is ripe for innovation, and there are plenty of opportunities to enhance patient outcomes.

While rising inflation impacts every aspect of healthcare, including expenses such as rent, maintenance, utilities, and medical supplies, equipment, and labor, the panel believes that strategic partnerships can help alleviate the financial pressure on healthcare providers. By working together, traditional and non-traditional players in the healthcare & life sciences ecosystem, including leaders in digital technology, can improve cost efficiencies and patient outcomes.

The panel also acknowledged the persistent issue of skills shortages in the industry, which are estimated to reach 10 million by 2030. However, they believe that by finding creative ways to mitigate longstanding issues, such as stakeholder fragmentation, bureaucracy, and regulatory hurdles, the industry can attract more healthcare workers and retain the ones they have.


The Role of Partnerships in Digital Health Technology Innovation 

The pressures on the healthcare system are complex and multi-faceted, so simply focusing on hiring or training more doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers won't solve the industry's problems. The time has come to get intentional about:  

  • Finding creative ways to mitigate longstanding issues like stakeholder fragmentation, bureaucracy, and regulatory hurdles. 
  • Improving cost efficiencies and patient outcomes through greater partnering among traditional and non-traditional players in the healthcare and life sciences ecosystem, including digital technology leaders. 

A deliberate focus on these areas can deliver patient care and engagement services that are convenient, coordinated, customized, accessible, timely, and affordable.  


True Engagement Means Using Technology to “Meet Patients Where They Are” 

The panel identified three interrelated challenges in patient engagement that can be addressed by the thoughtful application of technology: access, affordability, and adherence. Life Sciences companies (Pharmaceutical and Medical Device) have taken the lead in delivering Patient Experience solutions for patients.  

Cowen explains that despite an increase in the availability of telehealth solutions and services, widespread disparities in equitable patient access to healthcare services and medications persist. "Accessibility issues are often based on factors such as geography, socioeconomic status, and insurance coverage. 

"At the same time, high drug prices and complex reimbursement processes can pose affordability challenges for patients, payers, and healthcare providers, limiting access to necessary medications," he says. 

Hoffman adds that patient adherence to treatment remains challenging due to communication barriers, medication complexity, health literacy, side effects, behavioral factors, and the need for ongoing patient support backed by technological solutions. "Adherence has emerged as a critical focus area, especially when we consider that around 125,000 patient deaths per year are due to patient non-adherence to clinical and medication instructions and guidance."   

Compounding these problems is a lack of awareness of patient support programs. As Hoffman points out, it's not that patients are willingly neglectful but rather that patient support programs are woefully underutilized. "Over $5 billion is spent on these programs annually, yet only 3% of patients use them over a year, and only 8% do so over their lifetimes. Some patients may not even realize that patient support programs exist, and almost 59% have little to no knowledge of them. And among those who know they exist, 61% don't find them helpful." 

The panel agreed that the way forward lies in engaging technology partners to perform data analysis that uncovers deeper insights into patients' unique circumstances, challenges, and preferences. This understanding will allow providers of medication and care providers better to align their support resources with patients' needs.  

For instance, patients without medical insurance will significantly benefit from detailed, patient-centric coverage notification documents that clearly explain their payment options and whether co-pay or couponing solutions are available to ease their financial burden. Importantly, these documents should be delivered through the patient's preferred communication channel (email, fax, mail, etc.).  

Cowen believes that data analytics is also helpful in pinpointing the reasons for patient non-adherence. "Some patients may not be taking their medication as prescribed simply because there isn't a pharmacy nearby. Others might struggle with the complexity of taking their medication—how often to take it, what time of day to take it, what dosage to take—or they may lack a basic understanding of possible side effects and how these could impact them. "Access to granular patient data gives more visibility on the key inflection points in the treatment lifecycle, particularly stages where patients are most likely to falter," he says. 

For example, after taking a specific anti-inflammatory medication for 2-3 weeks, some patients may experience mild stomach irritation. Ideally, patients prescribed with the drug should be proactively engaged with at this juncture to establish if they're experiencing any discomfort. If that's the case, they should be reassured that it's nothing to worry about, and options for alleviating their discomfort could also be discussed.  

"Timely outreach backed by useful information go a long way to ensure patients don't discontinue their treatment," says Cowen. 


Compelling Outcomes 

Ultimately, data is the key to uncovering the root causes of suboptimal patient engagement, whether the issues are communication, education, or affordability. As such, it can help all players in the healthcare ecosystem devise improvements and alternatives to ensure patients get access to the medical care, drugs, and support they need when they need it.  

This benefits all parties. Patients receive help with a range of administrative tasks (like securing financial assistance, filling their prescriptions, and obtaining supplies) and more emotional issues (such as dealing with a new diagnosis, understanding treatment options, and receiving educational and motivational support.)  

Healthcare providers' precious time is freed to spend on consultations and direct care. "Data-driven solutions have tremendous potential to make healthcare less error-prone, more automated, and expedited, which ultimately means more time spent by physicians and healthcare staff on patients and greater patient adherence to care guidelines," says Hoffman. 

Likewise, the administrative burden on insurance operators is reduced, and manufacturing companies gain more assurance that their products are administered and delivered as intended in a way that optimizes efficacy and patient outcomes.  


Case in Point – Global Life Sciences Company Partners for Maximum Impact 

Dr Dahinden explains that over the last few years, life sciences manufacturers have been leading the charge in promoting more meaningful patient engagement. "They're getting more involved in ensuring the accessibility and affordability of their medications and patient's adherence to their treatment guidance. Increasingly, they're seeking out the expertise of business and digital technology partners to ensure the most impactful outcomes," he says.  

"For example, a large global pharmaceutical company recently launched an initiative to improve its process for generating and distributing vital patient service documents. It enlisted the expertise of AWS, Conga, and Accenture, who collaborated to develop a proof of concept for a new automated, data-driven documentation generation process." 


Dr Dahinden outlines how this collaboration showcases the power and potential of this breed of partnership: 

Client Challenge 

The pharmaceutical manufacturer's existing document creation process relied on manual effort and fragmented data sources. The company was concerned about the risk of errors, not to mention delays in getting medicines into patients' hands. It realized it needed a more streamlined and automated workflow solution to improve accuracy and productivity. Equally, it sought to ease the administrative burden on its own teams and those of the healthcare providers it works with. 

The Solution 

Together, Conga, Accenture, and AWS developed a proof of concept for a simplified, automated interface:  

  • Conga leveraged the Conga Composer tool to generate Coverage Notification documents dynamically.  
  • Accenture applied its advisory and system integration expertise to overcome the fragmented nature of the pharmaceutical manufacturers' internal systems and those of its healthcare provider partners. The solution included new functionality allowing the document generation system to seamlessly incorporate critical patient data from Salesforce Records and then create singular documents or batches with a single click—all within the boundaries of relevant healthcare compliance regulations.  
  • AWS added a further layer of compliance through its ability to secure the delivery of all elements. 

The value expected from the proposed solution includes tangible financial and non-financial benefits:  

  • Time savings through streamlined workflows and a reduction in errors and associated costs 
  • Greater accuracy and consistency in document creation 
  • Full compliance with regulatory requirements 
  • Enhanced customer experience through personalized documents and more capacity to spend time engaging directly with patients 
  • Potential scalability to accommodate future growth 


Towards a Coherent, Coordinated Healthcare Ecosystem 

Healthcare and Life Sciences are complex ecosystems comprising many moving parts and players, so no one company or group can develop a solution in isolation.  

It's encouraging to see a move away from a reactive approach, where coordination between stakeholders is limited or ad hoc, to a proactive, cohesive approach based on digital engagement and support tools that bolster patients, healthcare providers, payers, and manufacturers alike. 

Watch the full webinar to learn more about how strategic partnerships with technology leaders are shaping the future of healthcare.

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