The evolution of Patient Support Programmes

Patient support programmes or PSPs have rapidly increased in number and complexity over the last few years, reflecting the increasing importance patient experience plays. From their humble beginnings as simple drug information hotlines, PSPs have grown into comprehensive, hybrid programmes aimed at improving patient outcomes, adherence, and overall quality of life.

However, it is a commonly held view within pharmaceuticals and other related health industries that patient support programmes can and should form part of a more integrated healthcare offering.

And yet, current PSPs are not meeting this potential for various reasons.

The Past

Historically a PSP would be a mixture of patient information about their medications, including dosage instructions, potential side effects, and other relevant details. This was typically complemented by a nurse hotline or call centre where patients could ring up or arrange to speak to a nurse about their disease, treatment, queries etc.

The Present

Today, PSPs have expanded to encompass a wide range of services and support mechanisms, many of which are facilitated by digital health technologies. Often these helpful features are provided in an uncoordinated way leading to low engagement levels and difficulty in scaling solutions across markets and therapy areas.

One of the biggest focus areas of Digital PSPs is adherence support. Patient apps and SMS reminders can help patients adhere to their prescribed treatment regimens by providing personalised reminders, education on the benefits of treatments and the risks of non-adherence, and support in tracking their medication intake. However, adherence tracking alone does not drive sustained patient engagement with solutions, there needs to be other added value.

Symptom and vitals tracking by leveraging tech, such as mobile apps, wearables, and remote monitoring devices enable active and passive tracking which then leads to enhanced patient engagement, better communication between patient and clinician and more proactive self-management.

Patient Education has seen an explosion of multimedia content across channels. Digital platforms can provide patients with comprehensive educational resources about their condition, treatment options, and self-care strategies. The volume, trustworthiness and legitimacy of information and advice remains a persistent patient pain point. In our digital PSPs interactive learning module, we have noticed that providing patients with 10-12 content modules strikes the perfect balance of being comprehensive but not overwhelming.

Nurse call centres or care coaches continue to be a core channel of many PSPs. Although evidence shows that providing patients with a friendly, consistent and informed nurse care coach is beneficial. Nurse call centres are very expensive to run, vendors share limited engagement data with pharma clients and it is difficult to integrate them with other parts of PSPs, such as digital solutions.

PSPs are now beginning to take a more holistic approach to patient care by addressing not just the medical aspects of a patient's condition but also their psychosocial, emotional, and lifestyle needs. This needs to be done sensitively and collaboratively involving patients, caregivers and clinicians in the content, look and feel of the support.

For many pharma clients bureaucracy and compliance stand in the way of involving users more closely in developing PSPs, but at Avegen, we see this changing as patient advocacy teams develop faster and more innovative methods for incorporating user feedback e.g. patient advisory panels. A core pillar of many of Avegen’s digital PSPs is the need to focus on the other elements of the conditions such as the illness-related anxiety and distress that many patients with long-term conditions suffer from. As an example, one of our core products - Orbi works as a psychoeducation app for people living with long-term conditions and addresses the impact of physical health on mental health.

In North America and certain other markets financial assistance programs remain crucial and are also now accessed digitally. This helps streamline the process of accessing financial assistance programs, such as co-pay assistance or patient assistance programs, making it easier for patients to offset the cost of their medications. The provision of non-financial assistance, such as homecare programmes, telemedicine consultations and remote monitoring devices continues to be part of the pharma’s PSP offering.

At Avegen, we see our digital patient support solutions playing a valuable role at multiple stages of the patient pathway. Including helping drive awareness and diagnosis of conditions prior topatients being prescribed a specific treatment.

The Future

Looking ahead, there are a few key questions that Pharma will need to answer which will shape what their PSPs will look like.

1. What are the best solutions, channels and features for this specific patient population’s needs? How do we do things differently?

2. How can these multi-faceted PSPs be scaled sustainably and efficiently across markets?

3. How do we first drive the uptake of PSPs by patients and clinicians? Secondly, how do we keep users engaged and continue providing value?

4. How will we measure the engagement, outcomes and success of our PSPs going forward?

We work with our pharma clients to answer the above questions when we take them through our tried and tested discovery and design process to launch PSPs.

In the future, we will focus on the following areas in particular to help our digital PSP partnerships continue to succeed moving forward:

·   Driving behaviour change through personalisation: Leveraging profile building, assessments and data analytics to tailor interventions, features and content to individual patient needs and required behaviour change.

·   Configuration: we are constantly working to make our platform HealthMachine as configurable and scalable as possible, allowing integration of different languages, pathways and systems.

·   Collaboration: PSPs must be driven by collaboration between pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers, and other stakeholders like patient associations. As an example, Klick, our digital clinical pathway for stable HIV patients is a partnership between ViiV (Global HIV pharma company), Avegen (platform provider) and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Trust. Pharma is looking to plug into existing, successful solutions already embedded within healthcare and deliver value rather than build entirely from scratch. Avegen is unique compared to other digital health platforms as we work to launch and license our own products as well as configure custom solutions for clients, therefore developing our own expertise in how best to go to market.

·   Value-Based Care: Digital PSPs will increasingly need to focus on delivering measurable value-based care, with an emphasis on improving patient outcomes and reducing wider healthcare costs/burden. Payers want and need to see the wider healthcare benefit of the solutions, which complement pharma’s treatments.

PSPs have made huge progress since their inception, and continue to evolve to meet changing patient and healthcare system needs. We welcome the opportunity to discuss further how PSPs could evolve, and how we can deliver the best possible digital PSPs now and in the future. Get in touch with Jamie Campbell, via our book a demo feature.

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