Patient Summit USA

May 2, 2013 - May 3, 2013, Philadelphia

Understand the patient journey to build better adherence and engagement platforms

The Patient is IN: The Growing Opportunity in Patient Services

Pharma is ramping up investment in patient services but is struggling to measure the impact of services on outcomes.



Pharma companies are set to invest heavily by 2018 in initiatives such as medication delivery, treatment adherence and remote monitoring in order to help patients, according to an Accenture report.

The research covers seven therapeutic areas: heart, lungs, brain, immune systems, bones, hormone/metabolism and cancer. “Oncology and diabetes are leading in terms of services being offered,” says Andrea Brückner, managing director of Accenture’s Life Sciences industry group for Europe, Africa and Latin America.

The research attempted to tease out details of pharma’s investment in patient services and the extent to which companies believe they are meeting patient needs and improving outcomes. It also looked at how they are communicating their services’ availability and whether they can measure their effectiveness.

Patient segmentation

The survey of 200 pharma executives in the US and Europe finds that nine out of the top ten services offered by companies are driving above-average business impact. Patient segmentation, which is the second most prevalent service, leads the way here, Accenture says.

Paradoxically, however, only 51% of the pharma managers surveyed thought their organizations were strong in patient centricity, and another 46% said there had been little improvement in these capabilities over the last two years.

‘The Patient is IN: Pharma’s Growing Opportunity in Patient Services’ seeks to steer a way through this mixed backdrop, revealing that while companies are more alive to the possibilities in this area, there is still plenty of work to be done.

Accenture finds that 85% of respondents were planning to ramp up spending on patient services over the next two years. In all, 91% of companies say they are set to offer six or more such services over the next two years, compared with the 73% which do so today.

Indeed, the average number that pharma companies offer will climb 50% in the next two years, from nine to nearly 14.

Decision making

“Our sense is that companies want to be more patient-centric, putting patients back to the heart of their decision making,” Brückner explains. Pharma’s investment will be directed primarily – although not solely - towards services which an Accenture survey of 10,000 patients last year around awareness and use of patient services found to be most valued. 

There is food for thought here: Accenture sees that the expected expansion in services offering is actually exceeded in some cases by the value which patients place upon it. In other words, it might be worth pharma’s while to invest even more in a few areas. For example: services involving medication delivery and support (highly valued by 85% of patients) are expected to grow by just 55% of pharma respondents. 

Meanwhile, although 79% of patients like adherence programme management initiatives, only 54% of pharma execs in the latest survey expected these to grow. Finally, 68% of respondents say that those services around remote patient monitoring (which 79% of patients value) are set to increase.

It is no longer enough to offer relatively simple services such as disease education, Accenture has found: given that such services are now ubiquitous, they no longer provide companies with points of differentiation against their rivals.

“Over the last two years, companies have begun to invest in more innovative services, such as remote monitoring,” the report points out. “As the field of patient services matures, leading companies in the space are seeking to invest in more innovative and technology-driven offerings.”

Roadblocks ahead

The fact that there is so much anticipated investment creates what looks like quite a rosy picture – but inevitably there are roadblocks. Chief among these is that patients simply do not know enough about what is available, with Accenture suggesting that only one in five patients is familiar with these services. In the survey, 81% of pharma respondents said their company relies on doctors to boost awareness.

“Relatives and families are very important in leveraging these systems,” Brückner explains. “The majority of patients are reaching out to healthcare professionals as trusted resources. Pharma companies need to help HCPs to increase awareness.”

To counter this, almost all (95%) of companies surveyed said they will upscale their efforts to communicate – particularly through digital channels. This takes the form of in-person communication (64%), social media (43%) and web pages (37%). In terms of direct contact with patients, the three top channels are digital: social media (55%), web page (48%), and online communities (47%).

The split between the US and Europe on this is instructive. TV will continue as the key channel in the US to inform consumers about services (53%), followed by social media (51%) and web pages (48%). In Europe, social media (59%), direct emails (50%) and online communities (48%) top the list.

The report suggests that conversations with doctors should major on the outcomes achieved by the products and services that companies offer. “When healthcare professionals see the bundled solution as integral to achieving better outcomes, they will be much more inclined to discuss the solution with the patient,” it says.

However, awareness is not the only issue: a significant number of pharma respondents (40%) were concerned that the impact of patient services could not be measured anyway – thereby calling into question the reason for doing them. Having said that – and typical of the disconnect which is often found in this area between what pharma says it wants to do, and what it actually does – 67% of pharma executives said improving patient outcomes was their company’s number one objective for patient services.

Companies must sharpen their ability to quantify those results - both for patient value and for sustaining internal investments in these programs. Market leaders will focus on capturing the impact of their services, use this information to adapt what they provide and differentiate from competitors beyond the therapeutic benefits of their drugs.

Measurement problem

This illustrates a real problem with measurement. Since pharma is increasingly going to be judged on the value it provides in real-world settings with the population for which a particular drug is intended, then firms need to get to grips with the technology to enable them to do this.

“Companies must sharpen their ability to quantify those results - both for patient value and for sustaining internal investments in these programs,” the report says. “Market leaders will focus on capturing the impact of their services, use this information to adapt what they provide and differentiate from competitors beyond the therapeutic benefits of their drugs.”

The nuts and bolts of putting infrastructure in place to allow pharma to fulfil these expectations is something else again. “Pharma needs a strong analytics capability,” Brückner suggests. “They get a lot of data but are lacking insights and are pushed in terms of adding value. A value-based arrangement can only be done with a proper analytics base: for example, to identify a specific patient cohort and continue to gather real-world data to prove you can deliver on your promises.”

Analytics agenda

Analytics is much higher on the agenda than 12 months ago, Accenture has found. “This is critical investment,” says Brückner. “It requires time and money early on. To create an end-to-end solution which is not isolated is not something you can just build from scratch. The pressure to get that implemented will increase: we see there is more and more investment but most people are still in the pilot phase to figure out what is working.”

Brückner suggests that pharma’s thinking is going to have to become more open. “Going forward, companies need to operate in a much more collaborative environment,” she says. “Many clients are going out and having these alliances, e.g. pharma companies with Google. But we also see that pharma companies are trying to build up capabilities internally. This is a very different skillset: you need data scientists, statisticians, experts who can model using large-scale datasets.”

To make progress, it will be important to work out who ‘owns’ the drive towards these changes, however. At present, 62% of respondents said they were the head or lead of patient services or the patient experience – but 73% said no single function has primary responsibility for patient services in their organisation. The report warns: “Mixed or unclear ownership may create inefficiency and limit the impact of services.” However, if pharma can get this right, then Brückner suggests there are significant advantages. “Nine out of ten services are considered to drive above average impacts.”

Benefit coverage

The Accenture research also reveals that the top areas of interest currently include benefit coverage and access support, where all respondents plan to invest more. Health counsellor services participation (with a planned 77% increase) and adherence program management (73%) are the others which are highlighted. 

The first of these seems to be particularly important in the US. “Companies are helping patients to get access to medicines, especially around employer coverage,” says Brückner. “That is taking the burden off the patient.”

She also believes that the period between diagnosis and treatment is one in which patients experience “high frustration”. “This is an area where pharma could step in,” she thinks.

Whatever the challenges ahead, Accenture’s report says, it will “no longer be a question of if pharmaceutical companies should offer services, but which ones and how”.

“Patient services will become a competitive driver: it will be ‘mandatory’ in two years’ time,” Brückner concludes. “As a pharma company, you will need to demonstrate value to providers, payers – and to patients.”

To do this, Accenture believes that there must be strategies in place to improve patient awareness and that pharma must establish clear lines of ownership for its patient services. The industry must also develop means of tracking just how impactful these initiatives are. Only then will companies’ investment start to improve their business value and patient outcomes.


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Patient Summit USA

May 2, 2013 - May 3, 2013, Philadelphia

Understand the patient journey to build better adherence and engagement platforms