Prepare your organisation for the future with 'Beyond the Pill' services
Thinking outside the pillbox
Poor medication adherence is a source of significant waste in our healthcare system. Investing in smart technologies is much cheaper than risking patient non-compliance.By Jul 17, 2014 on
World Health Organization estimates that only about 50% of patients with chronic diseases living in developed countries follow treatment recommendations. In addition to compromising care quality, the New England Healthcare Institute estimates that poor adherence costs as much as US$290 billion annually (13% of total healthcare expenditures) in the US alone.
Barriers to compliance include complexity of treatments, lack of information about and comprehension of treatment benefits, side effects, cost of prescription medicine, and lack of trust between a patient and his or her healthcare provider. While open lines of communication between patient and physician remain key to compliance, pharma companies are competing with each other for the next best thing to revolutionize patient behavior.
“To support compliance, we devised a very innovative, patient-centric solution,” said Nikoletta Karagianni, EU Markets Champion, Bristol-Myers Squibb, introducing a device that is the size of a cellphone. We spoke to her ahead of her presentation at Value Added Services. It’s a smart pillbox connected to GPRS technology, which means it uses cell phone technology for data collection. How does it work?
The patient has to fill it with a month’s supply of their medication and set up a regime, for example, to take the pills every morning between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. When medication is taken as scheduled, nothing happens. But when the person fails to adhere to his or her regime, a signal is sent to the system, which, subsequently, sends out a notification directly to the patient’s phone.
“The set up costs are about €20,000, covering the helpline, the materials, satellite synchronization, a website where the data is accessible for patients and doctors etc.,” Karagianni explained. “The device cost is about €200, and the annual subscription fee is another €200. In terms of non-compliance, this is the equivalent cost of forgetting to take one pill per month.”
In the interest of pharma
Investing in compliance solutions is in pharma’s favor. When patients are prescribed medication but fail to take it, not only are they not buying the drug, but their state inevitably deteriorates, leading the physician to switch treatments, which translates to a loss of customers for the brand. Some experts estimate noncompliance to cost the industry US$30 billion a year in lost revenues, which others argue is just the tip of the iceberg.
“If a company delivers compliance services, they can ensure two things: one, guarantee the efficacy of a drug for the patient; two, they get better patient outcomes, and this is what this is all about, isn’t it?” Karagianni said.
But, as a pharma company, you need to choose your message carefully to make sure you’re offering something valuable to patients, without being perceived as looking for another way to push drugs. “There are different categories of patients,” Karagianni admitted. “Some patients were happy to use our service, but there were others who felt it was intrusive. So it’s definitely not something universal. I believe a patient would benefit from it, but it’s up to them to identify value. Pushing a service on someone who’s not willing to accept it – it doesn’t make any sense.”
How to do it
Karagianni offers some advice to product champions out there.
There are doctors who are innovative, and others who don’t find it useful. You need to identify the right group of customers, i.e. physicians who will embrace the service".
First, find a trusted partner with expertise in support programs. This partner will help you roll out a service, and maximize its value. “I don’t think big pharma have the time or the logistics that such a project requires to make it successful.”
Second, identify customers that will embrace the service. Remember: one service doesn’t treat all. “There are doctors who are innovative, and others who don’t find it useful. You need to identify the right group of customers, i.e. physicians who will embrace the service,” she said.
Third, educate those physicians, so they can champion your product with their patients. It’s a two-level process. The doctor is your direct customer, and the patient is your indirect customer. “In both cases, it’s important to find the right target group,” Karagianni stressed.
Finally, you have to make sure that payers and policy makers get how important it is to have compliant patients. “They need to be involved in understanding what a project like that will bring to them in terms of better outcomes, e.g. less hospitalization,” Karagianni concluded.
Pharma companies compete with each other to solve one of the healthcare system’s biggest problems. The winners will be the companies who manage to earn support of their business partners and customers.
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