2020 has been a year of the unexpected, to say the least. Amidst all of the upheaval and tumult, perhaps one of the most unexpected but welcome changes has been the rapid acceleration of digital health adoption for both pharma and patients. The shift from analog to digital healthcare was important before, but the arrival of COVID-19 quickly thrust it forward to an imperative.
The COVID-19 crisis placed many chronically ill patients into an extremely vulnerable position. Meticulously planned out care routines were interrupted and access to the resources they can’t live without became an unknown. The world of healthcare needed to respond, and patients needed to be ready to embrace the world of telehealth, digital therapies, and data sharing with open arms.
With lives and the health of the global economy at stake, the healthcare community has answered the call for change. From webinars to telemedicine to free home delivery for prescriptions and new adherence technologies, more resources than ever are available to patients. But there’s still work to do.
According to our research, patients are ready to embrace it all, data sharing included. But at what price? Brands and other healthcare companies are also left to wonder which resources do patients find the most value in, and what’s the best way to encourage them to adopt new digital health resources?
Defining the Need
Nearly 3 in 4 Patient Leaders, the most activated patients in their condition communities, have asked their healthcare provider 2+ times about a new drug or treatment in the last year. More than 9 in 10 have asked at least once. This data is a strong indication of opportunity in the digital health space as patients are currently dissatisfied with what’s available to them and looking for new options and alternatives.
While the above question relates to both drugs and therapies currently available, another point reemphasizes patient vexation over digital health efforts specifically. When asked to rate pharma’s overall digital health efforts on a scale from 1 to 10, an average of 5.7 weighed out. How does that translate? It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not great, especially considering we’re living in The Information Age. The world as we know it is characterized by an economy primarily based upon information technology. If now’s not the time to innovate, then when?
Adherence is a known headache for providers, and it clearly is for patients, too. Of the 125 Patient Leaders we surveyed, 40% state digital medication reminders and tools for management would provide the most value for them and their communities. We all have 100 things nagging for our attention at any given moment, so remembering our daily dose of medication or prescribed therapy sometimes falls to the back burner, and even off the cart some days.
From a digital perspective, the age of technology we live in could not be more ripe with opportunity to create new tools to assist with medication management and reminders. According to the latest Pew research, 81% of Americans own smartphones. The numbers are even higher when you look at the 18-29 and 30-49 age brackets (96% and 92%, respectively). Considering these statistics, the smartphone in nearly everyone’s pocket could be key to developing these highly-desired digital initiatives. Everything from mobile apps to occasional text reminders are possibilities with HIPPA compliance and patient opt-ins. Technologies such as RELAXaHEAD for migraine sufferers and a new app from Kaia Health for back pain are earning notoriety in the industry and a great source of inspiration.
Health data ownership has been a long, heated debate. The question looms whether patients would be willing to share personal health data to receive more relevant and personalized treatment information and resources, like that which they’d receive from the digital tools they seek.
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Speaking on behalf of both themselves and their condition communities, the Patient Leaders we surveyed overwhelmingly report that patients would be open to sharing personal health data. More than 9 in 10 patients would safely share their information so that they can best care for themselves and manage their condition. However, what they’re willing to share depends on what they will be receiving.
The Data Barter
When it comes to medication management, patients are least likely to share personal health information. Nearly 1 in 3 patients, however, would likely share information for personally relevant educational resources, and more than a quarter would share data for clinical research and disease management resources.
There are certainly brands that are more ahead of the game than others, and even companies that have created the technologies and now need to focus on patient uptake and engagement. According to our survey of Patient Leaders, 1 in 3 say the best strategy to effectively engage patients with new digital health options is to work directly with HCPs. Having physicians prescribe the technology directly will make patients aware of the innovation while also backing it with an informed voice that patients trust when it comes to medications and treatments.
The second, slightly more creative way to effectively engage patients is to enlist trusted Patient Leaders to provide “help desk” support. Patient Leaders possess the trust of their communities and followers. Recruiting them to learn the technology and provide assistance to other patients, brands effectively boosts perception and adoption among target communities. It’s important to note that you can’t purchase Patient Leader opinions or endorsements. They are fiercely protective of those they represent and only endorse treatments they believe in. Truly effective technologies designed with the patient in mind will succeed best with this strategy. Including patients from the idea’s inception through development and to market is a winning strategy to ensure digital health solutions prosper and thrive.
TV ads or page 1 of Google won’t earn patient trust in products. With a tie for first at 27.5%, patients overwhelmingly feel that pharma companies should invest their money to build consumer trust through consumer health websites and patient advocacy organizations. TV advertising is ranked dead last, with only 3.6% of patients reporting it as a worthy investment.
The Time is Now
2020 has forced every industry to look at new and novel ways to digitize and engage. Pharma and healthcare are no exception. The data proves that patients are ready and willing to provide personal health data to facilitate further the rapid shift we’re all experiencing — as long as it’s done right.
Invest wisely, leverage trusted patient relationships, recruit patients as partners for insights and engagement, and prepare to prosper. There has never been a better nor more important, time to embrace the shift from analog to digital. Patient partnerships and insights are the keys to getting you there, and WEGO Health can help facilitate that. Let’s keep the conversation about creating patient-centric digital health options going.