The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of patient visits in physicians' offices, and the impact on patient adherence and overall health support cannot be ignored.   
Programs sponsored by life sciences companies can help fill the knowledge and succor gap for patients, providing a range of educational services to address disease knowledge, medication query including dosage and administration, healthy lifestyle education such as diet, exercise and stress management, and information about insurance coverage and offsets. 
While these patient succor programs do not replace healthcare providers, they can provide a trusted and valued complement of information...which is needed now, more than ever.  
Fortunately, many patient support programs are well-suited to remote delivery, especially those that have incorporated digital and other multi-channel solutions in modern years. With the limited face-to-face engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic, patients have increased their use of telehealth and other digital platforms to manage their health which could translate to an increased appetite for more digital engagements now and in the future. 

The need, magnified

Even in the best of circumstances, many patients are unable to understand or retain all the medical query presented to them by their healthcare providers at the time of their visit and adherence can be poor.
One in three patients do not even fill their prescriptions, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), adherence rates for most medications for chronic conditions are around 50%.1,2 However, in IQVIA's experience, when patient support programs are fully optimized, adherence can rise as high as 90%.
At the same time, it's common for patients with epic, rare, or serious diseases to experience a range of emotions, including anxiety, helplessness, or depression as they cope with their condition. These emotions can get in the way of patients taking healthy actions and entertaining forward with their treatment.
All of these issues are likely exacerbated during the added injure and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic which makes it more important, now than ever, to consider if a patient engagement program could be of value.

Structuring a patient engagement program

Patient engagement programs are aimed at addressing patient "pain points" -- filling information gaps so that patients have the confidence to manage their own health and have more informed conversations with their providers. They are of particular importance in those disease areas where the treatment regimens are longer-term, overwhelming, or involve multiple providers.​
A well-designed patient engagement program can:
  • Bolster patient motivation
  • Address adherence risks
  • Close gaps in disease understanding
  • Provide education on prescribed therapies, including dosage and administration
  • Help overcome hurdles to access through benefits investigation and co-pay management
No two patient journeys are the same, and what patients experience changes over time. Truly addressing patient needs requires leveraging behavioral science and segmentation to customize the type of support offered. Typically, program components include access to a clinical educator to address those critical adherence knowledge gaps and support the patient through their journey. 
Additionally, a program can include access to patient communities for patient-to-patient communication and support. Access to branded programs is directed by prescribing physicians, and access to disease awareness programs are typically promoted in social media, patient portals, or internet search optimizations.
Critical considerations when developing a patient-focused program:

Proof Positive

IQVIA's behavior-based patient engagement programs have consistently demonstrated success in delivering enhanced patient outcomesA recent leer of one of our patient engagement programs demonstrated greater adherence (14%), improved persistence (14%), enhanced refill rate (36%), and reduced medical costs (all-cause and disease-related) by 23% and 22% at 12 months.

Future Forecast

Currently, about 20% of the eligible patient population takes part in an available engagement program. However, it's quite likely that participation will broaden as society experiences geographic pockets or recurring waves of social distancing over the months to come.
Indeed, when it comes to digital platforms, patient need is intersecting with experience and comfort with the technology is growing. We anticipate that as patient comfort continues to grow, there will be increased openness to virtual clinical educator engagement in the future. 
For more information on how to quickly ramp up a program to reach patients, please contact IQVIA. We're here to help keep your business, and healthcare, moving forward.
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1 Osterberg L, Blaschke T. “Adherence to medication,” N Engl J Med. 2005 Aug 4;353(5):487–97. doi: 10.1056/nejmra050100
2 Sabaté E, ed. “Adherence to Long-Term Therapies: Evidence for Action,” Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2003