Patient Support: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Patient Support: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that many patients who once had no treatment options are now living healthier lives while managing their disease thanks to new therapies.  Patients with multiple sclerosis are a perfect example. Before the 1990s, very limited options for symptom management existed for MS patients, and there were no proven therapies that slowed the course of the disease. Today, 16 therapies have been specifically approved for treating and managing MS, with more in development. This example reminds us that drug innovation has evolved, drastically changing the way certain diseases are treated.

Let’s consider, however, if support services for these patients also are changing.  We’ve asked Nicole Hebbert, Vice President of Patient Access & Engagement, to share her thoughts on how patient support services have evolved over the years.

Q. When you first joined the healthcare industry, how were pharma support services being utilized?
A.
When I joined this industry more than 20 years ago, pharma support services were strictly call centers, or “hubs,” designed to facilitate reimbursement to prescribers, evaluate patients’ coverage, and triage prescriptions to specialty pharmacies. Typically, no additional services were available through the hub, once a patient’s medication was shipped from the pharmacy. Many hubs now put an emphasis on wrapping services around the patient, in other words, providing services after product access, like nursing or adherence solutions. When I look at UBC today, our hubs have evolved into Patient Access Centers, providing patient-focused, high-touch care.

Q. In your opinion, what caused hubs to transform from being traditional call centers, performing tactical execution of reimbursement services, to becoming Patient Access Centers?
A.
Increased complexity within the healthcare industry has led to an increase in the need for patient access services. The reimbursement landscape is diverse with policies and restrictions varying from payer to payer. These challenges often lead to patients absorbing more of their healthcare cost due to higher deductible plans and decreases in coverage. This not only creates delays in therapy, but patients also now have more financial burdens to overcome. Complex therapy regimens associated with specialty medications have increased the demand for nursing and adherence services. So it’s no longer enough to verify benefits for patients. We’re equally focused on helping them navigate their entire journey by connecting stakeholders and helping patients overcome barriers that prevent them from accessing their medication as well as supportive care.

Q. What value do service providers like UBC bring to this new era of patient support services?
A.
Experience is fundamental to building a hub that best supports all stakeholders involved. Our experience in managing hubs for medications in a variety of therapeutic areas can provide key information and insights to our clients.

When manufacturers are planning a hub for their product, they consider their options to work with a partner or to operate their own hub.  If they decide to maintain in-house hub services, they likely will face building a new infrastructure, forecasting staffing needs, and staying ahead of HIPAA and safety regulations, just to name a few challenges. By partnering with us manufacturers can still control their brand and marketing messaging, but they’ll avoid the day-to-day operational responsibilities. We take the burden off our pharma partners by delivering new services and solutions, allowing them to focus on developing and bringing breakthrough therapies to market.

Q. What has UBC done to prepare for this new era of patient support services?
A.
The new era of patient services focuses on two things: efficiency and patient centricity. We have made significant investments in technology solutions that enable our Patient Access Centers to speed up processes. We’ve added new services, including field reimbursement and field nursing solutions. These services are designed to bring access and clinical services directly to prescribers and patients. One thing that hasn’t changed is our focus on patient care. My teams know that behind every phone call, fax, or email is a patient in need of care – and they always put the patient first.

Q. Do you believe patient centricity is more about the types of services offered or the way the services are designed/delivered?
A.
Patient centricity is redesigning how we care and treat diseases from the patient’s perspective, but it’s also realizing there’s not a “once size fits all” approach. It’s important to understand that just because two patients have the same disease, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need or want the same type of support services. Some patients prefer to have a nurse come into their home to help them administer their medication, whereas other patients might prefer virtual clinical support. We design these programs for flexibility, allowing the patient to control the types of services we provide as well as the way the services are delivered.

Q. The pharma industry is continually challenged with measuring patient outcomes in regards to the value of these services – why is that? What’s the solution?
A.
We can report on turnaround times, fill rates, and persistency, but it is challenging to measure overall value without a holistic view of the patient’s therapeutic experience. Advancements in technology and standardization help us better track and report patient outcomes. However, it really comes down to analyzing any problem areas and implementing solutions. For example, one of our reimbursement programs noticed that patients were dropping off therapy much sooner than expected due to a lack of product education. Our team worked with our pharma partner to enhance the nursing and adherence program with proactive response and personalization. Our client reported a 21% increase in persistency, with patients who enrolled in the adherence program receiving 1-2 more Rx fills than patients who did not enroll. It’s not enough to help patients get started on therapy. Helping them remain on therapy as prescribed by their physician promotes clinical effectiveness, decreases waste associated with non-compliance, and improves therapeutic outcomes.

UBC knows our clients will continue to bring innovative therapies to market, and that is why our leaders, like Nicole, are revolutionizing the therapeutic experience for patients and prescribers. Contact us to discuss how our patient-centric services can support your therapy.