Digital health is accelerating with pharma and patient services

From telemedicine to connected EHR platforms to wearables, technology has transformed the healthcare industry over the past two decades. Health systems aren’t the only ones who are helping to advance this digital transformation as smartphones are increasingly used by patients to stay connected to their health. Leaders in pharma organizations and patient services are now incorporating digital health into their strategies to help achieve greater patient engagement and better outcomes.

Momentum of Digital Health
New advancements in technology are creating a digital revolution that is changing the healthcare industry. Smartphones and new technologies are increasing connectivity and reducing physical boundaries. Technology reduces lag time, creating an environment where services are available on-demand. Consumer-focused platforms are being applied to healthcare as patients expect more choice, more personalization, more immediacy of services. And digital advancements means that healthcare is no longer limited to traditional settings, with health information and care available everywhere. Telehealth, virtual care, and connected devices mean care can meet patient health needs on their terms.

In 2020, a global pandemic created a watershed moment for digital health, accelerating its adoption among patients, providers, healthcare systems, governments, and payers to keep patients connected to their health while isolated. Throughout the pandemic, adoption of digital health tools often exceeded 75%, as patients became more comfortable relying on digital devices to track and engage in their health. This new adoption presented an opportunity for pharma organizations and patient support services to utilize this new technology to support patient engagement.

Digital Health and Pharma
Just as healthcare systems and physicians have started to utilize digital health tools to connect with patients, the pharma industry is increasingly using these tools to improve their connection with providers and patients. In fact, in the past three years there have been 51 significant partnerships announced between pharma and technology providers. This growing momentum is largely the result that technology offers additional insight and data on the patient experience that pharma has never been able to capture. Traditionally, patient engagement at pharma only existed up until a prescription was written by a provider. But these new digital health tools provide insight into the longer patient journey on behavioral trends, treatment adherence, challenges to complex regimens.

Pharma is increasingly developing deals with technology providers to implement digital health companions that deliver timely support for patients and complement existing patient-centric strategies. While most pharma organizations have yet to adopt a digital-only strategy for patient engagement, there is greater acceptance that patients are already using digital health tools to track their health, stay informed on their medications, and get support for chronic conditions. By delivering timely guidance and information in these channels, pharma organizations can help to reduce nonadherence, and create greater patient engagement. These tools also enable pharma to reach more patients, in more locations, with a lower cost to deploy support and guidance directly to patients. New technologies enable faster scalability and greater reach than ever before.

Digital Health and Patient Services
Patient support organizations are also following suit with the adoption of digital health tools to support engagement. While the core business of patient support services lies in the personal connection between its support staff and patients, the use of digital health tools helps to extend that existing nurse-patient connection through more efficient means and in formats which patients are already familiar. For less timely elements or more process-oriented functions, nurses can utilize digital health tools to support elements such as patient authorization forms, specialty medication tracking, and appointment reminders.

Much like pharma, the inclusion of digital health tools is leading to an increase in engagement by blending digital and personal elements. These tools support information transfer between stakeholders and can be incorporated into existing workflows, helping to increase efficiencies and allow nurse support staff to be allocated to higher priority cases and needs, allowing digital to support longer-term engagement. Patients have also reported high levels of satisfaction with the blend of human-digital support, feeling reassured they can connect back with a live nurse when needed, but also able to receive updates and gain transparency into their treatment via digital health platform.

Future of Digital Health Integration
While many say that digital health is paving the way for the future of health care, it’s clear from both pharma and patient support services that personal connections are still as important as ever in the healthcare industry. We are far from a digital only universe, and for elements as personal and serious as patient health, a human connection is still the preferred choice. However, the advancement of technology, adoption of digital health tools, and use of smart health devices show that communication methods can improve to support more engagement. And these advancements mean fewer delays, more informed decisions, and stronger patient connections to support better health outcomes.

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