How the Right Digital Ecosystem Can Improve Patient Outcomes

August 16, 2018 Natalia Gallur

Our world is being redesigned through digital technologies. Technology has changed how people live, work, play and connect. And marketers are learning to use the digital experience to track signals to reach customers in a more human manner—in the moments that matter. The healthcare industry can do the same to track and engage patients in the moments that matter to them—and improve their outcomes.

The healthcare industry needs to pay attention to digital transformation before they miss the train. As an industry, it should put all fears and any perceived obstacles–like adverse event management or an overload of information—aside to connect everyone, from patients and their families to healthcare providers (HCPs) and payers, in the best interest of all parties involved in patient care.

Barriers to Improving Patient Outcomes

The biggest challenge in the healthcare industry is improving patient outcomes, and there are significant barriers common to most healthcare practices:

1. Time 

Time is a factor, as providers have a limited amount of time to address everything a patient needs/wants addressed. For example, consultation time is too short, leaving certain disease management topics not totally covered, as HCPs are often forced to focus only on the crucial therapeutic objectives. Therefore, patients often leave with many questions unexpressed and/or unanswered. From a psychological perspective, they may be struggling with concerns, doubts or fears about specific treatment or disease management. 

2. Information Retention

Because of the above factors involving time, the retention of information that patients are provided with during a consultation can be compromised. Patients may be overwhelmed by the amount of information that is shared with them during a short consultation time, which may include difficult terminology, specific administration of medication, prescriptions and more.

3. Adherence

The eternal problem of healthcare is adherence. There are so many factors (or a combination of factors) that contribute to why patients don’t comply with or adhere to the treatments and medications they have been prescribed. In addition to issues around time and retaining pertinent information, add in fear of side effects, fear to inject, forgetfulness, as well as social and cultural barriers. And that’s not to mention basic psychological blocks, such as excuses and denial. Lack of adherence costs billions to the healthcare industry and government every year, and more importantly, causes poor patient healthcare outcomes that negatively affect people’s quality of life every day.

Improving patient outcomes is a major challenge. Healthcare stakeholders need to find the magic formula to achieve visibility into the patient’s reality (real world evidence on adherence, access to symptoms, and challenges between consultations) and provide effective tailored support to reach optimal care. 

Achieve Better Outcomes with a Digital Ecosystem

Healthcare organizations can, in fact, achieve that visibility into patients' realities with an eye on removing barriers and improving outcomes. The key is to create a digital ecosystem in which patients, their caregivers and their HCPs can share information and communicate in real time to address the needs of the patient in the moment. This ecosystem is a suite of systems and platforms that are all integrated (i.e. app, HCP portal, nurse support line, website, tools) which helps connect all parties (patients, caregivers, HCPs, payers). 

Through the use of proper technology and digital interaction, healthcare organizations can create a supporting, connected ecosystem that enables real-time, humanized connection between the patient and the resources s/he needs most in that moment.

Through this type of ecosystem, providers can listen to the signals that both patients and healthcare teams are sending while participating in a healthcare program—and act upon these signals to deliver the ideal experience for the patient, mediating challenges like lack of time with the doctor, information retention and adherence. Often, these signals are not taken into consideration, and patients and healthcare providers end up in journeys that claim to be personalized, but they are based on scientific archetypes and generic algorithms that lack a human understanding of personal experience. Though these programs can be set up with the best of intentions, they fail to understand the in-the-moment needs of patients and providers. Through the use of proper technology and digital interaction, healthcare organizations can create a supporting, connected ecosystem that enables real-time, humanized connection between the patient and the resources s/he needs most in that moment.

In such a digital healthcare ecosystem, the patient is empowered to self-monitor adherence and progress. They can keep track of home tests, injection routines and schedule, and provide the results back to HCPs—reducing the cost of lab fees while raising the likelihood of adherence. Patients can also use trackers to log and share information about medications, symptoms, questions, concerns, etc., with their providers via the interconnected portal. This allows HCPs to provide personalized content and alerts in return based on real-time needs. As consumers continue to embrace interactive and personalized apps via their mobile phones—including for such sensitive information as healthcare—these tools help to reinforce the information received from HCPs and follow-up on it. 

Such an ecosystem helps to meet the needs of patients, HCPs and payers:

Digital Ecosystem in Action

One of our global pharmaceutical clients produces a leading drug that treats a chronic disease. The company identified an opportunity to provide patient support tailored to the needs of each individual living with this disease. The objective was to provide a personalized, human-based approach to support that could scale to a global level in order to improve patients’ personal outcomes and empower them to live their lives to the fullest. 

This pharma brand therefore designed a multichannel patient experience tailored to specific patient needs and connecting patients to resources like their healthcare providers (HCPs), nurse support and informational web content. The project included creating a responsive patient website, portals through which HCPs could access patient information, a CRM that connected all platforms and data on the backend, contact center patient support and more. The experience was designed to help patients and their providers manage disease for best possible health outcomes. The pharma brand was able to enroll 28,000 patients in the program, 96% of which were still enrolled after 12 months.

Check out the full case study here: Global Pharmaceutical Brand Improves Patient Outcomes with Personalized, Multichannel Experience

In these modern days, connecting patients and healthcare teams in real time to enable and empower the patient—and ultimately improve outcomes—shouldn’t be a "nice thing to have." It should be a must. Technology enables us to get tailored, personal support where we need it, how we need it, when we need it. That's how to deliver healthcare solutions that truly make a difference.

About the Author

Born in Valencia, Spain, Natalia moved North East to Belgium after gaining her Master’s degree in Audiovisual Communication and she’s been working her magic in our Hasselt office since 1998. After spending the first four years managing several multichannel marketing programs for a range of technology companies, Natalia redirected her career towards the pharmaceutical vertical. She now works closely with her clients to implement and deliver international omnichannel in the areas of patient support and clinical trials

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