Covid 19- Our catalyst to digitization in healthcare

Covid 19 - Our catalyst to digtialization in Healthcare

Covid 19 made it easier for us to truly demonstrate our most loved industry mantra- ‘innovation’. The speed of behaviour change that we wished to see in the healthcare industry, in civic societies, in almost every realm of life has moved from lifeless stupor to a frenzied, breaknecking speed. The one behaviour change which has been accelerated by leap years due to the Coronavirus pandemic is that all of us are reaching out for our phones/ smart devices to perform almost every mundane task that we otherwise believed essentially required a face to face interaction.

In the world of healthcare, digitization to meet patient and HCP needs has become the need of the hour. The urgency can be felt as we see digital healthcare societies doubling their efforts to create standards for acceptance of close to 100% virtual, decentralised  healthcare management. Something that would have been laughed at a few years ago.

The four cornerstones responsible for the escalation of digital adoption in healthcare over the past decade are:

Government regulation and financial support

Need for transparent and rapidly accessible patient records

Necessity of ‘big data’ to quantitatively improve healthcare treatment and quality

Transition of the healthcare providers from a volume-based to a value-based economic model

3 key trends are rising to the top of the digital health landscape:

Consumerization of healthcare

Access for underserved communities

Application of big data

All the above cornerstones and trends have gained unprecedented momentum in the Covid 19 era.  We are looking at innovative digitization possibly causing the biggest healthcare market disruption driving virtualization of   almost every activity in the healthcare arena- be it HCP conversations, patient engagement, medication management, impact analysis studies, clinical research etc.

It has given the pharma industry a redeeming chance to partner with healthcare stakeholders seamlessly through novel clinically relevant and economically impactful digital solutions. It has also provided the necessary push for regulators to accelerate the modernisation of regulations to motivate pharma innovators to build more accessible health solutions. Most importantly, it has built a bridge to touch patient lives and truly put patients first through digital PSPs/ access programs/ educational programs/ PRO post marketing studies.

Pharma companies equipped with a digital arm directly or indirectly through digital healthcare partners have a first and fast mover advantage to form partnerships with all stakeholders to deploy fluid communication channels allowing for seamless healthcare management. The most relevant stakeholders that will be impacted by the digital tsunami are- 1. HCP 2. Patient 3. Paramedical staff 4. Pharma companies 5. Drug supply chain 6. Health insurance 7. Health care regulatory bodies.

Pharma companies can offer patients various innovative digital solutions to:

  • Build online disease awareness channels to drive a more aware consumer pool
  • Build easily accessible questionnaires for at risk people to get screened and directed to relevant HCP specialist pools
  • Facilitate lab testing through digital platforms integrating all available digitally enabled lab agencies
  • Build non invasive/ consultational patient management from the comfort of patients’ home by specialists who can review lab tests generated and shared through online channels
  • Give HCPs the flexibility to make themselves available to patients remotely through webinars, hotlines, or even live video interactions
  • Provide uninterrupted 24/7 virtual maintenance care, real-time HCP feedback, simplified health outcome data visualization
  • Ensure patient reported outcomes and clinically significant end points reach the HCPs on time to drive effective alterations in treatment protocols
  • Build channels and platforms for faster, easier and more affordable access of consumers to medications that will be delivered at their doorstep
  • Provide hot lines to reach specialists in time for emergency care
  • Provide platforms connecting patients with each other to share experiences, best practices driving empowered and informed patient better able to manage and thrive
  • Provide caregivers a platform to understand patients with a new light that comes in with access to better, wholesome and engaging PRO data
  • Provide doctors the chance to connect with online specialist/patient/caregiver communities to enrich themselves with evolving information and tools to drive timely, informed decision making
  • All this digitally available information can transform our outlook on how machine learning and AI can become an integral mainstay for building predicting pathways that patients, HCPs can safely refer to for easier disease management. These can be presented to them through chatbots, autofilled health plan that require minor touches by HCPs etc

This and so much more is possible. New avenues have opened up to build bridges with relevant stakeholders through this digitization surge.

However, implementation of all of the above requires the right people with the right skill set to execute a novel engagement model that is equipped with the following:

  • Easily availability and accessibility of the solution
  • Simplicity and  ease of usage
  • Cost effective in the long run
  • Clinically relevant and effective in improving patient outcomes
  • Compliant to pharmacovigilance requirements
  • Cyber secure respecting information security regulations and standards
  • Seamless in providing end to end patient care
  • Ability to provide ongoing, engaging learning tools to upskill the digitally challenged patients, doctors and related stakeholders

To digitally innovate, we must ask the right questions. What are the needs of doctors and patients? What is the best way to address their unmet needs and make a tangible impact? How can digital solutions help fill the gaps related to awareness, access and affordability?

With an open mind and willingness to experiment, we can apply innovative digital solutions and new technologies in an optimal way to improve patient outcomes.

The heart of healthcare is unfazed, and still remains- Patient safety and access to the best quality of care and products available. It’s merely the modus operandi that we need to realign, to continue providing the right patient with the right medicine at the right time. It’s time we reimagine our business strategies embracing that digital healthcare is the new normal and is here to stay.  As aptly said by Jeffery R. Anderson, “We often think that there is just one way to look at things – the way we always have. In fact, there are an infinite number of ways to look at most everything. An open mind allows for a multitude of perspectives from which to choose in any given moment. That suppleness of mind allows for true choice, and opens us to a whole new realm of possibility.”

Author:
Lyka Da Costa
AVP Patient Outcomes, Process Excellence and Solutioning