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Pharmaceutical companies are improving how they engage with healthcare providers

Pharma companies are also offering solutions to practices so they can more easily afford and keep track of therapies.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical companies are changing how they engage with healthcare providers, which in turn is helping providers better serve patients, according to findings of a global Accenture survey of 720 general practitioners, oncologists, cardiologists and immunologists.

For example, most providers said pharma companies are increasingly providing education on how to better treat patients remotely and help them manage their conditions in light of COVID-19. 

Pharma companies are also helping patients understand where they can access labs, infusion centers or imaging centers, and are offering solutions to providers and their practices so they can more easily afford and keep track of therapies. In the U.S., information on affordability programs that pharmaceutical companies offer have been particularly helpful.

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The survey, which was conducted in May and June across China, France, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S., indicates that many patients and providers expect these changes are here to stay.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

While the news is mostly good, the data suggests there's more that pharmaceutical companies could be doing to support providers and patients, who want more interactions that are virtual and self-directed. For instance, 65% of providers said they value self-administration methods for patients, including via auto-injectors or wearable devices, items that have been added to more and more wish lists as the pandemic has continued.

A clear majority, 62%, said they placed value on remote monitoring tools that can track health data from the home, a number that has increased since before the pandemic. Many patients have also said that they want to go to their providers' offices less often even after the public health crisis has abated, suggesting an opportunity for pharma companies to continue to respond to the public's changing needs.

Before COVID-19, 64% of meetings with pharma sales reps were held in person. During the pandemic, this shifted to 65% of meetings held virtually. Many providers reported they expect restrictions in access to healthcare facilities will continue for some time – perhaps even permanently. Indeed, 43% said they are currently restricting who can enter the office for professional reasons (i.e. no pharmaceutical reps). Twenty-eight percent of those with restrictions said they believe it is something they may implement permanently, and another 44% said they would keep the restrictions "for the foreseeable future."

But providers also said they still want to learn about new treatments and interact with pharma sales reps – they just want to do so in different ways. Eighty-eight percent of the providers surveyed said they want to hear about new treatments despite being in the middle of the pandemic. Four in 10 providers said the likelihood of starting a patient on a new treatment has increased, since they have a greater ability to monitor patient response, more access to information on new treatments and more time to learn about them.

And in fact, 61% said they are interacting with pharma sales reps more during COVID-19 than they did before. But they want pharma sales reps to have a better understanding of their needs and the needs of their patients. For example, 58% said they have been spammed by a pharmaceutical company.

THE LARGER TREND

Despite these positive developments, many Americans are still wary of the pharmaceutical industry, with nearly nine in 10 saying they're "very" or "somewhat" concerned the industry will try to raise drug prices during the pandemic, found a June survey by the nonprofit West Health and Gallup.

Similarly, 84% are very or somewhat concerned that the general cost of care will rise, with 79% very or somewhat concerned their health insurance premiums will go up in response to the pandemic. In each of the latter two scenarios, 41% of Americans are "very" concerned.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com