Bridging gaps in communicating with patients

Accenture survey focuses on healthcare providers’ experiences


Accenture HCPs patient services

Fig. 1. Only 40% of HCPs are “very aware”
of patient services

Accenture’s Life Sciences Group has a three-year string of polling various parties in healthcare—patients (2015), pharma execs (2016) and now healthcare providers—on key questions around the interaction between patients, the services they need, and the actions taken by pharma companies. The concept of “patient centricity” has been a cliché of the industry for years; how close to that goal are the actual steps taken—and their perception? And the answer is, while industry has certainly stepped up its game, there are many disconnects between industry, HCPs and patients. Thus, the Accenture report title: Lost in Translation: The Communication Gap in Patient Services.

A key finding of the report is that HCPs are not highly aware of the services that pharma companies are offering: on average, only 40% of them say that they are “very aware.” (Fig. 1) Oncology specialists have the highest awareness (52%), while general practitioners and brain specialists have the lowest (31–34%). (The survey was conducted across 362 HCPs in both the US and Europe; results were found to be in general agreement in both regions.)

Accenture, patient services

Fig. 2. Top seven ways HCPs Hear/Learn about patient services offered by pharma companies. Credit: Accenture

While interactions with sales reps are the most effective channel to communicate the services message (Fig. 2), only a third of reps present services information in a way that integrates the service with the therapy.

Finally, even though an earlier Accenture survey showed that patients prefer to hear about services from their doctors, this year’s survey reveals that 85% of HCPs rarely or never mention those services.

“It’s pretty obvious to say that the more complex or higher the cost of a drug, the more necessary it is for brand teams to couple patient services more tightly with the product strategy,” says Tony Romito, Accenture’s North American director of intelligent patient services. “But there should be a higher average than reps mentioning services only a third of the time even for non-specialty medicines.”

Last year’s survey showed that pharma companies were increasing spending in patient services, such as reimbursement support, patient education and nursing support almost across the board. Now, says Romito, there are indications that those companies want to obtain a return on investment for these services. There is also a small trend toward centralizing patient services across an enterprise’s brand teams, rather than having each brand team work through its own patient-support setup.

The current interest in value-based contracting, by which reimbursement to the pharma company is tied to patient outcomes, “is not sustainable unless pharma companies take active steps to engage with patients,” says Romito.

The report recommends three actions to improve overall performance in patient services:

  • Fill the R&D and commercial gap by including services in the structure of clinical trials. The beneficial effects of the services will then demonstrate their importance to brand teams, medical affairs and overall commercial launch budgeting
  • Fill the product and service gap by refocusing commercial functions from developing and marketing brands to designing and marketing holistic patient solutions; the end result of this should be the inclusion of patient services in each product’s brand team—even to create “outcome” teams rather than brand teams
  • Fill the engagement gap with HCPs by structuring HCP interactions with an “outcomes-first” mindset, and to do this consistently across communication channels.

For several years, Accenture has been offering a cloud-based Intelligent Patient Platform, which enables clients (life sciences companies, healthcare providers and payers) to gather and analyze patient data, manage services and engagements, and perform outcome-based analytics.