You’ve surely heard healthcare bemoaned as a slow-moving industry, slow to innovate, and even slower to adopt new technology. That has certainly been true, and for valid reasons. But it’s this very point that made the industry ripe for disruption.
In comparison with other verticals, healthcare is rapidly increasing in complexity. There are more therapies to choose from and different kinds of treatments such as cell and gene therapies that require entirely different engagement models. Additionally, there is complexity in delivery settings, with sites of care changing and services increasingly delivered in communities or via pharmacies. New non-traditional entrants to the market—think Apple, Amazon, or even Best Buy for that matter—have forever altered the competitive set. Healthcare providers are overwhelmed, stretched thin, and frequently burned out as they navigate these changes. And patients, while increasingly empowered, still struggle to meaningfully engage in decision-making. Add to this growing complexity a tightening regulatory environment, and what results is a stubborn stasis caused by constraining the very dynamics of agile innovation necessary to meet the many challenges.
For these reasons and more, changes and advancements in the US healthcare industry moved slowly until COVID-19 forced an accelerated disruption of many aspects of healthcare in the United States and around the world.
COVID-19 has largely sped up the digital transformation of healthcare, boosted innovation, and put the human-centric experience of healthcare front and center. Perhaps counter-intuitively, during the pandemic, more choices and options opened up to patients and providers in the United States. These changes are here to stay.
We see it across stakeholders—no one will be left unchanged in the post-pandemic world. This includes patients, healthcare providers, and payers.
Patients are more informed and more involved in their health and wellness than ever before, and this has changed how they want to receive and consume care. Today, they have more choices and more information available at their fingertips; this was unthinkable even a decade ago. Patients can now access care on-demand through virtual visits and telemedicine. In fact, telehealth utilization was 38 times higher at the end of 2021 than it was pre-pandemic. They can order their own lab work through at-home testing kits or directly through nationwide laboratory chains and monitor their vital signs and important health stats through wearables that track heart rate, blood oxygen level, sleep quality, even fertility, and sun exposure.
The result of this is more patients doing their own research, engaging in collaborative decisions with their doctors, using digital tools and apps to understand their disease, and keeping up with their treatment. They are also demanding information and access to cutting-edge treatments (such as early access to trial medications), rating doctors, practices, and medicines online, and advising one another about treatments. Today, more than 80% of Americans are researching health topics online.
We see the hunger patients have for information on their own health and wellness to only continue to grow as the healthcare offering expands through novel technology.
The telehealth takeover isn’t limited to healthcare professional-to-patient interactions. The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way healthcare professionals engage with pharmaceutical sales reps. The demands on healthcare professionals are high, and to be successful in a COVID-19 world, the value delivered to healthcare professionals through each interaction needs to be clear, concise, and delivered in the channel and manner the healthcare professional wants to receive it.
Remote and virtual communications have seen a rise of 424% from baseline, with many healthcare professionals still restricting access to themselves and their practices. Going forward, 44% of healthcare professionals want to maintain the status quo for the foreseeable future, and 28% want reduced rep access to remain permanent. Biopharmaceutical companies will have to find novel ways to engage with their customers and ensure the engagements they do have with healthcare professionals (whether in person or virtual) are meaningful, informative, and personalized to the needs of the individual.
With the astronomical cost of COVID-19 weighing on them, insurers are placing new demands on how patients are treated to optimize value. With this shift, we are seeing greater involvement from payers to move toward value-based care pathway designs, signaling a transition to human-centricity in healthcare. Payers are rewarding healthcare providers for quality of care over quantity of services provided, tracking metrics like lower hospital readmissions, more robust preventative care offerings, integration of technology, and patient engagement or satisfaction with their care.
We are also seeing a move toward more tailored offerings in the payer space. Large companies like Amazon and General Motors are offering direct-to-provider plans customized for their employee base. These plans cut out third-party administrators, preferring to negotiate favorable plans directly with health systems.
The continuous engagement revolution
Today, patients, healthcare professionals, and payers have one thing in common. Spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, they have all increased their adoption of technology and digital channels. It is easy to think that the solution lies in another piece of technology. However, if you dig deeper into their requirements, these stakeholders are ultimately seeking a human-centered solution.
Patients, payers, and healthcare professionals are all striving for more personalized and connected customer experiences on their terms. They expect value-adding, tailored content delivered at the right time, through the right channel, across their entire journey.
Life science companies must become laser-focused on patient- and customer-centricity to meet stakeholder needs and improve outcomes in increasingly complex environments. The most successful will leverage behavioral science to develop omnichannel strategies that increasingly integrate a broader set of digital channels to deliver tailored, cohesive experiences for key stakeholders.
Leaders of this continuous engagement revolution will thoughtfully and efficiently pivot from a product-centric view to a human-centric perspective, based on the stakeholder’s environment, external challenges, and needs, including the social determinants of health and health equity. Those that can align their people, processes, and technology to deliver on human-centricity will win the future because, in the end, healthcare is and remains a people business.
Building a vision of the future
The pandemic sped up change and has afforded our industry the chance to redefine what healthcare will look like going forward. There continues to be room for expansive growth and innovation. Life science companies can help shape the care pathways of the future by developing innovative solutions that enhance the rapidly changing dynamics affecting the life science industry, patients, healthcare professionals, and payers.
To do that successfully, stakeholders will need to look both inward and drive top-down organizational change that breaks silos and helps deliver on the promises of digital and transformation. By looking outward, to recruit and retain top-tier digital and technology talent with the right specialist and generalist skillsets in digital and analytics, biopharmaceutical companies can bring their visions of healthcare future state to life.
To find out how we can help you become part of the continuous engagement revolution, contact firstname.lastname@example.org