Accenture’s survey of 2,000 patients found that the vast majority of patients don’t just want complementary services along with the pills pharma companies try to sell – they expect them.
About 46 percent of the US adult population takes prescription drugs, but an Accenture survey of 2,000 patients who are on short-term, long-term or lifestyle medication reveals that patients expect a lot more than pills from the pharmaceutical companies.
Titled ‘Great Expectations: Why Pharma Companies Can’t Ignore Patient Services’, the survey throws interesting insights into what patients want, what they are currently getting, what they value most and what this means to the industry.
The report states that patients these days are exerting more influence than ever on their medication and treatment decisions. While tablets and therapies are important, they also strongly articulate the need for complementary services that help them achieve better their health outcomes.
76 percent of the surveyed patients believe that pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to provide information and services that complement the products. 74 percent indicate that the most appropriate time to initiate such services is when they start taking medication. 50 percent are open to receive assistance even when they are already on a medication or when thinking about switching the course.
The services they expect most are rewards program (63%), product information (53%), financial assistance (51%), measurement tracking and alert (35%), patient support forums (29%), physician referrals (28%), access to clinical trials (28%), nurse support via phone (26%), lifestyle coaching and training (23%), adherence support (19%) and in-home nurse support (8%).
Surprisingly there is a large gap between what patients have been expecting and what they are receiving. For example, 63% want rewards program but only 10 percent are receiving it. Similarly, 51% want financial assistance but only 10 percent receive it. And 35% wish for measuring and tracking but only 20 percent receive it.
While they may not be getting all the services they want, they are generally very satisfied with the services when they get them. 64% of the patients say that they are willing to give more information about their health to receive free information and related complementary services.
Satisfaction rates have been high across the board from a high of 80% for product information, 79% for measurement tracking and alert, and 77% for adherence support to a low of 63% for financial assistance and access to clinical trials.
The survey states that patients today are proactive, digitally-enabled and are continuously looking for health-related information and services from a wide variety of sources and channels. The top four areas patients are actively seeking information about are medications (80%), chronic conditions (75%), healthcare services (71%) and illnesses/ailments (65%).
The survey also reveals that more than two-thirds of patients spend several hours a day online and seek information through various digital channels such as email (69%), website (48%), mobile apps (44%) and social media (38%).
Keeping in these findings in mind, the report believes that, “this desire for services, and their willingness to collaborate with healthcare firms to obtain them, represents a significant opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to explore service components as a way to expand access to care and treatments that patients need to remain healthy.”
As consumers assume increasing buying power in the marketplace, companies will increasingly add complementary services to boost value proposition and this report gives insights into what patients are expecting from them. The changing priorities and expectations of patients also open up new opportunities for digital health companies and digital health services from the existing pharma companies.
Some of the services patients want such as adherence support, measurement tracking and alert, patient support forums, lifestyle coaching and training can be provided over social media or mobile apps. The preference for digital channels such as websites and apps has also been expressed strongly by the patients surveyed.
Various pharma companies have already been releasing mobile apps to provide many of the complementary services listed in the survey report. For example, Bayer Healthcare released an app called FactorTrack to measure and record hemophilia A Factor VIII infusions. Similarly, GlaxoSmithKline built an app to locate the nearby clinical trials. Merck runs a website called MerckEngage to provide health education and medication adherence support.
Trends like these will continue and pharmaceutical companies will increasingly rethink their approach to clinical trials, medication support, consumer health education and other services in the context of digital health and connected health technologies. And this report underlines the need for such a transformation.