Keeping technology in healthcare relevant to the patient experience
In putting out our new report on how patients are adapting to COVID-19, and the permanent changes in their behavior, I was struck by how the shift to virtual care and increased adoption of technology really highlights something we often talk about in our work – that first and foremost, patients are people. Seems pretty straightforward, perhaps, but we tend to talk about “patients” and their healthcare behaviors as somehow separate from the rest of their lives, from the way they already function as a consumer, as a technology user, as a friend and family member.
The rapid uptake in technology use that we’re seeing now is a good example of how those lines are blurred. Our survey of 2700 people in 6 countries found that patients have shifted to much more at-home treatment and care. During the pandemic, they started using video calls, online chat, and apps to communicate with their doctor. 44% of patients started using new devices or apps to help manage their conditions. And those new tools were a hit. Patients said that they want to keep using technology to stay in touch with their healthcare providers, and 90% of people who tried new medical devices or apps want to keep using them.
Evolving consumer expectations are just as relevant to the health-focused aspects of our lives. The accelerated reliance on technology to make our daily lives more convenient, and our growing fluency and comfort with that, is shifting the expectations of patients for their healthcare. It’s already changing how we connect to our doctors and how we monitor our medical conditions, and we expect these changes to be for the long haul.
So, what does that mean for life sciences companies?
While life sciences companies are often not directly at the point of care for a patient, they are a key player in the health ecosystem, and certainly can play a role in meeting patient expectations. Anyone who wants to remain relevant to patients is going to have to alter the way they operate to take the trend of increasingly virtual healthcare into account.
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Life sciences companies can be a key enabler to virtual care by providing information and companion technologies that drive improvements in lifestyle and care for patients.
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Life sciences companies can be a key enabler to virtual care by providing information and companion technologies that drive improvements in lifestyle and care for patients. Examples have existed in pockets for some time. Smart inhalers have sensors that help asthma and COPD patients monitor their medication use and collect data that can be used to improve care. Remote connections to in-home dialysis devices let HCPs monitor and manage therapy from their clinics, and change prescription settings remotely as needed. Insulin pumps automatically calibrate insulin delivery in amounts based on blood glucose levels, an important convenience for patients. And it’s not always a device. Some companies provide apps that include important lifestyle information that help patients manage their disease. Patient-centric designs put the patient first in making treatment convenient and flexible.
How can life sciences companies be part of this change?
First, they must acknowledge the trend and commit resources to meet patients where they are at—at home, and online. This may mean expanding existing tools and platforms, or creation of new patient support programs that improve the patient experience. And if used right, virtual tools can help both sides, especially if designed to capture patient input and feedback which can then feed into better design and solutions. Real-time, reliable data is invaluable for companies seeking to understand whether patients adhere to their treatment plan, and how they respond.
As we continue to fight our way through the uncertainty of a global pandemic, paying close attention to patient’s behaviors can help companies consider the wholistic patient experience, beyond the therapy, and invest in the right enabling technologies and support programs. Patients are people, and their healthcare behaviors and choices are governed by the same motivations of convenience and optimal experience as in other parts of their lives. COVID-19 has accelerated technology adoption across many aspects of life, and patient expectations have changed fast.
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