Doctor to Patient Connection and Improving Tech

Mark Pappas, SVP, Innovation | Alyssa Battaglia, Senior Media Planner

June 28, 2021

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Executive Summary

The pandemic has shown us just how valuable advances in technology have been to our own personal health. Telehealth, which was something very few people used in the “before times,” became the default for all manner of health check-ins with all manner of specialties from general health visits to sending pictures to dermatologists several states away. With these advancements in technology and the adaptation of them by patients, new issues were put in the spotlight. Social issues around education and poverty were preventing the entire population from accessing these advancements in technology. Not everyone can afford the newest smart phones capable of leveraging these telehealth technologies. This POV focuses on two major aspects of tech innovation and what marketers should know about how they fit into the future of healthcare.

The Possibilities are Just Beginning

The future of healthcare, as with most other industries, is rooted in technology. From telehealth appointment options or using AI and data science for deeper, more accurate understanding of a patient’s true medical case, to robots single-handedly operating on humans. The beauty of these innovations is not that it allows the doctor to be hands off and impersonal with their patients, but the opposite: these advances will support the overly busy HCP and remove uncertainties that revolve around multiple tests and other trial-and-error, giving them the time to focus on the care given to everyone. It will be almost equally important for doctors to learn and understand the human body and its diseases as it will be to learn how to work with the emerging technologies intended to improve patient and HCP experience.

However, the tech itself will not solve all our problems. These developments will need to be cost efficient and user friendly so that patients are not marginalized due to access, understanding, financial means, and more. It is said that scientific medicine is only about 20% effective in the healing of a patient, with the other 80% being the human caring & holistic approach, this is an idea that should be pulled through to our digital advancements as well.

The Importance and Complexity of Accessibility

It is no question that our future state of healthcare could be changed for the better as technology advances us as a society. However, as discussed during the SXSW Panel “Reimaging Care: The Intersection of Tech & Touch,” with this new technology comes barriers: the ability for all to access and afford such technology. For example, in order to access telehealth, someone must also have access to the Internet. This is something that many Americans still don’t have the privilege to have access to, creating a digital divide in healthcare. While we can do amazing things that were not even imaginable 10 years ago, we still need to address the other access issues (cost, usability, etc.).

One simple example of taking the extra step to ensure a smooth operation between tech advances and the tech itself, is education and collaboration. Many wearable medical technologies are designed for senior citizens, for example hearing aids, heart monitoring watches, etc., but not necessary designed with seniors’ input. It’s very likely that if there is a lack of education on the device, seniors will be less willing to incorporate it into their lives. The best ways to circumvent this issue is to co-create with seniors—or the anticipated user base—and ensure there is ample support in learning how to utilize the product. Technology is doing its best work when it’s fully accessible to those who need it.

Time-Saving Tech

Human Genome Mapping For Less

Imagine, from birth, all humans’ genes are fully mapped out. Your genes can tell you about your body’s drug sensitivity, existing medical conditions, or those you may be at risk for developing, and dietary intolerances, to name a few. Now imagine the collective sigh of relief from HCPs around the world that will have this information at the tip of their fingers, eliminating guesswork and possible discomforts, waste of both patient and doctor’s time, and the time it takes to get patients feeling better.

This reality isn’t too far off. In 2003, the cost for sequence one person’s entire genome was $2.7 billion with machinery created by a company called Illumina. This cost dropped to $300,000 in 2006, then $1,000 in 2014, to the promise that the cost could be less than $100 one day. Since then, other companies have joined the race to develop technology that is faster and more accurate at reading and analyzing the genomes, and less expensive. MGI Tech is one of these companies, and according to DocWireNews, their performance and results are comparable. We soon will see which sequencing instrument will be most affordable and when will it be available on a large scale. The big question is how this will impact HCPs’ daily workloads and whether they can redirect time saved to improving patient outcomes.

Technology and Drug R&D

While this category of development is not specific to the patient-to-doctor experience, it will directly affect how HCPs are able to treat patients in the future. It’s no secret that the research, testing and approvals process for new drugs is both slow and expensive. There are several new ways pharma companies are conducting research and even testing their new drugs, for example: in silico experimentation. The typical way of clinical testing is via in vivo and in vitro experiments (testing in live organisms and outside live organisms using test tubes/petri dish, etc.). The groundbreaking option of in silico, meaning testing using computer simulations, will allow for time and cost effectiveness and should also “circumvent animal testing and side effects on human and animal participants.”

With the knowledge that some pharma companies are already “re-investing as much as 20.8% of drug sales into new drug development,” it can be expected that this number will grow with the increasing innovations for R&D. The speed and ease of creating new drugs will be pivotal in furthering the types of diseases that can be treated and the rate of success with which patients are ‘cured.’

The impact that innovation in R&D has on the public was seen during the pandemic and is now very much in the public eye. How will this change how patients – particularly those with chronic conditions – and HCPs interact?

What does it mean for Pharma?

As technology evolves, as will best practices for diagnosis, prescribing and treatment plans. In an “imagine anything” environment, Pharma could leverage influence to change medicine to focus on positive health outcomes, helping pave the way for HCPs to spend more time with patients, as technology takes over some of their workload.

Pharma needs to adapt the educational information they share, allowing for older, yet still relevant, treatment options as well as the cutting-edge opportunities proven to be less invasive and/or with better outcomes. Inform patients of the new options that they should discuss with their doctor to enable a better treatment experience.

Providing this range of options is one way that Pharma can ensure patients are getting the treatment they need, but also avoiding marginalization if they are at a disadvantage due to factors like geographic location or financial ability. The more accessible the drugs and medical devices are, the more widely adopted they are likely to be.

Brands must be willing to experiment with new channels and opportunities to connect with patients. A month before the pandemic lockdown, brands were extremely hesitant to even test running ads on telehealth platforms. A month later, those same brands were doing whatever they could to get into that space which was getting more and more crowded as more partners and ad opportunities arose. Now is the time to grow, change, and lead with inclusive experiences.