The COVID-19 pandemic has placed healthcare systems across the world under enormous strain, while life sciences companies scramble to do their part in addressing the disease. Medtech companies are working harder to develop and deliver more reliable diagnostic tests or meet the soaring need for ventilators and personal protective equipment. Biopharmas are racing against time to develop safe and effective treatments and vaccines to save lives.
They are confronted with vexing questions that they could not have anticipated even six weeks ago, such as:
- What comorbidities are most common among COVID-19 patients, and how might the disease impact a biologic brand’s patient population?
- How can an oncology commercial team keep physicians informed on scientific developments that might impact their patients when in-person rep visits are out of the question?
- How will mobility-impaired patients under quarantine get their prescriptions refilled? How will patients who have lost their jobs afford their prescriptions?
- What are the knock-on effects patients and physicians might endure should drug or device launches be put on hold because of the pandemic?
These are examples of queries we are hearing from clients as they work to get their bearings and help their customers – payers, providers and healthcare professionals – deliver care to patients under extreme duress. Based on conversations with life science execs, we have identified four areas where the pandemic, and its unprecedented impacts on our societies and economies, is disrupting their companies’ operations:
Identifying and profiling at-risk patients
Understanding the scope of the fast-moving pandemic and profiling the patients affected are critical challenges for public health officials, policymakers, news outlets and healthcare organizations alike.
Vaccine makers will need to understand the size of the at-risk population and key sub-populations in order to deploy their products most effectively, modeling the demographic and comorbidity profiles of the most severe cases.
More broadly, manufacturers of therapeutics across the board will need to anticipate how COVID-19 might impact their patient populations, and how they can best help healthcare systems and professionals ameliorate those effects.
Ensuring that patients can access care and afford treatments
With hospitals inundated and hundreds of millions under continuing social distancing and quarantine mandates, patients face substantial obstacles to getting care, from prescription refills to obtaining diagnoses and “elective” procedures. Moreover, with large sections of the global economy shut down, many patients are experiencing job and income disruption and may have trouble affording their medications.
Manufacturers of drugs and devices must partner with market access stakeholders to ensure continuity of care for these patients. With healthcare systems under intense strain at all levels, anticipating impediments to care and finding workarounds for patients are critical. Real world and social data inputs may be of use to manufacturers to identify barriers, understand health behavioral triggers, help close the gaps and deliver better care to patients.
Informing, educating and supporting stakeholders through alternative channels
Social distancing measures are essential for the containment of disease spread and reducing the impossible demands it places on hospitals.
However, they complicate the necessary tasks of informing healthcare professionals and payers about new treatments and keeping them up to date on emerging scientific data. As a result, life science companies that have traditionally relied heavily on in-person education are scrambling to find alternate avenues for engaging these stakeholders, whether through email newsletters, remote details, virtual conferences or online CME.
The need for online resources from life science companies has never been greater. That is true not just for payers, providers and professionals, but also for patients seeking reliable, accessible information about conditions, treatments, access and affordability at a time when their access to HCPs may be constrained. Companies will need to factor in audience information-seeking behaviors, and channel and content preferences to empower them in their healthcare decision-making.
Forecasting for a world turned upside down
Even as they strive to help their customers provide better care to patients through this crisis, life science companies must manage the expectations of internal and external stakeholders, at a time when events have scrambled the readings of traditional predictive tools.
Biopharmas and device manufacturers must now adjust forecasts to factor in things like the impact of a delayed launch, how the epidemic might disrupt clinical trials or muddle the resulting data, renegotiation of contracts with payers due to sharp drops in volume, and how the disease and its effects on systems of delivery and provision could alter patient populations for a therapy.
With a COVID-19 vaccine most likely more than a year away, this crisis is still in its early days. What is much clearer is that it will have transformative effects on how we deliver healthcare.
We at Clarivate are marshalling our stores of data and expertise to help our life science customers adapt to this tumultuous time so that they can advance their mission of improving human health.