The Covid-19 crisis is reshaping the way providers deliver care to their patients, prompting life science leaders to ask the question: How should we prepare to support new ways of care delivery?
Today, some provider organizations are limiting access to life sciences representatives as their facilities struggle to keep up with Covid-19; many more organizations are blocking access entirely. This trend will likely continue as providers face significant time and resource constraints, and as they initiate plans to re-open their facilities once Covid-19 cases stabilize or decline.
When the pandemic settles, the health care ecosystem will undoubtedly change—and life science manufacturers must prepare for long-term impact on their provider relationships and the overall patient landscape.
4 ways the patient landscape will change—and how life science leaders should prepare
1. Future patients may present with more advanced diseases, complex conditions, and higher acuity levels.
Across the United States, physician leaders delayed elective or preventive procedures to ensure they had capacity to treat Covid-19 patients. And while many physician leaders are considering reopening those services, data suggests patients may be reluctant to re-enter the medical setting because they fear being exposed to Covid-19.
As a result, physician leaders are now concerned about spikes of new diagnoses of high-acuity or late-stage patients. For example, oncology leaders are concerned about an increased number of late-stage cancer diagnoses and poor outcomes. Meanwhile, cardiovascular leaders are concerned about patients delaying care for heart attack symptoms, which could increase the level of acuity of heart attack patients who do present in EDs.
U.S. retail prescriptions also have decreased by 28% during the pandemic, with vaccines and acute drugs taking the biggest hit. Providers will likely see a spike in demand for many of these services and treatments in the not-so-distant future, and they also anticipate seeing a related surge in new diagnoses as well as a surge in chronic patients with new or worsening symptoms.
As a result, providers will have to adjust their staffing, resources, and overall care management strategies to address these rising acuity levels, late-stage diagnosis and complex conditions.
What this means for life science leaders: Life science companies should prepare to help providers care for a more complex patient population. Consider ways to support providers as they work through the backlog of queued appointments, re-deploy resources and implement new care management tactics to meet what will likely be more complex patient needs.
2. Provider organizations must prepare to identify and treat the growing number of patients with Covid-19 who develop comorbidities and complex conditions.
Covid-19 is causing patients of all ages, backgrounds, and pre-existing medical conditions to develop a growing number of cardiovascular, neurological, and kidney problems. For example, a recent case series of 214 Covid-19 patients from Wuhan, China, published in JAMA Neurology, found that 36% of patients demonstrated neurologic symptoms; other reports show that up to one-in-five Covid-19 patients develop heart damage.
Providers will have to allocate time and resources to treat the increasing number of patients with new-onset conditions as a result of Covid-19—increasing the need for care not only while a patient is in the hospital, but also for longer-term care management. Mount Sinai Health System, for example, is launching a new Center for Post COVID Care to provide comprehensive multispecialty care for patients recovering from the virus, and to collect data about the long-term impact of Covid-19.
What this means for life science leaders: Many other providers will turn to life sciences manufacturers for additional support, clinical trial access, and beyond-the-pill solutions to manage these new patients who now require ongoing treatment and more complex care.
3. Providers will need to support the growing demand for mental health services as prolonged isolation and general anxiety about the pandemic take their toll.
Prolonged social distancing measures, isolation, and the stress of the pandemic have all led to an increase in anxiety and depression in patients, many of whom are now seeking care and treatment for a variety of non-Covid-related mental health conditions. For example, prescriptions for antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and anti-insomnia drugs have increased 21% as a result of Covid-19.
What this means for life science leaders: Life sciences companies must prepare to help providers adapt to an increasing number of new mental health diagnoses, especially as mental health comorbidities can exacerbate other underlying health conditions. Many clinicians will welcome ongoing support for these patients both in and out of their traditional physical offices.
4. Patients will struggle with access and affordability as Covid-19 changes where, and how, they receive and pay for care.
As hospitals shift non-Covid care to alternate treatment sites (e.g. infusion centers, patients' homes) and as clinicians conduct a growing proportion of appointments via telehealth-based platforms, providers and manufacturers must ensure that patients are supported across their increasingly complex care journeys.
While in-person visits remain limited, some providers will rethink their traditional approaches to treatment, especially if those treatments required regular visits for physician-administered drugs or monitoring. Other clinicians will require more robust tools to support remote patient monitoring for symptom tracking and monitoring of disease progression.
Many patients will also struggle to afford treatment as a result of unemployment and lost health insurance coverage.
What this means for life science leaders: Life science manufacturers can play a critical role in supporting these patients until in-person visits resume. For example, they can provide financial assistance to patients—both during and after the pandemic. Such assistance can significantly impact access and affordability, and ultimately the timeliness and efficacy of care as well.
Life sciences executives must work across their organizations to develop a cohesive, unified approach to supporting providers and patients.
Once the Covid-19 crisis slows down, the health care landscape will likely look very different than it did before. More complex patients will struggle to seek and afford treatment across rapidly changing sites of care. As a result, different functions within life sciences companies—especially sales representatives, medical science liaisons, key account managers, and health economics and outcomes research leaders—must collaborate internally to develop a more coordinated approach to working with their provider customers and their patients. They also must step out of their individual functional units and brand-focused strategies in order to optimally allocate resources (time, financial, personnel) such that their teams can deliver solutions and support that truly meet customers' needs.
How Covid-19 will impact the financial outlook for the health care industry
Among the headlines about up coming health care disruptions are four emerging trends that are likely to impact health care delivery. Each trend has the potential to ensure patient access to high-quality, clinically appropriate, and cost-effective care. But each also comes with the potential for unintended consequences.
This infographic explores each of these trends and paints the picture of what health care could look like in 2030 if each continues.
Pamela Divack contributed to this post.