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How life science leaders can support providers' shift to virtual care during Covid-19

By Manasi KapoorPamela Divack

October 6, 2020

    As in other industries, Covid-19 has spurred health care to quickly embrace virtual business operations. For care delivery, that means utilizing telehealth, virtual visits, remote monitoring, and other digital tools to treat patients. For life science companies, it means conducting interactions with providers and key customers using virtual channels, rather than relying on traditional in-person interactions. 

    4 ways Covid-19 will reshape your relationships with providers

    As providers shift to virtual care during Covid-19, life science leaders need to adjust their typical customer interactions to support providers as they shift to virtual care delivery, and engage with them in a new way. To maximize  the limited time they now have, life science leaders must engage providers in meaningful virtual interactions, deliver relevant and timely information and support, and maintain long-lasting relationships in the absence of their usual in-person meetings. 

    Below we share four recommendations on how to support providers in this new virtual world, and a set of questions you can use to identify providers' challenges in delivering virtual care and tailor your support accordingly.

    1. Understand how Covid-19 and the shift to virtual care have impacted providers' priorities and workflows.  

    Providers are constantly navigating their new normal. Many must balance constant shifts between in-person, telehealth-based, and at-home patient visits. They must also manage overall suppressed volumes and utilization, while understanding how spikes in telehealth utilization impact referral patterns, new patient diagnoses, and delayed treatment starts.

    Despite these growing challenges, some HCPs feel that life science companies don't fully understand how the shift to virtual care has impacted their priorities. For example, Accenture's COVID-19 Healthcare Provider Survey reported that "the majority of HCPs [surveyed] maintained the impression that pharmaceutical companies don't understand the real impact of COVID-19 on HCPs (57%) and their patients (51%)."

    As a result, life science leaders should take time to learn how Covid-19—and the subsequent shift to virtual care—has impacted providers' operations, supply chains, utilization levels, and overall care delivery systems.

    2. Share information that goes beyond the product and supports providers and patients throughout the transition to virtual care delivery.

    In the new virtual world, providers want information about different ways to administer therapeutics, manage patient symptoms and side effects, support patients throughout changes in treatment and care, and utilize remote monitoring to monitor patient progress. While content about individual products and treatments is always helpful, providers want to understand how to best support patients through all parts of virtual care delivery.

    According to Accenture's survey, "82% of HCPs [surveyed] say they have seen pharma companies change what they communicate about, delivering not just product information, but support that meets their most pressing needs." Life science leaders should continue this trend by sharing information about:

    • How to support patients before and after treatments or procedures;
    • How to help patients switch treatments during the pandemic; and
    • What innovations are most efficient and beneficial to patients and providers outside the clinical setting (e.g., remote monitoring, patient support apps, home health offerings).

    3. Ensure that your content is virtual-friendly, easily accessible online, and consistent throughout digital and in-person channels.

    It's not just what information you share with providers—it's how you share it, too. With limited time during the pandemic, providers increasingly want on-demand, modular content that is both digestible and informative—saving them time and effort to stay up-to-date on the latest material.

    Life science leaders should explore different ways of developing and disseminating content. Rather than using traditional, dense journal articles and presentations to share information, try developing easy-to-synthesize content, such as podcasts, videos, and short digital articles. You should also consider new channels for sharing content with a broad range of providers, such as online HCP networks (e.g., Sermo, Doximity) or even through your own on-demand information platforms, if available.

    Since some customer interactions will still happen in-person, make sure that both online and in-person content are consistent and clear. Digital materials should have the same messaging, content, and overall framing as the "live" content to avoid confusion.

    4. Coordinate with your cross-functional colleagues across medical affairs, HEOR, key accounts, and sales, to take a holistic approach to meet providers' needs.

    With constantly evolving clinical, financial, and supply chain priorities, providers want support that no one functional area within life science companies can fully deliver on. Life science leaders should collaborate cross-functionally to identify ways to support providers and patients during Covid-19. Together these groups can help provider organizations manage their supply chains, identify knowledge gaps and disseminate clinical and economic evidence, and provide beyond-the-product solutions and support. This cross-functional coordination can also help streamline the limited interactions you have with your provider customers in this new virtual world.

    6 key questions to ask providers during your next meeting

    Consider asking your provider customers the following questions to better understand their top challenges and priorities, and identify ways to support them in their shift to virtual care:  

    1. To what extent is your organization using telehealth platforms today? How has telehealth impacted your workflows and/or patient relationships?
    2. How has the shift to virtual care impacted you and your organizations' clinical operations and priorities?
    3. Are there any areas where you need additional clinical support (e.g., clinical staff, nurses) to help manage patients' home care?
    4. How have your organizations' finances been impacted by Covid-19 and the shift to virtual care? Are there any existing clinical programs that you are concerned about?
    5. How have your in-person and virtual utilization levels changed over the last few months? How do you expect them to change over the future?
    6. What information or support can a pharmaceutical or device representative provide that could improve your virtual care delivery?

    What's in the cards for emerging trends in health care?


    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.

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