Work worth doing: Patient support services
By Jeff Buck
Jeff Buck, Vice President, Strategy & Market Development, Lash Group
Patient support services
- Lash Group has served more than 15 million patients and currently operates 100+ patient support programs
- 76% of patients believe pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to provide services that complement their products
Q: What impact has technology had on patient support services?
Buck: With the emergence of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we have better insights into data and stronger predictive capabilities. The interoperability of different technologies and the possibility for real-time communication also make it possible for entities to work together effectively, which can have benefits such as speeding time to therapy for a patient.
Q: How has increased access to data improved patient support services?
Buck: There have been huge strides in data aggregation. Technology has emerged in the healthcare sector that allows manufacturers to cross-reference data with socioeconomic information to really identify the most at-risk patients and target support for access and adherence to those who need it most.
Q: How does the current payer landscape impact your recommended approach to patient support services?
Buck: Legislation has really pushed payers and PBMs to have a higher level of interoperability that we haven't seen in the past. This is especially true within pharmacy benefits and prior authorizations. In these cases, we are seeing a significant uptick in automation and real-time responses that help speed time to therapy. Major medical benefits remain a problematic area that requires manual intervention. With high-volume federal plans and large commercial plans, we are able to apply machine learning and artificial learning to accurately predict benefits; however, given the sheer number of payers in the U.S., it is difficult to use that technology in all cases. This has created a unique landscape where we need to first and foremost apply high-tech tools to automate the repetitive work and reserve the more difficult work for high-touch manual intervention.
Q: What about the policy landscape?
Buck: There has been a push by pharmacy benefit managers and health insurers to prevent the copay assistance provided by manufacturers through patient support programs from counting toward patients' overall out-of-pocket costs and being applied toward their deductibles. We are in a position to be innovators and problem-solvers in this area because we're able to adapt as regulations change.
Q: As more complex therapies enter the market, how does patient support need to evolve?
Buck: Manufacturers used to have a pretty homogenous set of decisions to make with regard to patient support services. But now, with the complexity of the therapies coming out, each one merits its own special considerations and interventions at different points throughout the product's life cycle. Whether it's cell and gene therapy or digital therapeutics, the traditional healthcare model needs to evolve, and Lash Group is evolving with it.
Q: How has COVID-19 and the resulting rise in virtual interaction changed the approach to patient support?
Buck: The COVID-19 situation validated our approach in some respects and challenged us to think differently in other ways. We have invested significantly in digital capabilities over the past several years but the pandemic forced us to accelerate that adoption at an even faster pace. This turned out to be a big win for our clients and the patients we serve. In the past, we avoided having too many staff working remotely. During the pandemic, we pivoted quickly to a remote operation and yet we were able to continue to provide the high-quality, white-glove services we're known for. Now, we can deliver at an even higher level of quality because we can access talent from across the U.S. and the world.
Q: How does patient support “pay off" in terms of product success?
Buck: It pays off in patient outcomes. Patients can't experience the intended benefits of a treatment if they can't access or afford it. Lash Group understands the complexity of the healthcare system and what patients need to navigate it successfully. Patient support helps increase speed to therapy and remove barriers to affordability and access. It can mean helping a patient find alternative coverage for a therapy, orchestrating their travel, reminding someone to get a refill, or providing someone with the tools they need for medication management.
Q: What other commercialization services integrate well with patient support services?
Buck: There are many advantages to working with a partner like AmerisourceBergen because we are tooled to help manufacturers at every phase of their commercialization journey. Having a direct tie with the field reimbursement team through Xcenda is a huge benefit and just one example. When Lash Group and Xcenda are able to work together on a manufacturer program, everything is more efficient and collaborative, which allows challenges to be overcome more quickly. Having a tight relationship with a logistics provider such as World Courier is also critical, especially for rare disease and cell and gene therapies that can come with complex logistical requirements.
Q: What are manufacturers' common mistakes or misconceptions when it comes to patient support services?
Buck: Some people think that anyone with a case management system can do the work we do. But that couldn't be further from the truth. This is a very complex space and it takes a certain breadth and depth of experience to know what technologies to apply where and when, and what needs to fall out for human intervention. Removing barriers to access, affordability, and adherence to therapy through patient support programs is all we do at Lash Group and we've been committed to this work for over 30 years. This degree of focus allows us to bring best practices and scale to our manufacturer partners and free them up to do the incredible work of bringing life-changing therapies to market.