As consumers struggle to get back to normal in the face of COVID-19, many will face financial difficulties and healthcare access challenges. People are losing their livelihoods, and many struggle to stay healthy—especially patients living with chronic conditions that require medications and treatments to stay healthy.
In a recent LIFT survey exploring consumer sentiment in the face of COVID-19 , many consumers expressed that they have chronic conditions that they are struggling to stay on top of. In the same study, we also heard consumers tell us that they have family members with chronic conditions that are challenging the wellbeing of the entire family. Many shared that they fear for (or have already experienced) a loss of livelihood.
Lack of work will translate to loss of income which will translate to limits on how patients access care and medication.
One respondent shared the harsh truth, stating “I have diabetes and I am worried about my financial ability to stay well. I may lose my job, and my husband is in the food service business. Things are very uncertain.” This story and many just like it are setting the stage for a new challenges for patients and pharma alike. Yet, with any challenge comes opportunity. And for pharma brands, that comes in the form of an opportunity to lighten the load by helping patients solve access challenges and maintain adherence and control of their disease.
“It stands to reason that as consumers start to get some footing in the next normal, those with conditions such as diabetes will look to drug manufactures to find support in the financially unstable times ahead.” shared David Chlastosz, the president of LIFT and co-author of the study. “Pharmaceutical companies are seeking to get ahead of the looming patient financial crisis and create strategies for dealing with new and unusual patient support demands”
The Human Impact Behind (and Beyond) the Economics
Consider patients like our respondent facing unstable financial predicaments, who may find themselves unable to access lifesaving medications. Under these circumstances, pharmaceutical companies will be compelled to look for ways to lighten the unexpected burden of COVID-19 on their patients—especially those who have lost insurance coverage as a result of the unstable job market. Call centers, wellbeing advisers, and other patient-centered support services will be necessary in order to help diabetic patients navigate options and ensure that there is no interruption to access to medication.
This is an important insight and how you react to it will have tremendous impacts on the success of your therapies. Your brands and company reputations are on the line.
Hardships can be exacerbated by more than the fallout of COVID. In research we have conducted, we suspect that comorbidities are compounded by the impacts of being socially isolated and in quarantine. “If a patient is living with COPD, for example, they tell us they are experiencing behavioral health issues like depression and anxiety. Add to that the inability to get outdoors for exercise and you have a recipe for significant setbacks in therapy and wellbeing” explains Matt Bradley a healthcare anthropologist and researcher at LIFT. “And with so many patients experiencing economic hardships as a result of COVID, there is a sort of storm brewing that can be as much a challenge as an opportunity for pharma brands“.
“Based on our own research as well as the narrative in pharma indy news, there is compelling evidence that there is an emerging need for pharma brands to elevate their patient understanding and patient support game.” said Chlastosz. And it is safe to presume that the needs go wide and deep. We all know how many conditions require daily support and regular medical attention, and many patients are finding it difficult to know where to turn for guidance and care—aside from online support, which can only go so far.
Add to all this the alarming financial statistics of American families mixed with job loss and shifts in financial priorities and we will soon see a tremendous need for—and correlating opportunity to provide—fresh forms of assistance to help lighten the load.
Crisis can become opportunity.
In fact, that’s our only choice—to lean in and look for ways to partner with HCPs and patients and to share knowledge and move the needle in supporting patients in new ways” shares Bradley. “Patients need support and adherence messaging now more than ever—COVID has changed so much in healthcare, it will never diminish the importance of strong connection between patient, brand and the HCPs who care for them.”
Pharma companies have an opportunity to understand the lived experiences of patients and caregivers in the post COVID marketplace. They can build programs and systems of support that answer a fresh set of demands that, until now, we may not have envisioned, but that are the new reality in adherence and education.
Stay tuned for PART TWO of this series, in which we will lay out a few recommendations based on the implications emerging from this new and dynamic challenge.