Our industry talks a lot about the future of health. Population health, whole person approach, value-based care, health equity… it’s a fantastic buzzword bingo with laudable aspirations to improve outcomes that truly help patients.  

But we’re losing them.  

We are losing patients within a system that’s swirling increasingly faster around them—propelled by regulatory changes, rapidly evolving health tech and now ready access to billions of medical datapoints, all of which fundamentally impact how care is accessed and delivered. The net result for patients is a poor experience highlighted by fragmented care and more confusion in an already complex healthcare environment.  

Contemporary care models, including the evolution of the Patient Centered Medical Home, have failed to account for all the ways patients seek and experience care. For example, employer-sponsored programs and health plan care management for people living with chronic disease operate completely outside and separate from the traditional healthcare architecture. The same is true for pharma-sponsored patient support programs, which by themselves play a vital role in connecting patients to financial, mental, and preventative support.  

To achieve true patient centricity, care models need a refresh that isn’t defined by legacy architecture simply seeking to “keep” a patient. Integrating virtual-first care into care models will connect the system with the patient for a complete, 360-degree view of everything that patient needs (and when they need it) to adhere to therapy and self-manage their condition daily. Successful organizations will understand they don’t need a “if we build it, they will come” approach here—the pieces are already in play. We can harness the innovation that is sparking across the industry to choose the right digital stack and create a patient experience toolkit that addresses several persistent challenges: 

Digital-only doesn’t deliver on the metrics that matter  

Human touch is key in this age of digital enlightenment. It’s not enough to provide digital-only solutions, which will reach and retain only the healthiest and wealthiest within a population. One-size-fits-all apps can’t develop a deep understanding of patients on an individual level to keep them from getting lost in the system and remain on their care pathway. Virtual-first care is the connective mesh. 

Especially for patients living with chronic conditions and related comorbidities—who often require daily management of their health and symptoms—having a dedicated clinician check in between doctor visits can make all the difference in delivering a better healthcare experience. 

Provider offices aren’t sufficiently resourced  

While the relationship between a patient and their healthcare provider is important, the reality is most practices lack the time and resources to properly address individual needs. With burnout, labor shortages, and continued medical distancing related to the pandemic, solutions like remote patient monitoring, telemedicine appointments, and access to virtual clinical support are increasingly important to the modern healthcare toolkit.  

Through virtual-first care that offers proper engagement, education, and training from experienced clinicians who are experts at uncovering barriers to care, patients are connected to personalized support at those critical points between doctor visits while addressing: 

  • Social determinants of health. These are factors outside of a person’s genetic makeup that contribute to their health such as economic stability, education, and environment. Any of these situations can positively or negatively impact a person’s health. Having a team of caretakers familiar with available resources results in better overall care.  
  • Access to care in rural communities. People living in rural and underserved areas experience healthcare in vastly different ways. Those who live further away from immediate resources can benefit from virtual visits and innovative ways of communicating with doctors and expert clinicians.  
  • Language and cultural needs. While important, these individual needs are not always considered in a patient’s care plan. However, speaking a different language or even trying to translate can cause treatment problems. Connecting patients to a provider or clinician that speaks their native language results in better care and fosters increased engagement.  

We have a wealth of data… that isn’t used effectively 

Data interoperability and liquidity will unlock the possibilities for cohesive, comprehensive care across disparate providers, hospital systems, insurance plans, pharmaceutical organizations, clinical trials organizers—the list goes on and on. Those that meet the challenge to transform their data practices will be on the forefront of this evolution to redefine patient-centricity.   

The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) has opened the door for Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) and other data plumbing to pave the way for the integration of data to track patients as they navigate through the healthcare labyrinth. Solution providers will need to verify the quality of patient data and utilize this information to enhance the patient experience and improve outcomes, including communicating with providers so care plans are updated as new information becomes available.  

There is lack of engagement with life sciences 

Pharma plays a significant role in educating patients through patient support programs. With the right partner, they add value at scale with first party data and engagement strategies that empower patients for better self-management, which leads to improved therapy initiation and medication adherence. Virtual care platforms are uniquely positioned to deliver high-value patient support programs. 

  • Responsive patient journeys: Integration of real-world data allows for a more personalized approach for patients while enhancing brand and business performance for life sciences organizations. 
  • Real-time clinical support and education: Filling the gaps between doctor visits is more than medication reminders. For example, clinicians can use video to train patients on how to administer a new medication or understand a new medical device. 
  • Improved HCP engagement: Informed patients are more likely to engage with their HCPs in a productive, meaningful way that addresses the multifaceted and complex nature of nonadherence. HCPs, in turn, will understand the value of promoting such programs. 

 A better future, together 

To realize the promise of innovative technologies and digital strategies in this modernization of healthcare, we must move beyond the constraints of our current system. Here are the three ways I believe we can accelerate a foundational shift away from the traditional, siloed approach:  

  1. Establish a complete view of the health ecosystem, informed by deep human insights, as a first step to improve the patient experience 
  2. Expand access to data across all patient encounters and interactions within the health system  
  3. Foster partnerships that layer in life sciences solutions 

A spirit of collaboration is necessary to solve for today’s lack of integration—acting alone, we will continue to lose patients in a complex and disconnected process. Virtual-first organizations are well positioned to emerge as the convening point across all key stakeholders and guide the creation of a new care model that achieves true patient centricity.