Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the US healthcare system to shift from a care delivery approach that relied largely on in-person care to a digital first approach to enhance patient safety, maintain care access, and adhere to larger public health strategies designed that attempted to slow the spread. Many HCPs closed their doors to non-essential visitors forcing out life sciences sales reps and patients struggled to access care through new channels both of which contributed to disruptions that were felt across the life sciences value chain. 


Experts have suggested that the healthcare environment over the past two years has made it more difficult than ever to execute clinical trials, execute on effective commercial strategies, and differentiate products in market. i However, perhaps a silver lining from all of the upheaval, is that life sciences organizations now have an important opportunity to redefine their commercial models to establish their own new normal to optimize their business strategies. 


While COVID-19 has been challenging to navigate, traditional life science commercial strategies have been waning in their effectiveness even prior to the onset of the virus.ii One reason for this is that many life sciences companies have not invested in developing a modern and seamless patient experience to serve healthcare consumers that are simultaneously overwhelmed and demanding. This is evidenced by the fact that pharma significantly lags other leading industries in Net Promoter Scores (NPS) with some estimates placing the average pharma NPS as low as 5.2 out of 100.iii  


The rise of digital health presents a unique opportunity for pharma to redefine a key aspect of their commercial approach – patient engagement. 


Here are five reasons why life sciences will invest in digital health partnerships in 2022: 


Care Gaps will Persist  


Over the past two years, our partners in the life sciences industry have shared with Cecelia Health their serious concerns about patients accessing care and utilizing new channels such as telemedicine. With the CDC reporting that some 4 in 10 U.S. adults have avoided medical care given concerns related to virus, it’s clear that this issue is significant and will remain so as long as the virus remains a threat. Moreover, patients with two or more chronic conditions that represent a large portion of overall healthcare consumers and are the most likely to experience gaps in care.  Effective patient support programs can serve as an important conduit that provides healthcare consumers with the resources they need while driving therapy adherence. During the pandemic, Cecelia Health has witnessed this firsthand. We’ve been able to support therapy adherence by training individuals on telemedicine, stewarding available support resources, and even promoting switching from 30 to 90-day prescription fills. 


Consumers Desire and Deserve a Seamless Experience 


It’s clear that smooth and convenient consumer experiences are a growing trend across all industries, and healthcare should not be an exception. While life sciences organizations may not be directly involved in care delivery, they have an important role to play in promoting convenient access and educating consumers on their medications. In fact, nearly 50% of consumers recently surveyed by one of our life science partners stated that they expected and thought it was appropriate for pharma companies to deliver drug and disease state education programs. Additionally, our life sciences partners continue to point out the significant disparity between patient expectations and what HCPs can deliver, and this trend holds true across all therapeutic areas. While it should be noted that there are many reasons for this disparity, the important takeaway is that life sciences companies are well positioned to fill the void by designing and enabling responsive patient support journeys. They can and should play a role in enabling safe access to care, resources, and education to create more informed consumers that understand their medications, benefits, and the importance of remaining adherent.  


First Party Patient Data Can Enrich Pharma Relationships with Consumers 


Personalized healthcare is the future, and the trend of patient centric care delivery and support will accelerate in the coming years. While some may argue that personalizing care delivery should primarily be an HCP responsibility, HCPs alone cannot address the range of needs and complexities that can influence health and outcomes. With an average of 1-4x patient visits per year, HCPs are neither capturing the data nor capable of delivering the support necessary for a truly personalized, continuous healthcare experience.  


Life sciences companies have both the resources and incentives to cultivate stronger patient relationships that stimulate improved health outcomes. To deliver on personalized healthcare, life sciences organizations need better access to meaningful first party patient data that provides a window into an individual’s health history, daily habits, and engagement preferences. Pharmaceuticals companies can partner with digital health providers like Cecelia Health to integrate real world patient data to develop more responsive, meaningful, and personalized patient journeys. Personalized healthcare will result in more adherent and healthier patients while enhancing brand and business performance for life sciences organizations. 


Medication Adherence is Not Well Served 


Statistics related to medication adherence in the United States are alarming. Research suggests that 30% of individuals with chronic illness fail to initiate their prescribed therapy and some 50% drop-off by the 1 year mark.iv This is consistent with what we are hearing from our life sciences customers. In fact, one of our customers recently shared that ~63% of patients on their diabetes therapies drop off prior to their second fill. 


As pharma continues to aggressively invest to get patients on therapy ($31B annually by some estimatesv), it’s clear that pharma is leaving significant value on the table by failing to invest in high quality patient support programs that reduce drop off, extend time on therapy, and drive brand value. The convergence of digital technologies and changing consumer preferences makes it an ideal time for life sciences to implement new patient support strategies, and this is what consumers want with some 76% expressing an interest in utilizing digital health technologies. vi 


Growing Interest in SDoH 


There are many factors that influence an individual’s engagement with the healthcare system. While it’s clear that health need should be the major determinant of healthcare utilization, that’s rarely the case. There are many other factors have a significant impact on healthcare utilization including poverty and its correlates, geographic area of residence, race, ethnicity, language spoken. Additionally, the ability to access care is often influenced by whether its timely, convenient, and affordable affects healthcare utilization. vii 


Life sciences companies are recognizing that they need to better understand the factors influencing how patients engage with and view the healthcare system if they are going to effectively promote access to life-changing therapies. Digital Health companies that fill gaps in between visits while collecting data on the factors influencing care access, preferences, and attitudes can be invaluable in shaping how pharma markets to individual populations in rapidly diversifying country. This data can help pharma tailor their patient support programs and marketing messages to ensure that they are speaking effectively to diverse populations. 




We expect to observe more aggressive investment by life sciences companies in external partnerships with digital health providers that can drive better patient outcomes and more brand value. The past two years have demonstrated the effectiveness of digital health technologies, and life science companies that build strong portfolios of digital health vendors will be best positioned to succeed post COVID-19. 


About the Author

Dan has 10 years of experience at leading, mission driven organizations in the healthcare and education industries. During his career, he’s held a number of high impact roles across a wide range of commercial functions thus optimally positioning him to support Cecelia Health’s continued growth as the organization’s product marketing leader. He joins the organization from McKesson Corporation, a Fortune 10 healthcare company, where he was a member of their MBA Rotational Program completing high-impact rotations in pharmaceutical marketing, account management, supply chain strategy, and public policy. Prior to his tenure at McKesson, Dan worked at Teach For America leading their recruitment strategy in the Northeast region after serving as a corps member in Houston, Texas at a KIPP Charter School. Dan holds a BA from Boston College as well as a MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and traveling with his family.