Digital Tools May Help Improve Patient Experience, but Human Connection Is Still Needed


Although digital tools can be immensely helpful for creating a personalized, convenient interaction between patients and the health care system, they should not be the end-all be-all method to improve the patient experience, according to a panel discussion at the 2023 Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit.

A panel discussion at the 2023 Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit weighed the pros and cons of using digital communication and monitoring tools within specialty pharmacy spaces to improve the patient experience, arguing that digital tools must be used in tandem with other approaches.

The session was called “Making Consumerism Work for the Modern-Day Patient” and featured a discussion on what health systems should keep in mind when implementing digital tools, as well as how health systems can learn from them to improve their patient engagement strategies. Asembia 2023 is being held in Las Vegas, Nevada, from April 30 to May 4.

Natalie Bedford, senior vice president at CenterWell Specialty Pharmacy, began by explaining that a bad experience is the number 1 reason why patients change providers. She recommended that heath care organizations implement multiple communication channels for patients to connect with their providers.

Greg Leighton, vice president of access strategies and patient services at Ardelyx, a small biopharmaceutical company, said that health systems need to have a “toolbox approach” that centers patient needs and sets the organization up for success.

Although there is a greater trend toward digital communication and monitoring tools across the health care industry, Leighton noted that patient trust needs to extend beyond the health care system and their providers. Patients also need to have faith in the medications they are taking and the companies that develop them.

“So, when [patients] leave the office, and then they interact with, say, a case manager, whether it's through a tool or through a personal safety message that they get through a feed, it starts to create this repetitiveness, which then leads to trust. And when you build trust, then they trust the brand, and then the brand becomes human. It becomes kind of its own ecosystem that they know when this drug is prescribed…[the health care organization] is there to support them.”

Bedford elaborated, saying that providers also need to have trust in both the medications that they’re prescribing and their health care organizations. Specialty clinics need to build systems and tools for providers to engage with, access resources, and provide feedback to ensure that they can support their patients sufficiently. Bedford cited her organization’s efforts as an example for building trust with providers.

“In addition to having the human touch, whether it's through our contact center, our sales team, or our sales operational support representatives, we have worked really hard to build strategies on ways that our providers can engage with us to understand what that referral is every step of the journey, for us to be able to give them that information, or an easier way for them to get information to us to help us more quickly assist that referral. So, that's just another spoke of the wheel to really ensure that the patient is able to get to them.”

Leighton and Bedford also touched in the use of one-click technologies, such as those employed on Amazon, within digital health communication tools, saying that they can be helpful when used appropriately. One-click tools can be great for quick enrollment as well as providing patients with an easier way to monitor their drug adherence and refill schedules.

However, implementing one-click technologies into digital tools may require a blended approach with more traditional communication strategies to ensure that patients are taken care of through every step of their care journey.

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