Pharma primed to invest in services, but will patients get the message?


Patient services are no longer an add-on but a must-have. That's one of the conclusions in a new report from Accenture ($ACN)--one that also finds that pharma companies are putting their money in the game.

"Patient services is attracting greater investment and will become a key competitive driver of success in the healthcare market," said Tony Romito, managing director of patient services for Accenture Life Sciences in North America, in a press release. "In this changing competitive environment, the question will no longer be if life sciences companies should offer these services, but rather which ones--and how they should be implemented."

According to the report, "The Patient is In: Pharma's Growing Opportunity in Patient Services," some 84% of U.S. pharma companies plan to invest more in patient-centric services--such as adherence, remote monitoring and medication delivery--over the next 18 months. Nine out of ten companies said they expect to offer 6 or more patient services within the next two years, up from the 74% that now offer that same number.

To market the new services, U.S. pharma companies plan to let patients know through doctors (82%) and direct to patient communications (56%).

The problem with that thinking, however, is an apparent disconnect between pharma companies putting the word out and patients getting the message, Accenture noted. Only 19% of patients in a related Accenture study reported knowing about the services pharma offered patients.

"Articulating the patient and economic value of services needs to be central to healthcare professional interactions," the study reported. It advises pharma to "focus conversations on the outcomes achieved by the solutions (products + services) you offer. When healthcare professionals see the bundled solution as integral to achieving better outcomes, they will be much more inclined to discuss the solution with the patient."

U.S. pharma companies named digital as a key channel for direct communications for patients, noting they use social media (51%) and web pages (49%) to market patient services. TV is used slightly more at 53%.

Accenture surveyed more than 200 patient service executives at pharma companies globally--100 in the U.S.--who readily admitted there is work to be done around patient-centricity. Only 51% rated their capabilities as robust, with 46% saying there has been little improvement over the past two years.

- read the press release
- see infographic on U.S. findings