Caring for COVID-19 patients. Most companies have already formed a dedicated COVID response team to coordinate short-term responses and accelerate supply chains to deliver needed medication and medical equipment to patients and HCPs. In addition, as part of the response, medical affairs departments could form and lead a medical therapeutics task force with internal clinical experts, key opinion leaders and external agencies (notably the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization) to collaborate on clinical risk stratification and protocol for COVID-19 patients with pre-existing conditions. This would help HCPs — many of which may not be familiar with the patients or the complexities of COVID care — better plan and coordinate treatment for such patients.
Pharmaceutical companies could help this effort through open data initiatives, such as those already used to make data more widely available for medical research, by sharing their rich clinical trial data about the effectiveness of treatments for various diseases.
Pool your employees’ caring and passion with policies that make it easy for them to volunteer their time, effort or money to fight the pandemic.
Ensuring continuity of care for non-COVID patients. With social distancing and shelter-in-place guidance in major COVID-hit countries, companies should deploy digital technology such as videoconferencing and telehealth; establish guidelines and protocols for their use; and train field account teams, medical science liaisons and medical device representatives to assist patients and healthcare professionals remotely.
For example, medical device manufacturers can use field reps to remotely interrogate implanted devices, review their status and reports, and provide advice during surgery. These field reps can also track patients at home (with permission) to detect medical conditions such as arrhythmias and detect device issues such as depleted batteries and alert the patients’ care teams. Medical device companies should consider using virtual and augmented reality training to help doctors, nurses and other hospital staff operate and troubleshoot medical products and equipment without the need for on-site meetings.
COVID-related restrictions have halted face-to-face interactions between pharmaceutical manufacturers’ field forces and HCPs. To adapt, pharmaceutical leaders must be strategic in their digital outreach and rely on data science to prioritize, guide and enhance the value of their interactions with HCPs. For example, lab data and patient analytics can help identify the HCPs that are likely to see the most at-risk patients and their underlying conditions. Through this, life sciences companies can provide “white glove” service remotely to help HCPs understand the various segments of patient profiles they are likely to encounter and inform them of treatment options, financial support and disease management programs.
Medical affairs and patient services should scale their contact centers and other capabilities to cope with the increased volume of medical inquiries. Since the demand spike may only last as long as the pandemic, it is important to be able to reduce the size of these efforts when possible.
Digitally agile organizations should deploy self-help tools to patients and HCPs, such as chat and voice-enabled smartbots, to help in diagnosing symptoms, triaging, and making referrals to specialists through email and/or telehealth service for further treatment. This could help manage the patient overload throughout the COVID-19 crisis.