Guest Column | September 1, 2020

As Virtual Care Surges, Pharma Organizations Need To Reimagine Patient And Provider Engagement Strategies

By Kedar Relangi, Wilco Source

Telehealth Remote Healthcare

We’ve all seen the headlines about the tsunami of growth expected to hit telehealth and virtual delivery of care. Recent events related to COVID-19 have certainly been one key market driver, however, explorations into the use of telehealth and telemedicine have been steadily increasing for more than two decades.

While telehealth will never completely replace in-person visits, one thing is clear: the delivery of patient care as we know it has forever changed. And we can be certain telehealth and telemedicine will become a mainstay within many health systems from here out.

This presents a real opportunity for life sciences and pharmaceutical organizations to meet patients and the members of their care teams where they are–– whether that’s virtual or in person –– and to support the creation of more connected experiences across the care continuum.

To achieve this, many organizations will have to rethink their long-term digital strategy and whether it supports connected experiences –– and more importantly, if it’s sustainable.

Virtual Care Is Here To Stay

The explosion of telehealth and telemedicine in the second quarter of this year stimulated organizations to find solutions to common challenges that previously prevented their widespread use. However, in many cases, these were temporary measures to make virtual options available simply to get through the healthcare emergency.

But now these temporary “patches” will need to be more thoughtfully considered as the industry starts to emerge from crisis mode and begins to think about virtual care over the long term. Analysts predict the second half of this year will refocus around growth and building more solid infrastructures to expand patient loyalty, attract new patients, and improve the delivery of care in this new virtual paradigm.

Building the technology infrastructures that support virtual and connected care models will prove mission critical going forward. According to a recent survey by, patients agreed telemedicine isn’t a temporary solution but will shape the future of healthcare. The study, which surveyed more than 1,800 patients, also found that at the beginning of 2020 patient adoption of telemedicine had already increased 33 percent over the previous year, and that number has since skyrocketed to well above 70 percent.

Of those surveyed, 83 percent said they intend to continue to use telemedicine, and more than 90 percent said they would manage prescriptions via telemedicine and that the technology would help them adhere to their refills and wellness regimens.

What does all this mean for pharma and life sciences organizations?

Connectivity Is King

The last several months have fortified the business case for patient-facing technologies and systems that allow for virtual delivery of care. This stands to improve access to necessary treatments, increase opportunities for patients to become aware of available therapies, and greater electronic transmission of new prescriptions.

We’re already seeing patient-facing, cloud-based technologies being used to bring more efficiency and speed to drug launches. We’re also seeing remote monitoring and telehealth solutions being used to track efficacy and safety, capture data on key health indicators, and encourage greater patient compliance. This could also accelerate the migration to virtual clinical trials, which could potentially lower drug development costs, improve patient outcomes, and open pathways to a more diverse swath of patients in unexpected locales and harder-to-reach markets to produce more accurate outcomes that better reflect the population.

Additionally, patient adherence, which always has been a primary challenge among pharma companies and providers, also can be improved through telehealth, cloud-based technologies as it removes many of the barriers to care and opens communication channels.

The Future Of Pharma Is Cloud

Telehealth may be here to stay, but it’s the new rules of the patient experience that will shape the future of healthcare. Organizations across healthcare, including pharma and life sciences, will need to think about solutions that will fit their needs and grow alongside the business. Equally as important to consider is what patients will use and what will deliver a connected experience.

Of course, there are market restraints and internal constraints to overcome, such as:

  • Scalability challenges have been magnified over recent months.
  • The market is saturated with a mix of medical- and consumer-grade solutions.
  • Security and privacy, and interoperability and integration continue to be concerns.
  • Budgets and resources are limited.

It’s these constraints that prevent most digitization efforts from ever launching. Still, organizations across healthcare can no longer afford not to have patient-facing technologies in place. Pharma and life sciences organizations must consider how they can leverage cloud-based, patient-facing technologies, or customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to better engage patients and providers.

With a cloud-based CRM in place, the digital migration journey can start small. Digitize one area of the patient experience, prove it out, and expand over time. In pharma and life sciences, consider:

  • Automating program enrollment –– this can create a more streamlined patient onboarding experience, take care of insurance verification, manage copay program arrangements, and assist with treatment adherence.
  • Build omni-channel patient services –– give patients cloud access to program and drug information, and facilitate more data-driven, personal conversations between patients and providers to build more personalized therapeutic support programs.
  • Digitize informed consent management –– enable teams to manage enrollment and consent forms remotely and capture patient consent virtually.
  • Streamline script approvals and prior authorizations –– the right technology can facilitate the electronic transmission of prescriptions and approvals between physicians and payers, eliminating manual processes and potential delays or errors.

The bottom line is this new paradigm of virtual health and the connected care model has taken root. Patients will expect new levels of personalized care, transparency, and connected experiences. This will require collaboration across the care team, interoperable solutions, and technologies that open access to care when and where the patient wants it. It’s time for pharma and life sciences organizations to prioritize their digitization efforts while keeping one thing in mind: patients must remain at the center of that effort.

About The Author

Kedar Relangi is the cofounder and president of Wilco Source, a leading Salesforce partner in healthcare and life sciences. Kedar also operates Sunflower School, a nonprofit school in rural India dedicated to providing education to underprivileged children.