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Top Trends in Oncology Patient Support

For more than 20 years working in patient support services, I have touched an expansive array of therapies and therapeutic areas, making my experience both broad and deep. However, the one consistent therapeutic area throughout my tenure has been oncology – in the major medical and pharmacy sides of the business. The following are trends to consider for successful support of patients with cancer in the future:

Increased Focus in Oncology

There has been, and will continue to be, a strong industry focus on oncology products. Statistics reveal that the number of approved oncology therapies continues to rise, with nearly 65 cancer drugs launched in the past 5+ years. Subsequently, global spending in oncology, including prices of newly launched oncology drugs, has also risen steadily over the past decade.

Greater Complexity in Program Design

The design, implementation, and execution of patient support services in the oncology space are only getting more complex. With advancements in clinical trials that are using biomarkers to classify patients, and the recent launches of several gene and cell therapies (e.g. CAR-T therapies), there is strong indication that there will be continued focus on personalized oncology treatments, which will lead us to having to re-think how we position patient support services. We are moving away from the traditional “reimbursement and access” service models, and into more complex program designs that require high-touch and highly collaborative services between patients, HCPs, payers, manufacturers, distributors, specialty pharmacies, clearinghouses, and others.

Heightened Attention to Technology and Innovation

Advances in technology, and the use of data, are driving forces that impact oncology treatment and associated costs. Promising advancements in real world evidence, Artificial Intelligence, personalized mobile apps, and other connection points will be used to drive better patient engagement and overall improved patient outcomes. Patient service providers must meet patients where they are and support them on their journey.

Advanced Adherence Models

As novel oncology products come to market, the traditional adherence support model, in which a hub, Specialty Pharmacy, and/or other entity contacts a patient on a regular schedule to remind him/her of the need to refill a prescription, will be challenged. Today, adherence programs now include: appointment reminders and coordination to ensure patients receive products with a shorter shelf-life in a timely manner; robust coordination between the patient, HCP, and dispensing/shipping entity to ensure the product is manufactured, shipped, and delivered as prescribed and expected; and strong patient relationship-building to ensure they are well-educated, have realistic expectations, are connected to patient advocacy and other important resources, and ultimately feel prepared to start and/or stay on therapy.

Unconventional Patient Demographics

Cancer does not discriminate. Complexities exist regarding the disparate needs of different cancer populations. We must strategically design patient support programs that address varying payer mixes, coverage policies and nuances, affordability issues and concerns, adherence support needs, and most importantly, shifting patient dynamics in terms of socioeconomic, physiological, and psychological status.  Unique solutions are required to meet the patients’ distinctive needs.

Abundantly clear is the need for our industry to continue to evolve and flex as the oncology market transforms. Patient support service providers, with a finger on the pulse of industry trends like these, will ensure delivery of unique solutions in terms of services, processes, differentiated staffing models, as well as technology and innovation – with an enhanced ability to leverage data and analytics to adjust programs amid the changing market dynamics.  Finally, and most importantly, an unwavering devotion to the patients we support will remain our primary focus.

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