This article is part of a series of stories exploring “Business Trends and Communications Strategies in the Pharmaceutical 3PL Market.”
Several trends in the pharmaceutical healthcare industry are changing the way treatments are delivered to patients. Easier and more affordable options to communicate with healthcare professionals are becoming available with telemedicine and telehealth services.
MOVING AWAY FROM IN-PERSON VISITS
Patients are engaging with their physicians and other practitioners electronically while also maintaining proper social distance and reducing the risk of unnecessary hospitalization. Professional advice and treatment options from virtual sources are increasing accessibility for patients and enabling doctors to increase efficiency.
HEALTHCARE CONSUMERS DEMAND CONVENIENCE
Consumers are searching for a superior route to fulfill their healthcare needs with options that are faster, more convenient and less costly than traditional methods. Most services in the healthcare industry and business in general are migrating online as customers seek an opportunity for a better overall experience. Telemedicine allows for remote monitoring of a patient’s health, reduced time spent inside a clinic and lower cost. The online platform enables the healthcare professional to work with more patients in the same time period compared with a clinic environment.
BUSY WAITING ROOMS, OLD MAGAZINES
Normally, patients arrive at their physician’s office prior to their appointment time and check in. There is additional wait time after the patient sits down in a waiting room because doctors tend to run behind schedule. A survey by Vitals’ 9th Annual Physician Wait Time Report reveals wait times in physicians offices range between 13 minutes 18 seconds to 34 minutes 11 seconds.
Once the patient’s name is called, they enter an evaluation room to be seen by a professional. Very little time is spent face to face with an actual doctor. The whole process is time consuming and doesn’t provide a smooth customer experience. The result of the interaction is a diagnosis that may include a prescription for medication or for further medical services.
HOME VS. OFFICE
Telemedicine is becoming an efficient method of care from physician to patient. The current state of technological advancement allows for seamless communication from remote locations via the internet. Telehealth and telemedicine have advantages over traditional walk-in appointments as well. It is easier, faster, and can be done remotely from just about anywhere.
Now, medical transactions can be completed without being physically present. The DEA allows both non-Controlled and Controlled substances to be prescribed through telemedicine. Generally, doctors will use virtual appointments via phone calls and web conferencing, or, they will set up a patient portal where patients can login and message a doctor/nurse on standby. The patient portal is designed to generate both quick and informative responses.
Most importantly, patients will eliminate any risk of getting sick from others in a doctor’s office. Elderly patients or those who visit the doctor frequently experience less difficulty with virtual appointments. For most people in the United States, taking time off of work or having a day of flexibility is not an option. Telemedicine eliminates the need for patients to leave their home or place of work.
Several telehealth providers are gaining prominence in the healthcare marketplace. Zocdoc is an online medical care appointment booking service. With just a few clicks, patients can locate nearby doctors, psychiatrists, dermatologists, dentists, etc…, browse through reviews, and book appointments immediately. To begin, users fill out a search bar on Zocdoc.com that specifies either the condition, procedure, or doctor name. Next, users put a zip code or city closest to them and can look at different dates and times for an appointment. Lastly, users enter their insurance carrier and plan, if applicable. From there users may select the option to book an online video visit to speak with a professional and if necessary, get prescribed medication.
Pager is another service that aims to deliver the patient with quick and strong answers for their healthcare needs. It works through a virtual chat that combines text, voice, video, and photo into one communication system. Pager is made up of a team of specialists such as registered physicians, nurses, pharmacists, case managers, care coordinators and customer service experts. The average first response time of this service is fifteen seconds, which can be life changing for certain patients.
Pager promises to assess and diagnose a person’s condition in a single chat, known as the Care Team Chat. Upon completing a teleconsult the practitioner connects the patient to a local pharmacist to dispense prescriptions if necessary.
COVID-19 AND TELEHEALTH
In the midst of a global pandemic, telemedicine services are experiencing a surge in business. Specifically, lockdown rules are making it quite challenging for patients to occupy medical offices or partake in normal activities. These challenges are solved by telemedicine.
According to a recent study from Pharmacy & Therapeutics, an online resource for health care industry decision makers, the U.S. telehealth market will grow by 80% in 2020. The same article forecasts that telehealth use will continue to grow for primary care, urgent care and chronic care management and that virtual care will continue to increase as a percentage of overall doctor visits.
Telemedicine is proving itself as being highly efficient and effective in treating patients’ problems. It focuses on fixing patient’s health problems with no contact and no worries. As more people adapt and try telehealth services for the first time, acceptance of the new technology increases and becomes a mainstream trend. Soon the average citizen will possess the ability to self monitor their health and relay medical information to their healthcare providers.
TELEHEALTH AND PHARMACEUTICAL LOGISTICS
Telehealth and telemedicine services are being implemented into the prescription drug industry, which can have a significant impact on logistics services. These new and expanding technologies present an opportunity to increase business.
Remote monitoring devices such as smart continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and insulin pens measure health data such as blood pressure, oxygen and heart rate levels. These devices will become more commonly owned and used by patients as they become readily available. The demand to stock and distribute this inventory will increase as telemedicine becomes more widespread. Pharmaceutical 3PL companies including WDSrx capitalize on this emerging market for prescription medical devices by facilitating packaging, warehousing, kitting, storage, fulfillment, and logistics services for these medical device manufacturers.
Adam Runsdorf, President of WDSrx, states “We are currently working with Senseonics, a manufacturer of prescription medical devices such as blood glucose monitors, to prepare, package and ship individualized orders directly to practitioners. Each device is then implanted into the patient as part of their treatment. The Direct-to-Practitioner model is a growing distribution channel among our logistics services.”
The potential for these devices to be integrated into patient-physician interaction is significant. Doctors will be able to evaluate patients based on their self monitoring systems and administer the appropriate medication accordingly. These devices will connect directly to either a mobile device or physician in order for patients to maintain good health.
Some emerging technology in this field includes connected inhalers, ingestible sensors, connected contact lenses and similar applications that can be downloaded to a smart watch. One of the new technological innovations is a bluetooth enabled monitor to detect blood coagulation levels when this condition is a concern. These devices will also keep the patient and doctor informed and up to date on medical information to take action when necessary.
Innovative communication methods such as telemedicine make it possible for patients to reach qualified professionals from remote locations via the internet.
The concept of leaving home and sitting in an office waiting room is slowly being phased out. This new patient/physician interaction model adds convenience for the consumer and increases effectiveness of the practitioner. Of course there are certain medical procedures that aren’t possible virtually like surgery, however, surgeons can use telemedicine to follow up and check on their patients recovery
Third Party Logistics companies including WDSrx are preparing for the influx of telemedicine appointments by collaborating with manufacturers to fulfill orders for medications and devices directly to healthcare consumers.
For further information about logistics implications for telemedicine contact Larry Hotz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 561-998-3885 x304.