Clinical Blog
Published: August 02, 2023

The Critical Prescription for Success: 4 Direct Returns Life Sciences Can Realize From a Digital Companion

Digital health’s critical role in transforming healthcare and drug delivery is not a vision for a distant future — it’s the present reality. In the past three years, the top five life sciences companies have announced more than 50 investments in digital health technology companies and partnerships.1

Life sciences is transforming traditional products into data-rich, connected solutions — solutions that create a patient-centric ecosystem that benefits life sciences, clinicians, payers, and patients. With a digital companion — a beyond-the-pill digital solution that delivers personalized support and engagement programs to patients to empower sustainable behavior changes — life sciences can generate direct returns that result in financial outcomes in the form of: 

  • Disease progression monitoring
  • Improved adherence
  • Increased market differentiation
  • Lower first script abandonment and higher persistence rates
Diagram depicting how connected drug delivery devices integrate into patient and clinician pathways

1. Disease progression monitoring

A digital companion collects data and transforms it into insights that can be used to better understand and monitor disease progression. Insights into patient behavior and adherence can be leveraged by clinical teams to ensure patients are on the most appropriate and effective therapy for their condition. For patients who are adherent to their treatment plan but continue to experience symptoms, a digital companion provides the evidence clinical teams need to make more informed and timely decisions about when to prescribe step-up therapies, including biologics.

For example, Propeller uses data-driven personas to create omni-channel campaigns that identify patients eligible for its digital therapeutic platform. Once enrolled, the Propeller mobile app empowers patients to self-manage chronic conditions while Bluetooth sensors collect data on patient behaviors, including controller medication adherence, rescue inhaler use, and CAT or ACT scores. With this data, healthcare providers can identify potential candidates for step-up therapy as well as create a more personalized — and effective — treatment plan. For life sciences, this results in:

  • Clinicians prescribing the most appropriate drug to a greater number of patients.
  • Clinicians prescribing the most appropriate drug to patients sooner in the treatment process.
  • An increase in market size that directly impacts the company’s ROI.

2. Increased adherence

Roughly 50% of the 3.8 billion prescriptions written in the U.S. every year are not taken as prescribed.2 Nonadherence is one of the most significant barriers to improving patient outcomes, and — since nonadherent patients are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital— contributes to half a trillion dollars in annual medical costs.3 By creating a patient-centric healthcare experience, a digital companion program deployed alongside a prescription medication enhances patient engagement, improves critical outcomes like adherence, and drives financial returns for life sciences.

For example, Propeller found that the use of digital health apps can double controller medication adherence among patients with chronic respiratory disease,4 and asthma patients using Propeller’s platform can maintain up to a 58% increase in medication adherence.5

“Good adherence is a byproduct of a well-considered patient experience,” wrote Emilia Kruzel, Ph.D., senior manager of strategic partnerships and business development at Propeller Health, in Medhealth Outlook. “Connected drug delivery devices can both measure adherence and, when coupled with thoughtful patient engagement via a digital health platform such as a mobile app or virtual coaching, even help improve patient adherence over time.”6

Improved adherence — and objective data that demonstrates adherence — closes the gap between efficacy and effectiveness, giving life sciences a clearer picture of how their compound is performing in the real world. In turn, this impacts prescriber, payer, and patient preference — all of which drive ROI.

3. Increased market differentiation

A digital companion has the power to bolster a drug’s market differentiation by improving patient, provider, and payer preference for the drug. More patients using and engaging with a digital companion leads to greater patient preference for that connected drug experience versus a competitor. With more patients actively using the digital companion and clinicians prescribing the drug to a larger number of patients, payers are more inclined to include the digital companion — and the connected experience it delivers — on drug formularies. More insurance providers covering the digital companion leads to more clinicians prescribing the digital companion versus other drugs.

4. Lower first script abandonment rates and higher persistence

As former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said, “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.”7

High first-script abandonment rates have been a historical obstacle for life sciences, with as many as 30% of first-time prescriptions never getting picked up at pharmacies.8 First-script abandonment rates for specialty drugs with higher out-of-pocket costs are even more concerning: When patient cost sharing is greater than $100, the rate of abandonment for specialty drugs can reach 75%.9,10

But life sciences has no recourse: There is currently no way of reaching, influencing, or even identifying patients until the prescription is filled. A digital companion provides an additional touchpoint that enables life sciences to close the gap between script fill and pickup, improving patient activation. Decreased first-script abandonment rates lead to more patients taking a medication, resulting in better lifetime value of the drug.

Consistent patient engagement with a digital companion also leads to more consistent medication refills — an outcome that translates to direct financial returns for life sciences. A rise in persistence is a key indicator of patient trust in the digital solution: Patients are keeping up with refills so they can continue utilizing the digital therapeutic because in addition to realizing benefits of the drug compound, they find value in the experience and data the connected solution provides.

Interested in learning more about how a digital companion can help life sciences increase ROI? Let’s talk.

1 Golub et al, (2023). Rewired Pharma Companies will win in the Digital age. McKinsey & Company.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). CDC Grand Rounds: Improving medication adherence for chronic disease management – innovations and opportunities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
3 Rose, J. (2023). Council post: How healthcare leaders can help improve medication adherence. Forbes.
4 Kaye et al., (2021). The relationship between objective app engagement and medication adherence in asthma and COPD: A retrospective analysis. Nature News.
5 Van Sickle et al., (2016). Randomized, controlled study of the impact of a mobile health tool on asthma SABA use, control and adherence. Abstract presented at the European Respiratory Society.
6 Kruzel, E. (2022). Connected drug delivery & winning in the new outcomes economy. MedHealth Outlook.
7 Schnoll, J. (2015). Patient adherence: Drugs don’t work if patients don’t take them. FICO Decisions Blog.
8 Pharmacy Times. (2014). Prescriptions never picked up at pharmacy a cause for concern. 
9 Ismail et al., (2023). The association between cost sharing, prior authorization, and Specialty Drug Utilization: A systematic review. Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy.
10 Cost Sharing Pushes Many Patients to Abandon Specialty Drugs.

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