For drugmakers, caregivers are crucial partners in care, handling important tasks that range from administering medication to communicating with their patients’ healthcare providers. But new data shows that caregivers don’t feel they have what they need to excel in their role—and many are looking to pharma for additional support.
In fact, 40% of caregivers report that they’re not equipped with enough resources to provide optimal care for their patients, according to survey results from Phreesia Life Sciences, which recently polled more than 2,000 caregivers as they checked in for doctors’ appointments.
That’s an alarmingly high proportion, especially considering that 65% of those surveyed had been taking care of their patients for three years or more, and 35% had been doing so for more than seven years. And it’s a statistic that brands need to address, says Kelly Tullo, assistant director of digital marketing at Supernus Pharmaceuticals.
“What caregivers are doing is a Herculean effort,” Tullo says. “They have their own jobs, they have families, they have their own personal health that they have to manage—it’s truly a full-time job, and perhaps even an overtime job. We really need to help facilitate whatever they’re doing.” That support should encompass everything from helping caregivers correctly provide patient treatment to guiding them through the treatment ecosystem, she adds.
One key piece of that effort? Education. On top of their other duties, caregivers spend long hours doing their own research to arm themselves with the medical facts they need. About 73% of caregivers head to the web for condition-specific information at least once a month, and 20% search online a few times a week.
Education is critical for patients to feel supported, and it’s something pharma needs to provide in addition to medication, says Danielle Khattar, product manager at Supernus Pharmaceuticals. For drug companies, she adds, supporting those who advocate for their patient base is “just a must-have at this point.”
Drugmakers can best help caregivers by reaching out to them where they’re already looking for answers. When searching for information that can help them provide better care, 69% of caregivers start with an internet search—well above the percentages that turn to their doctor (53%), medication websites (33%), pharmacies (27%), patient advocacy organizations (18%) or social media (9%). The point of care is another key place companies can educate caregivers to help them prepare for and make the most of conversations with their patients’ doctors.
Critically, providing education where caregivers look for it first also can help ensure that they don’t receive misinformation, Tullo notes. “I think pharma’s job is to be able to intercept caregivers whenever they’re seeking information and be able to lead them in the direction of credible resources,” she says.
But to comprehensively support caregivers, pharma companies should provide more than education. Caregivers are saddled with physical, mental and emotional stress that can seriously affect their health and well-being: 75% of caregivers rate their stress level relative to their care duties as “moderate to extreme.”
That percentage is no surprise, given the many pressures that caregivers face. “They are dealing with the declining health of a loved one, which can be incredibly difficult to manage emotionally,” explains Juli LeDoux, associate director of marketing at Biogen. “Then there are the many logistical elements that are in the fold—cost of care, potential distance from their loved one, time constraints, and of course, managing a household in addition to caring for another person.”
To help alleviate that stress, pharma companies could connect caregivers with each other through support groups and provide other mental health resources. Drugmakers also can strive to have “positive relationships with local and national advocacy groups that can provide even more support (to caregivers), as well as key local connections,” LeDoux says.
At the end of the day, pharma companies should look for ways to make caregivers feel seen and understood, Khattar says. “I think acknowledgement helps them feel like they’re heard and appreciated.”
“Caregivers are key to the patient’s success,” Tullo adds. “I think that caregivers need to be reminded that they are the advocates, but they’re also the heroes in their loved ones’ lives.”