While the past year and a half has presented a myriad of challenges — both from a patient perspective and for those working in healthcare and pharma — the pandemic accelerated engagement approaches. In a recent podcast, Kelly Elio, RN and director of commercial strategy and client engagement, UBC; and Marc Iskowitz, editor-at-large, MM+M; explored the important role registered nurses play in patient support programs. 

The roots of patient support at UBC

At UBC, a robust patient support program pairs personalized engagement with technology to support patients’ access and adherence journey in three main ways.

“First,” Elio said, “we work to understand with whom we will be interacting — the patient, a caregiver, a healthcare provider or a blend of all three. Second, we identify barriers these stakeholders may face as they begin their access and adherence journey and lastly, we provide virtual engagement opportunities that reach patients on their own terms.”

Elio and Iskowitz agreed that never before has offering flexible, omnichannel communication strategies been more important. With so many changes occurring in the world as a result of the public health crisis, a commitment to building compassionate connections is tantamount to positive patient outcomes. One of the most integral individuals driving this commitment? 

“The nurse today plays a critical role in the patient’s health ecosystem,” said Elio. “Nurses are the very first person the patient and family will engage with. They are also that consistent and reliable voice providing compassionate, ongoing care.”

Technology in care programs

UBC’s patient support program strategy, as Elio explained, includes a close partnership with their manufacturer clients to map out the comprehensive suite of services that will be offered within a program. The complexity of the products coming to market today often involve communication with multiple stakeholders, access hurdles and the initiation of a customized educational care plan.

“One design element we deploy in these scenarios is a nurse case manager who helps manage both product initiation and product adherence, from start to finish,” said Elio. “Another important consideration that informs the strategy is the clinical nuances of the product, the formulation route of administration and side effect profile.”

And then technology, as she notes, augments and enhances it all.

“As a nurse, I’m somewhat biased in that I believe patients and healthcare professionals thrive on that personal connection developed during face-to-face or virtual engagement and technology cannot replace that,” confided Elio. “However, what I have learned is that there is that happy medium that allows us to combine the human connection with technology, such as digital engagement to enhance and augment our patient program.”

In 2020, UBC launched UBC Pathways Engage to accomplish this. The tech provides intelligent mobile messaging solutions that create meaningful relationships with patients and support providers. The launch of this virtual assistant technology, named Linda, allows UBC to establish trust early and to build relationships with patients digitally. 

“Early in our patient journeys, we spend time getting to know our patients, evaluating both patient and family needs, conducting assessments and customizing specific interventions to overcome those individual barriers,” Elio noted. “The combination of our digital assistant, coupled with our nurse educators who provide telephonic and virtual outreach, delivers unparalleled support to patients, when and wherever they need it.”

As Elio summarized: Communication preferences for patients, physicians and caregivers are constantly evolving and the amount of information received and the amount of outreach conducted can be overwhelming. Customized engagement streamlines communications, helping to create patient autonomy, while providing treatment information in the modality that works best for each individual.

 Informed design for optimal patient outcomes

Elio pointed out the multitude of evidence supporting the fact that patients who participate in support programs achieve greater medication adherence and therapy outcomes.

“The traditional face-to-face bedside nursing has shifted due to the pandemic,” said Elio, “but that does not mean we cannot apply those same themes to our virtual nursing services. Most importantly, we as nurses are taking time to actively listen to our patients, to empathize with them and understand their challenges and concerns, so that we can tailor our support and education to their unique and individual needs.”

At the root of the nurse evolution, Elio noted, is understanding the driving force behind a patient’s behavior. 

“Incorporating behavioral science techniques and understanding intrinsic motivation continues to thrive in the healthcare industry today,” Elio said in closing. “By providing the right tools to form that positive patient connection, the patient support staff will help empower patients and increase self-awareness, support self-management and achieve optimal outcomes on therapy.”