Specialty Pharma Can Learn From Tinder – Part 2

by Yishai Knobel,

In the previous segment of this article, we shared our excitement over Helparound’s recent patent for its novel matchmaking technology to connect patients through our mobile intelligence platform. Companies like Tinder and LinkedIn brought matchmaking to dating and job seeking – it only makes sense that such technologies would also help people dealing with health issues.

In specialty therapeutics jargon, the steps of getting on new therapies are referred to as: Access, Activation and Adherence. Here in part 2, we dig into how matchmaking technology can support each of these steps.  

Therapy Access

Following the initial shock of a life-changing diagnosis, one of the first questions to arise is: how will I pay for this?  Especially in the U.S., almost regardless of one’s insurance, specialty therapies are costly. Insurance plans have various coverage rules and, quite often for specialty treatments, there are numerous patient assistance programs from manufacturers, non-profits and other sources.

Finding an individual who lives in the same state, is the same gender, age group and even employment status, can help bring order to the mess of coverage options for a particular therapy or treatment. Instead of extensive hours of Internet research, waiting on hold for the Medicare call center or researching a specific plan – instead of reinventing the wheel each time – pose the question to people who have gone through the same experience. Sharing information about access complexities can be both a time saver and a helpful support system to relieve the financial stress of a new diagnosis.

Activation (aka on-boarding)

Hand-in-hand with treatment access issues comes the hurdle of on-boarding the treatment itself. Such a diagnosis is overwhelming enough for the entire family; now the patient and caregiver are expected to begin self-administering injections, IV, or even dialysis.  Further, paying attention to a nurse on a home-visit showing how to administer the treatment, or even just sitting down and carefully reading a patient starter-kit, can be a major hurdle in such emotional state. The starter kit also lacks an interactive aspect for continued engagement as questions arise, which they inevitably will as one gets going with treatment.

Again, this is where patient matching can shine.  For example, take kidney failure patients, who typically dialyze in clinics multiple times a week, but may also be able to do so at home, using home dialysis.  This therapy has many advantages: time, freedom, the ability to dialyze more often without an appointment or over night. However, the responsibility for carrying out this medical procedure lies with the patient and his/her caretaker, an intense commitment for both, often simply because self-insertion of needles without medical supervision can be super overwhelming.

Many resources can help a patient transition from in-clinic to home dialysis: educational content, remote support, videos, etc. But as much evidence has shown, matching patients who are dealing with similar challenges – or better yet have already solved the issue in the past – is “a critical and effective strategy for ongoing health care and sustained behavior change”. Home dialysis is no different: connecting with another patient who went through a similar transition, can make a big a difference.

As we mentioned in part I of this article, matchmaking does not alleviate the challenges or worries that come along with a new diagnosis or treatment, but it can ease the anxieties that accompany it. In this age of technology, peer matching won’t alleviate a condition but it can hopefully connect people to make treatment activation a bit less daunting and relieve some of the lonely and overwhelmed feelings that accompany a diagnosis.

Adherence

Always the trickiest aspect of a complex treatment, especially with specialty therapies, treatment adherence may be the arena where matchmaking technology can have the most impact. While there are a variety of dynamics that lead to nonadherence – ranging from forgetting to take medication and lack of symptoms to cost pressure or insurance paperwork – ~$300B is spent each year dealing with the problem of people not sticking to their treatment regimen.

Sticking with any regimen can be a challenge – if you know it’s going to continue for a long time, even a lifetime in many cases, it can be even more daunting. High-touch therapies are often accompanied by patient support programs executed by specialty hubs or pharmacies, which currently rely mostly on nurse call centers and monthly check-ins. While these connections are important, it is not likely to address some of the most common reasons for drop-off, including forgetting a dose or feeling better due to the medication. Similar to having a workout buddy with whom you share goals, commit to the workout regimen and encourage each other when it gets touch – having a treatment buddy with the same goals can lead to better treatment adherence.

Mobile Patient Intelligence

At helparound, we developed a novel algorithmic method to match patients to each other to provide peer help and support based on similar medical circumstances. Helparound was awarded a patent in 2017 for our unique method of connecting patients to each other. Combined with additional resources offered through our Mobile Patient Intelligence platform, though no technology makes the condition disappear, Helparound is here to transform families’ navigation  a life-changing diagnosis.