How Life Sciences Companies Can Make a Difference During the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 4, 2020

Hotspots can be predicted by identifying areas with a large percentage of residents with chronic conditions.

By now, it has been well-established that those most at-risk of developing serious complications related to COVID-19 are people who had pre-existing chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Specifically, CDC has reported that 90% of adults hospitalized with the novel coronavirus disease had at least one underlying condition, including hypertension (50%), obesity (48%), chronic lung disease (35%), diabetes (28%), and cardiovascular disease (28%).

Because chronic patients are at greater risk of hospitalization, it has become even more critical that they adhere to care plans and prescription medication advice from their providers. This is where life sciences companies can make a difference in the COVID-19 fight: Collaborating with providers to target these patients with communications that will help them understand medication efficacy, as well as the importance of medication adherence.

Anticipating emerging COVID-19 hotspots to target for medication adherence
It’s important to note that life sciences companies have an important role to play not only in helping providers identify patients to target with medication-related communications in geographic areas that have already experienced high rates of COVID-19 cases, but also in predicting emerging hot spots where rates are likely to spike.
Emerging hot spots can be predicted by pinpointing regions that currently have a low prevalence of cases, but additionally feature a large percentage of residents with chronic conditions and are therefore more vulnerable to developing COVID-related complications.
By combining publicly available COVID-19 cases information from the CDC and other sources with proprietary information about population risk factors based on pre-existing conditions, life sciences organizations can create maps that illustrate on a county-by-county basis the location of populations most vulnerable to COVID-19 complications.

Targeting outreach to mitigate COVID-19 risk
After performing this geographic analysis, life sciences companies will know which providers to contact based on the location of commercial patient populations that are most at-risk for complications as a result of a local outbreak. Identifying potential emerging hot spots of risk enables life sciences’ commercial effectiveness team to focus their resources where they are most likely to deliver the greatest impact.
For example, this type of geographic analysis can help life sciences companies ascertain the location of providers to partner with to deliver information to their patients regarding the availability of medication-affordability programs. By enabling patients to overcome this barrier to medication adherence, life sciences companies can help their provider partners build more loyalty and goodwill from their patients.
Correspondingly, by identifying emerging geographic COVID-19 areas, life sciences teams may gather insights about where more education and direct-to-consumer advertising could support providers in promoting greater medication adherence and adoption. This type of outreach may prove particularly beneficial to patient education in underserved rural or inner-city geographies that suffer from a paucity of medical providers.

Demonstrating life sciences’ value
Similar opportunities exist for life sciences companies in a post-pandemic world. For example, by leveraging geographic COVID-19 case analysis, life sciences companies can demonstrate the value of their therapies in treating chronic conditions, by comparing locations and patient populations that were and were not targeted with medication adherence and education messaging.
Until then, life sciences companies can continue to use geographic analysis as the basis of forming partnerships with providers to improve health outcomes in areas likely to be hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Susan Willman is senior vice president and general manager, pharmacy services and data & analytics, at EXL Healthcare. She is a Pharm. D. with over 27 years of healthcare experience including holding senior executive positions at large population health, life science and technology companies.