Over the last few years, life sciences companies have made investments and even partnered with some of the most innovative direct-to-consumer telehealth companies. But these collaborations have largely gone nowhere. That’s because consumers want more than a prescription and a transactional experience. They're demanding comprehensive programs that solve their pain points and prioritize their long-term health and wellness. Retailers, drugstore chains, and even health plans are expanding into care delivery and riding the consumerization of care wave. Why shouldn’t life sciences be able to do the same?
A transformation is underway in healthcare that will forever change where and how people access care. Consumers have been demanding healthcare experiences that are built with their needs and preferences in mind, and now technology has finally advanced to put real power in their hands. From virtual care to digital therapeutics to remote monitoring devices, consumers have more options to connect and engage with their health and wellness than ever.
Now all types of companies see the opportunity to empower consumers to be more proactive with their health, but it’s not just limited to traditional healthcare providers. We’ve seen retailers, drugstore chains, and health plans expand into care delivery. Even life sciences companies see the potential to move the needle, especially when considering half of consumers don’t take their prescribed medication for chronic conditions and one-third of people in the United States can’t get the medications they need because they don’t have a primary care provider.
The opportunity is clear — consumers are increasingly digitally native and they want convenient ways to access everything that touches their care, including medications and therapeutics. In fact more than half of consumers say they’d be open to trying virtual care from a pharmaceutical manufacturer. Yet life sciences companies are a few steps behind what consumers want and expect, largely because they haven’t found the right model that works for them.
Moving from scripts to solutions
Over the last few years, life sciences companies have made investments and even partnered with some of the most innovative direct-to-consumer telehealth companies. From Thirty Madison partnering with Biohaven to expand access to migraine treatments to large drugmakers investing in direct-to-consumer platforms like UpScript and Prescribery, it’s clear the industry is more than capable of reading the tea leaves: the future is digital.
But these collaborations have largely gone nowhere. Initial experiments with telehealth have yet to prove true transformation in terms of ROI, adoption, or value to the consumer. That’s because consumers want more than a prescription and a transactional experience, yet life sciences companies have remained focused on an approach that perceives medication as the standalone solution.
This is, uncoincidentally, the strategy of the first generation virtual care companies. Virtual Care 1.0 was built for a different healthcare system at a different time. Incumbent telehealth companies thrive on a system that is designed to provide transactional, one-off sick care. Consider Paxlovid: until last year, consumers required a visit with a clinician to get a prescription. Pharmaceutical companies immediately recognized the challenge of expanding access to the antiviral drug and leaned heavily on virtual care to broaden engagements with consumers in need.
It worked well, for a limited time. But it also proved that relying on virtual care to support one-off engagements leaves a lot of potential on the table. Consumers today are demanding comprehensive programs that solve their pain points and prioritize their long-term health and wellness.
This shift has paved the way for Virtual Care 2.0, for platforms that can provide healthcare experiences that put consumers in the center and allow them to be more proactive and engaged with their health. So what does Virtual Care 2.0 look like for life sciences?
It’s the difference between a clinician saying “Here’s your GLP-1, good luck,” and “Let’s talk about your weight loss journey. Dedicated coaching and glucose monitoring could be effective, and we can also talk about medication.” That’s the experience consumers are expecting — personalized care programs that consider the health of their whole person.
To date, life sciences companies have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with virtual care. Digging deeper will become even more critical as we continue in the golden age of biopharma. From vaccine development to new mRNA tools to next-gen cancer treatments and weight-loss drugs, there is a breathtaking amount of innovation happening in this industry. But if life sciences companies want to compete in this new age of innovation, they’ll need to broaden access to consumers. They’ll need to invest in virtual care now.
And that’s where we come in. Wheel provides companies with a proven solution to launch consumer-centric virtual care programs and help people get the care they need. We’re enabling a system where healthcare organizations can build trust with consumers by connecting them to quality virtual services whenever they’re needed. Why shouldn’t life sciences be able to do the same?
About the Author
Michelle Davey is the CEO and co-founder of Wheel, the leading platform for consumer-centric care. Michelle is passionate about expanding access to care and founded Wheel to put great care within everyone’s reach by seamlessly enabling companies and clinicians to deliver care virtually.