One of the benefits of the current crisis is that old ways are being pushed aside and new, unproven methods are being forced into play. Telemedicine is good example as this technology is now being widely used pushed into the forefront not because the technology got better necessity dictated its usage. The same can said for the drugs being looked at as a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus, same can said for the many tests that are being developed. The coronavirus has pushed aside the old way of doing things and is forcing everyone to act and think differently.
It remains to be seen if this new way of doing things will last beyond the crisis or will things go back to the way they were. Our guess is that it will be a 50/50 proposition with some of the newer methods sticking around while some of the older methods coming back. Just by way of example the coronavirus has pushed the FDA to move at warp speed, something no one thought possible. The severity of the crisis forced the FDA to look through a different lens. Will this faster process become the norm? Doubtful but some of the processes developed will likely have a lasting impact and change the way the agency does things.
Businesses are also being forced to try things that would have only received lip service before the crisis. Out of necessity they are being forced to find new ways to stay in connect with their customers. Telemedicine does not just apply to a patient physician interaction but also a patient company interaction. Just because we have social distancing does not mean that patients do not need support. The need is still here just how it’s being dealt with is different. The question we have is will companies learn a valuable lesson and adopt permanently some of these news ways or will they revert back to the old way of doing things.
Looking specifically at our wacky world one area where these new ways should be adopted permanently comes in the area of patient training and support. We have long believed that there is no need for face to face interactions for either support or training. That these interactions can be efficiently performed using technology. Thanks to FaceTime, Zoom, text messaging or web chats companies can easily and cost effectively support and train their patients.
The key phrase here is cost effectively. Ask any diabetes device company what their biggest cost is and nine times out ten it’s not making the device but supporting it. Unlike manufacturing support is an ongoing cost, something that does not go away. These companies spend a small fortune on customer support. Whether it’s out-sourcing support to a call center, housing these people internally or a combination of the two patient support is large cost that directly impacts the bottom line. Technology gives these companies the opportunity to limit the number of humans involved and the fact is humans are also an ongoing large cost while technology isn’t.
It’s not just device companies who can lower their costs but drug companies too. Many of the questions patients have about the drugs they take can be efficiently answered using technology.
Thanks to this crisis an important transformation is taking place as companies have long known that increased use of technology lowers cost. Barriers are coming down and most importantly of all patients are using and becoming comfortable with the technology. Patients are learning thanks to social distancing that they also benefit from using this technology. That they too save time and money from using technology. That using this technology does not harm them and can actually make their lives easier.
In the old days before social distancing physicians required their patients to come in before they would change or renew an expiring prescription. Many also believed that patient training had to be done face to face. Thanks to technology this is no longer necessary. Even better these virtual visits can be enhanced thanks to device connectivity. Whether its an insulin pump, CGM and soon connected insulin pens or connected disposable insulin pen cap covers patients can share critical data with their physician making a virtual consult even more effective.
We even see physicians pushing for greater adoption of these technologies, CGM and connected insulin delivery devices, as they make their jobs much easier. We also believe that GLP-1 therapy already an expanding market will become even more popular as it requires little if any patient training. About the only area that has yet to adopt new technology are oral medications. Yes there are many technologies that remind a patient to take their pills but none that we are aware of that actually show that patient has taken their pills.
Insulin dosing algorithms will also push greater adopt of these technologies. These algorithms not only make the patients life easier they also make the life of a physician much easier. Once these algorithms expand beyond insulin using patients and into the non-insulin world we’ll see an explosion of non-insulin using patients wearing a CGM. The fact is medicine is also a business and just as companies are looking for efficiencies so too are physician offices.
The missing link here has never been the knowledge that technology saves money, we have always known that. No the missing link here has always been getting patients to use and become comfortable with this technology. As we have said many times it’s not about the toys in the toy chest it’s all about getting the patient to play with the toys in the toy chest.
The question is once this crisis ends will things go back to the way they were or will a new more efficient way take hold?