Learn more about the reasons why patients on specialty medications struggle to adhere to their care plans, and the role technology solutions can play...
CareMetx talks to Deidra Kindred, nurse advocate and founder of Your Healthcare Nurse Advocates.
Every day, countless professionals go above and beyond to help patients navigate the increasingly complex healthcare landscape, and nurse advocate Deidra Kindred is one of them. At the 2021 Healthcare Advocate Summit, we talked with Deidra about the challenges faced by today’s patients, her nurse advocacy efforts, and how we can all work to improve the patient experience.
Patients Need Support
As a nurse for 20 years, Deidra witnessed firsthand the many obstacles patients face when trying to receive their treatments. From working in the intensive care unit to specialty home health settings- often with immunocompromised patients on infusion treatments- she recognized a large gap in today’s healthcare system. “Hospital administration is not exactly geared toward the experience of the patient who’s trying to navigate the healthcare system,” Deidra explains.
She says the commonly used phrase, “we treat you, then we street you” sums up this problem: healthcare providers often treat patients, then send them back to their caregivers and families with a quick recap of what happened during their hospital stay, and discharge instructions that are often lengthy and complex. Not to mention, patients in these situations are often in a stressed, anxious state to begin with, so they might struggle to internalize, or retain that information well. After being discharged, it’s typically then left up to them to figure out what happens next. This experience can leave patients and families feeling incredibly confused, and overwhelmed. That realization led Deidra to begin a patient advocacy business, Your Healthcare Nurse Advocates. Her team of specialty nurses are all certified patient advocates who serve as the patient’s trusted advisor, empowering and educating them on how to take control of their healthcare choices.
Investing In Next Level Patient Support
CareMetx digital hub services have always complemented and supported the role of nurse advocates like Deidra by breaking down the access and affordability barriers that can hinder starting a new therapy. By automating and streamlining key steps in the patient initiation journey—like enrollment, benefits verification, prior authorization, and patient assistance program (PAP) application—our digital hub platform helps ensure specialty therapies are accessible and affordable to patients.
Recognizing that adherence is just as crucial to a patient’s health outcomes, CareMetx recently took our patient support solutions to the next level with the acquisition of Human Care Systems (HCS), a company whose sole focus is to help patients initiate and adhere to and benefit from pharmaceutical and biotech products and optimize treatment outcomes.
Now, pharmaceutical manufacturers that benefit from CareMetx hub technology can leverage our Resilix® platform to deliver personalized, omnichannel patient support that improves therapy initiation and adherence. Through technology that guides workflows, tracks touchpoints, anticipates patient needs, and automatically pulls in human support when it’s needed most, the Resilix platform offers a powerful tool for engaging patients and ensuring they initiate and remain on complex specialty therapies.
That brings our capabilities full circle—enabling CareMetx to address barriers that can keep a patient from benefitting from a therapy and engage patients throughout their entire experience with a pharmaceutical brand. By removing the friction that often occurs at crucial points in a patient’s journey with a specialty therapy, CareMetx supports the same objectives as nurse advocates like Deidra: ensuring patients can access, afford, initiate, and stay on treatments that can help them manage their disease.
The Important Facets of an Advocacy Role
Simplification- The growing need for more patient advocates is largely fueled by the increasing complexity of today’s healthcare system. For example, consider how common it is for patients who are diagnosed with specialty illnesses to be treated by three or four different doctors.
“The problem is, those three or four doctors don’t always talk to each other,” Deidra notes. “So the patient winds up needing an intermediary. That usually falls on the family, but it involves a lot of time-consuming, complicated work that these families aren’t always equipped to manage.”
Older patients tend to rely on grown children who often have spouses, children, jobs, and other obligations; some may not even live nearby. For “solo adults” with no family ties, there may be no one around to help. That’s where personal nurse advocates like Deidra come in.
“As a private advocate, I’m there for a patient throughout the entire journey,” she says.
Access Barriers- One of the most important roles of a nurse advocate is to help patients and families overcome the variety of challenges they may face when it comes to treatment access.
“Patients may be unable to get to doctors’ appointments because they don’t have transportation- or maybe they have a special needs child who they can’t leave home alone,” Deidra says.
Nurse advocates can help tackle these social determinants of health by arranging reliable transportation, or even accompanying patients to their appointments.
Communication- Communication is another big challenge in the current healthcare system, Deidra points out.
“Providers aren’t always great at communicating at the patient’s level,” she says. And they may get tunnel vision—only focusing on their own specialty rather than on the patient as a whole.”
Nurse advocates can work to bridge those communication gaps.
Affordability- Affordability is also a common barrier to receiving critical therapies, and it’s an area where nurse advocates strive to help.
“There are nonprofits that can help patients with finances, but people struggle to find them and figure it all out,” Deidra says. “When I have patients who can’t find financial aid, I want to be able to tell them where to go.”
Adherence– Adherence to a prescribed therapy plays a major role in a patient’s health outcomes; yet non-adherence is common, especially for patients with a complex condition or complicated therapy. Poor adherence to medicines is a global issue, especially for long-term therapy, with estimated non-adherence rates at 50%. Here again, a nurse advocate can fill the support gap and remove the complexities of a complex diagnosis, ensuring patients initiate and stay on their treatments.
“After they are diagnosed and sent home a ton of things happen next, and without an advocate they aren’t left with any support,” Deidra says.
Digital Standards for Healthcare- Finally, a seemingly slow shift towards technology standards across the healthcare industry is one that greatly impacts today’s patients.
“There are 10,000 or more baby boomers coming into the healthcare system each week, and many are not tech savvy,” Deidra explains. “So what happens when they have five different physicians, who aren’t all in the same system, who each have their own portals? It becomes a huge stressor for everyone involved.”
Deidra says in her experience, even healthcare providers themselves find today’s system cumbersome to navigate. They want- and need- to focus their attention on delivering the best care possible, not on completing time-consuming administrative tasks. According to a recent Medication Access Report, providers spend two business days a week on average completing prior authorization (PA) requests, with 86 percent reporting that the prior authorization burden is high, or extremely high.
How Collaboration is Meeting the Need
While individuals like Deidra tend to focus their time and energy on patients’ medical needs, they recognize the importance of solving the many other challenges that can impact a patient’s health outcomes.
“There are certain things I can’t do,” she says. “I can help patients communicate with their doctors and improve their health literacy, but something like navigating hospital billing—that’s a giant, complex undertaking.”
Deidra says she appreciates any technology designed to remove access and affordability barriers that can keep patients from receiving specialty therapies. Whether it’s electronic prior authorizations, benefits verifications, or financial assistance program enrollment, these digital healthcare solutions are helping remove barriers by streamlining and simplifying processes across the healthcare system. They’re also giving providers more time and energy to focus on high-touch care, while ensuring patients, their families, and their advocates spend less time on administrative matters.
Deidra believes one of the keys to tackling these obstacles is collaboration. “At the conference, I saw how organizations like CareMetx are helping by creating and facilitating such a needed collaborative effort,” she shares.
If you like to stay current on industry issues, you might enjoy Deidra’s podcast, Health Chats Among Friends—an engaging, open dialogue with healthcare leaders.