For a pharmaceutical company that has just navigated a complicated market access journey preceded by ten-plus years of drug development, it’s a big moment when their medicine finally hits pharmacy shelves. But the drug launch process does not end at commercialisation. After all, how much good can a medicine do if prescribers lack the information they need to offer it to patients?

Historically, pharma sales reps have informed GPs about new or existing products to ensure they reach the patients that would benefit from them. However, a recent survey of physicians in the EU-5 has suggested reps could be finding it harder to arrange meetings with GPs post-pandemic. The study found that 25% of GPs are reducing face-to-face interactions with reps since COVID, while 10% said they don’t see them at all.

Primary care is under strain in the UK, with the NHS losing the equivalent of 1,790 fully qualified full-time GPs since September 2015 alongside a continual rise in patient numbers. Amid such challenges, GPs are struggling to sit down with reps to learn about new drugs. With approximately one third of physicians being difficult to reach via this route, a fresh approach is needed.

A fresh approach

“For pharma companies, it’s about being creative and exploring new ways of getting that information in front of GPs and also pharmacists, who are now playing a much bigger part in healthcare in the UK through frameworks like Pharmacy First,” offers Ceri Stokes, business development director at EMIS.

In today’s digital age, technology is the obvious solution. Virtual meetings are one aspect of this, but even better is the opportunity to tap into systems that doctors already use daily. Serving up relevant information through in-system alerts is considerably more convenient for busy healthcare professionals, enabling information to be delivered at the exact moment it is needed.

“Providing in-system support at the point of prescribing is of huge benefit to the GP and is very important for patient safety as well. It helps GPs feel confident that they understand the different titration levels and medication regimes for a new drug,” says Stokes.

A similar approach can be leveraged in pharmacy to improve patient safety. By building alerts in EMIS’ market leading ProScript Connect system, pharmacists were prompted to print an alert for patients when a particular medicine was dispensed. The print-out included a QR code which, if scanned by the patient, took them directly to the sponsor’s website for further medication guidance. Across the first nine months of the campaign, there was a 175% increase in the number of times the patient alert was viewed. After 15 months, approximately 700,000 alerts had been viewed by patients, with the QR code scans contributing to 50% of the overall traffic to their patient information website.

Education across the care continuum

The opportunities do not stop there. EMIS has the tools to deliver educational content across the entire healthcare ecosystem, complete with a range of metrics to measure campaign performance.

From educational platforms that can be leveraged pre-launch to systems that support clinical decision making and dispensing during the patient’s treatment, the company’s Inform solution is all about “getting the right information to the right person at the right point in time”, says Stokes.

Pharma companies now have a unique opportunity to tap into the EMIS patient-facing portals too, where a range of media can be placed to empower patients, educate them on side effects, and advise them about lifestyle changes. Being put on medication is a big deal for many people, with feelings of unease potentially heightened where newly licensed or first-in-class drugs are concerned. The non-adherence statistics are frightening, but direct-to-patient communication could help to lower this, ultimately improving health outcomes for the benefit of everyone. For example, by using the Medication Assistant feature in its Patient Access portal, EMIS helped a pharmaceutical company provide digital support programmes for approximately 42,000 patients on high-dose asthma medication. A series of emails and articles were shared with the patients, delivering advice on how best to manage their condition. The campaign saw open rates of approximately 60% and click through rates of 15%.    

Whether the target audience is prescribers, pharmacists, or patients, sharing clinically relevant information at appropriate times builds confidence. This improves patient access to new treatments, and ensures they are being prescribed, dispensed and administered safely and appropriately.

With unrivalled reach across the UK primary care system, EMIS is an essential partner to support communication around new medicines in full compliance with the relevant regulatory guidance from NICE and ABPI. The Inform solution is underpinned by the ‘right place, right person, right time’ philosophy and is delivered by a company driven to provide positive, ethical solutions that improve clinical safety and patient outcomes first and foremost.