Since March we have been conducting an ongoing scrape of lay and professional journals, healthcare industry reports, and conferences to better understand how COVID-19 is impacting our HCPs across different disease areas, and how our customers in the healthcare industry can best respond. In July 2020, we conducted two multi-specialty “virtual advisory boards” with HCPs to layer in HCPs' own perceptions of how COVID-19 is impacting their practice dynamics, the way they manage their patients, their relationships with pharmaceutical companies, and what they anticipate their futures to hold.
As restrictions are being relaxed (“opening up”) or increased (“closing up”) across the United States at different paces across different areas based upon different indicators (eg, COVID-19 infection rate per 100k residents, ICU capacity, transmission rate, number of contact tracers), we conducted a comparison study: one ad board with doctors from the New York Tri-State Area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), the initial epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States; the other with doctors from “reopened” markets in states including Iowa, Missouri, and Florida. While the experiences of the physicians differed somewhat by their location and specialty, there was one common theme expressed by respondents across the ad boards – it is impossible to plan amid such flux
The pandemic is impacting HCPs neither in a linear fashion nor in predictable geographic patterns, with HCPs operating between widespread transmission regions (with increased restrictions and telehealth predominance) and low-spread transmission regions (with HCPs overwhelmed with returning patients, makeup appointments, and concern about how long until the second wave “hits”).
It is practically impossible for HCPs to plan as practices may be servicing patients from multiple locales with different statuses. Change comprises temporary adaptations to unknown conditions until HCPs are post-COVID-19. The endpoint for most is a vaccine. But the hypothetical vaccine’s efficacy, prevalence, and the variables involved in widespread use makes it extremely difficult for HCPs to plan.
Telehealth rules are contingent upon adaptations of federal, state, and local regulations – most importantly, federal and state waivers to temporarily allow for remote provision of services previously rendered in-person only. It is unclear what these policies will look like in the long term, and what the incentives will look like for all parties involved:
These are all unknowns, and experts and industry groups indicate that the particulars of telehealth will be determined after the pandemic.
While HCPs in specialties like neurology and oncology stressed the need for in-person exams, HCPs in specialties such as family medicine and clinical cardiology saw many applications for remote monitoring of patients, including ways to improve adherence and reduce medication error.
Remote care has also created many new administrative challenges and responsibilities for HCPs and their staff, including new authorization requirements, reimbursement issues, and new systems to navigate.
Physical isolation has not only led to remote care. It has also led to fewer social interactions between HCPs and their peers, pharma reps, MSLs, and KOLs. Traditionally, these conferences, dinner programs, and curbside conversations have elevated care and provided the opportunity to transform evidence-based practices. They also have filled personal and professional needs for HCPs. Currently, this is lacking.