Business continuity: how robust is your patient support disaster relief plan?

Weathering natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic

To drive speed to therapy, reduce financial burdens and empower patient engagement, a Patient Support Services Call Center provides myriad support services that stakeholders depend upon. For pharmaceutical manufacturers, these services have gone from “nice to have” to “must-have,” driven by the growth of specialty pharmaceuticals. The complexity of treatment, advances in genetic and diagnostic testing and the high cost of specialty products require highly trained personnel, operation efficiencies and the flexibility to scale in lock-step with a product’s life-cycle stage or market conditions.

So, what happens during a crisis? Consider events in recent history: hurricanes and power outages, tornadoes, fires and now, the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients and providers are at risk of disrupted product access for lifesaving treatments such as insulin products and oncology drugs. Pharma and device companies must ensure the continued delivery of therapies as part of delivering on their brand promises to stakeholders; partner ecosystems are only as strong as the weakest link.

Key considerations for crisis management

A proactive disaster recovery plan and a dispersed, redundant operations model are basic elements for safeguarding your patient support programs. Now is a good time to carefully evaluate your current Call Center business continuity strategy and prepare for the next unexpected event.

Key considerations for risk mitigation include:

  • Site capacity and scalability
  • Physical site redundancy
  • Global service delivery
  • Expertly trained staff
  • Virtual readiness
  • Best-in-class technology and infrastructure
  • Business continuity plan
  • Program management and training

Case Study: COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened awareness of disaster planning. Covance quickly responded to the crisis, which necessitated Patient Support Services agents working from home across all global sites. Agents were transitioned, with complete access to firewalled Covance technology for zero disruption and seamless patient support. Throughout the process, performance metrics remained on track, with no downtime or interruption to service.

Having a patient support operation with the ability to flex and react quickly, plus the experience and technology to enable response to regional or global situations, has been imperative for continuous patient services. Multi-site and offshore locations have accommodated shifting of services from affected areas to alternative centers as part of effective COVID-19 recovery plans. 

No-one can foresee every possible emergency, but having a business continuity plan in place backed by a proven recovery track record means you are prepared to react quickly, knowing that many patients cannot miss a single dose of their therapy. Call Center agents trained on your products and the impact of disrupted service can help by identifying possibly affected zip codes, then beginning outbound calls in proactive outreach to patients and providers as your disaster plan is set in motion.

Case Study: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria

A leading pharmaceutical client faced multiple natural disasters in 2017 as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria affected 23,000 patients across Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. The Covance Patient Support Services team shifted operations to ensure seamless delivery of lifesaving, cold-chain insulin products and oncology drugs, along with severe migraine therapies and mental health drugs.

As a result, only 270 cold-chain products required re-shipment for hurricane-affected regions during August-September 2017. The client recognized the Covance team for above-and-beyond efforts: “Escalations were being sent to them to triage, and they did an outstanding job. I trusted that, with their experience, they were making the right calls for the patients.”

Benefits of Covance business continuity

Covance offers several advantages for Patient Support Service disaster relief, including consultative relationships to support your decision-making, proactive service, flexible operations with multi-site and global delivery plus robust and secure technology.

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