I recently spoke with Serge Loncar, Founder and CEO of CareSpeak Communications, about the value in today’s marketplace of providing patients with an effortless way to manage their health using an advanced SMS platform like CareSpeak. We also discussed how this helps to achieve better outcomes by engaging patients and caregivers, improving medication compliance, and assisting with care coordination.
The abbreviated interview was posted on our blog. The full text of our conversation is below.
What is the CareSpeak elevator pitch?
CareSpeak’s HIPAA compliant and HITRUST certified Automated Patient Engagement Platform helps patients be more compliant with their medical therapy and supports them throughout their healthcare journey via interactive messaging and care coordination interventions.
How is your technology supporting the patient journey?
CareSpeak supports patients through a combination of automated custom designed messaging dialogues, and care coordination triggers that engage their caregiver, family and friends, and/or the clinical staff (where this is part of the program offering).
Our modular architecture allows us to quickly build programs to support most patient journeys and clinical workflows, facilitating rapid development and deployment of custom programs that are scalable. This built-in flexibility allows for quick changes post-launch to accommodate for new learning from patient interactions. In addition, our rules engine allows us to develop a variety of personalized automated interactions with the patient and/or their caregivers. In programs that involve a clinician, our rules engine can help triage patients to take that engagement to the next level.
What trends do you see among patients in managing and leveraging information?
That depends on the patient population. What we have learned is that it’s all about utility, and utility means different things to different patients. If a patient is on a drug and they are likely to experience serious side effects, getting information that helps them with side effects management provides utility. For patients who are on a confusing multi-therapy regimen, medication reminders provide utility. That’s why the ability to customize programs quickly based on the drug, disease state, and patient journey is very important.
Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. One of the things we have been very vocal about with our clients is the need to give patients the opportunity to receive information in digestible bits. One of the ways we do that is by adding patient engagement to their starter kits. So, instead of getting a ton of information about a new medication all at once, we spread the information out for the patient over a prolonged period of time and provide optional additional content for those patients who want more information than what is in the standard program.
Customization of patient management is key in healthcare today. How are you helping pharmaceutical companies rethink their patient programs?
Traditionally, pharmaceutical manufacturers “talk to the patient,” and the patient doesn’t really have the ability to have a “dialogue” in that process. We were able to show to our clients how we can have automated dialogues that provide timely and contextually relevant information to the patient. For example, if we know that the median days to onset of a side effect is 15 days, and the patient has told us via a message that they have started their therapy on January 1st, we can now send a message on January 9, setting the expectation for that patient and educating them on how to recognize it, urging them to report it to their provider, etc. This is a very customized and personalized experience.
Mobile health has been around for a while now and there are thousands of health-related apps. What makes traditional text messaging the best way to interact with patients?
We all receive unwanted robocalls and junk email, but we never get unwanted text messages (or at least we shouldn’t) because the FCC has done an excellent job in protecting that space for us, the consumer. So, if a person lets you into their messaging stream, that means you are important and they will engage with you. Today, it’s only with texting where we see this level of engagement: 97 percent of Americans text at least once per day, text messaging has a 45 percent response rate, and 90 percent of messages are read in under three minutes. Texting is proven to work in healthcare.
What are the challenges of getting pharma companies to embrace text messaging as a tool to provide patients?
When we started working with pharma, we encountered three concerns:
- How do we ensure that adverse events reported by patients are handled appropriately?
- How do we demonstrate compliance with all the relevant regulations and guidelines?
- How do we demonstrate through real-life data that the programs work?
CareSpeak’s platform can be set up either to have a “controlled” automated dialogue with the patient whereby a patient can only respond with “pre-scripted” responses (think chatbot) or to capture reportable events and immediately process them to the respective pharmacovigilance departments.
We have all the compliance-related processes and templates in place as it pertains to TCPA, Fair Balance, HIPAA, and GDPR in the EU.
And lastly, it took some time, but we were able to demonstrate both clinical and commercial success, showing that CareSpeak’s platform and approach work. A few weeks ago, one of our strategic clients, Avella Specialty Pharmacy, reported that after looking at over 555 patients over a period of 13 months, their analysis showed that the median number of days for oncology patients was extended by 73 days, and for inflammatory patients by 102 days when compared to a control group.
As more information is shared online, there are more opportunities for breaches in security. How has CareSpeak ensured their commitment to protecting their customers’ private information?
From the day we wrote the first line of code in the CareSpeak platform eight years ago, we had security and privacy in mind. Last year, after an 11-month process, CareSpeak was issued a HITRUST certification, the highest level of security and privacy one can achieve in the USA. Privacy and security is in our DNA.
Looking several years ahead, do you think patients will be consuming information in ways that are different from today?
When delivering communications solutions, especially in healthcare, we need to have solutions that work within the existing behavior in order to minimize any barriers, as seen with the SMS engagement data mentioned above.
Messaging is continuing to evolve. It started with standard SMS and has evolved to include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. The next evolution in SMS may come from Google’s effort to push for the new Rich Communication Services standard, which may take it to the next level and also, in time, reduce fragmentation in customer messaging applications. In short, messaging is here to stay in the near future, and CareSpeak will utilize it every step of the way, as long as it is part of the patient’s everyday behavior.
Serge Loncar started CareSpeak in 2011, guided by the belief that the mobile phone, as the most personal accessory, will play an increasingly important role in managing one's health. Prior to starting CareSpeak, Serge was the President of Songbird Hearing, the manufacturer and marketer of the first disposable over-the-counter hearing aid. Prior to that, he headed up strategic business development at cdnow.com, which was acquired by Bertelsmann AG. Serge also held numerous domestic and international brand marketing and sales positions at Johnson & Johnson health care and medical device divisions, and Pepsi Cola International in the USA and Europe. Serge received his MBA from New York University's Stern Business School after immigrating from Croatia.