Friday, August 11, 2023

Digital as a Disguise: Beware the Illusion of an Automated Hub Experience

Today’s guest post comes from Rebecca Cotton, Executive Director of Strategy & Product Innovation at Cardinal Health Sonexus Access and Patient Support

Rebecca discusses the essential features biopharmaceutical manufacturers should seek in a digital hub that will help patients get their therapies faster. She argues that the most effective hub balances automation with the still-relevant value of human interactions.

Download the Cardinal Health Sonexus Access and Patient Support case study for more details about how ePA technology can accelerate time to therapy for patients. .

Read on for Rebecca’s insights.
Digital as a Disguise: Beware the Illusion of an Automated Hub Experience
By Rebecca Cotton, Executive Director, Strategy & Product Innovation, Cardinal Health Sonexus Access and Patient Support

These days, every hub claims to be digital. But under the surface, those claims don't always hold up.

That's because patient access and support service providers often create an illusion of a digital hub—something that promises an automated experience but doesn't quite deliver one. Instead, many hubs run on “behind-the-screen" faxes, forms and other manual steps for enrollment, patient qualification and beyond. These processes may have their place, but often equate to the perception of digital, not the actuality of it.

And that nuanced difference can have major implications, from delaying therapy startup to frustrating patients and prescribers.

After all, a program marketed as digital but still powered by e-faxes or e-forms is reliant on human review and input, and not really saving any time for the patient, or helping them start therapy more quickly. But there is a better option: a fully optimized program that balances more impactful automation with the still-relevant value of human interactions.

Whether you’re designing a new hub services program to match the unique needs of your emerging specialty product or considering a more tailored approach to your current hub strategy, here’s what I recommend looking for from a patient services hub today:


If manufacturers aim to optimize digital, one factor to consider is system-to-system integrations. With APIs and other integrations, platforms and stakeholders can exchange information more fluidly.

The problem is, impactful digital capabilities such as pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) integrations aren't easy to pull off: they can be expensive and require significant IT investments, stakeholder negotiations and other barriers.

Take prior authorizations (PA). Some hubs generate e-forms, but in reality, it is an e-fax or PDF that a person still needs to process, or OCR that requires validation. E-forms reduce the number of enrollments submitted with missing information; however, they don't automate workflows.

Instead, Cardinal Health Sonexus Access and Patient Support technology connects directly into other systems, like payers', to instantly initiate patient qualification and PA functions. This process is faster and more effective.


Notwithstanding the power of automation, not every aspect of the patient's journey needs to or should be digitized, as some patients want self-service more than others.

According to a recent survey we conducted with BioPharma Dive, 77% of biopharmaceutical executives said they've noticed fewer patients preferring phone-based enrollment over the past five years. But when we asked how those numbers shake out, we uncovered that 40% of respondents still think up to half of patients want a phone call.

The name of the game is patient centricity. In the context of an advanced patient services hub, it means communicating with patients through their preferred channels, whether it’s a portal, chat, email, SMS (text), phone or even paper in some cases.

That's a lot of people who might be underserved with a fully digital option.

Even so, just because you use phone outreach doesn't mean the program can't still optimize its use of digital. Sonexus Access and Patient Support technology allows for flexibility in each patient journey while balancing its program and/or pharmacy staff, such as, those who wish to engage in self-service can, while the option for dedicated human support is still available to those who prefer it.


When considering a new hub partnership, ask tough questions:
  • Which processes rely on e-faxes? Where do they go?
  • Where do e-forms go? Which ones require human intervention?
  • What system integrations exist internally and externally (with payer or PBM infrastructure)?

The truth is that a “fully digital" patient hub can create unrealistic expectations for all stakeholders. But when done well, automation can help patients receive their therapy faster and provide quality data with valuable insights to improve the patient's experience.

Not every aspect of an advanced patient services hub can be automated. And it wouldn’t be desirable to automate every component. The key is to use human support appropriately and to create moments that matter with your patients. Sonexus Access and Patient Support automates steps along the patient journey that can't risk delay. Our smart digital hub solutions simplify and ease access to the life-changing therapies patients need – faster. Our dedicated and compassionate hub staff bring empathy to their work, something self-service tools can't do.

The smartest path forward is to find a hub partner powered by a more purposeful combination of humans and machines.

Access our latest case study to see how we’re leveraging ePA technology to accelerate time to therapy for patients.

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