Stories of anxiety, struggles with accessing medication and difficulties finding information relevant to specific diseases. These are just some of the things patients experienced during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
These insights into the patient world were uncovered by a survey run by Aurora in collaboration with PIP Health, which offers an early glimpse into the fears and dilemmas people with ongoing and serious health conditions have faced.
Adapting to a ‘new normal’
People with underlying conditions have had to quickly adapt to the ‘new normal’ in the same ways we all have, but also in how they manage their health condition. This has included everything from how they access and administer their treatments, to moving to virtual appointments rather than face-to-face time with their doctors. This has been vital in ensuring their health condition is managed and that they keep themselves safe.
“I am more depressed and anxious. This affects my daily life.”
“Have struggled to access my arthritis medication which has meant my arthritis is flared worse than ever.”
“Getting clear information from GP has been challenging as I’m complex and beyond the wit of the 111 call centre. My GP knows me and my complex needs.”
These are just a handful of the responses we have received from a population of people who have had to adapt quickly to the short-term outcomes of the pandemic to get the care and support they need.
In the long-term there have been discussions of a shift towards more virtual care, and health services will need to adapt to this. It has also been warned that additional service changes will be needed, due to a backlog in patients requiring support for their ongoing or serious conditions and to keep people safe.
This backlog may partly be due to ‘COVID-phobia’ causing people to avoid emergency care, or choose not to attend their regular appointments. Health bosses in the UK have recently urged people to continue seeking the right healthcare advice during the coronavirus pandemic and keep healthcare appointments unless they have been contacted to postpone.
However, findings from our patient outreach found that some people were trying to access their usual care and support, but due to understandably over-stretched health services this had been challenging. It has been reported that hospitals are now just beginning to re-introduce non-urgent services, and with the recent push to encourage people to seek healthcare advice, things may be beginning to look up for these patients.
What will be important is to do further forward-planning to ensure services can be re-opened safely and consider the results of a potential second peak in coronavirus infections, which could lead to further disruption to healthcare services.
In a recent publication in the Lancet, Cancer specialists predicted that new ways of working in cancer care during the coronavirus pandemic will permanently change oncology services. However, they also noted that we should try to keep the ‘best changes’ after the pandemic is over.
So what does this mean?
Whilst many short-term needs have already been addressed, the long-tail impact of the pandemic will be felt many months (and possibly years) in the future.
Now, more than ever, it is important that we understand what people with ongoing or serious health conditions need. We should then use these insights to deliver truly person-centred support.
This is the key to improving people’s lives and proving it.
The support needed will vary, but we may want to consider questions such as how to ensure that a person who receives a serious diagnosis over Zoom still gets the emotional support and reassurance they require? Or what do patients need to feel safe and confident attending an infusion clinic? Or how can we ensure that people in palliative care units still get to spend time with their loved ones?
Only by collaborating with patients as partners will we be able to deliver appropriate support.
Important role to play
As good healthcare partners, pharmaceutical companies have an important role to play in this service re-design through joint working initiatives with the NHS. At Aurora, we can help to ensure your activities are grounded in insight and shaped by patients via our collaboration with PIP Health and our experience in supporting patient engagement virtually.
We work directly with patients to gather insights, co-create support and then prove that we have made a difference.
Get in touch with Sophie Thompson at Sophie.Thompson@auroracomms.com to discuss how we can help you improve lives and prove it.