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Closing the Gaps in Health Equity — A Call to Action for Commercial Teams


While the last two years of pandemic-driven disruption have spotlighted race-based disparities in healthcare, the problem is not a new one. Populations of color have been persistently under-represented and have consistently experienced worse outcomes and higher disease risk for decades.

While many of us in the industry are encouraged by the increase in the collective consciousness around health disparities, the reality is that our health system has made little progress to improve equity in the healthcare experiences, outcomes, and disease burden across the U.S. population. Equitable representation in clinical trials is one example. A recent Komodo Health analysis found that clinical trial participation by patients of color actually declined last year. Worse, that pattern of low engagement, coupled with higher barriers to access and poorer health outcomes, extends throughout the healthcare continuum from clinical research to preventive care to emergency department utilization and disease prevalence. 

However, when large swaths of the population, such as specific demographic, racial, or ethnic groups, are missing from the equation, the unique needs of those groups often go unmet. 

One of the less obvious but most critical ways to address these gaps in care rests with Commercial Life Sciences teams. This group, tasked with everything from assessing the market potential for a new drug to forging relationships and building awareness with providers, is the essential link in the chain of bringing life-saving therapies to the people who need them most. 

Improved, real-world insights can help close the gap
Commercial teams in the Life Sciences industry rely heavily on real-world data to develop their go-to-market strategy and brand plans and execute day-to-day commercial activities. However, these teams are often dependent on incomplete, outdated, and potentially biased datasets that are not inclusive of patients’ racial and ethnic demographics.

Without fully understanding how patients of every background navigate their way through each step of care and the market dynamics of these distinct groups, Commercial teams are working at a disadvantage, potentially without realizing it. Accessing more complete real-world data with expanded insights can help these teams accurately measure the extent of health disparities, and as a result, formulate specific solutions and build targeted branding messages and provider engagement strategies that actively address and work to close these gaps in care.

For example, a recent Komodo Health analysis found that of the nearly 5,000 healthcare providers seeing patients with HER2+ breast cancer, 63% are not using the most novel therapy available on the market, which can often extend progression-free survival for months. Even more profound, 67% of the U.S. healthcare providers seeing Black patients did not have a history of participating in clinical trials.

This example highlights an opportunity for Commercial teams to address these severe gaps in care more strategically and effectively. With this level of insight, Commercial teams could target providers to generate awareness of the options available for novel therapeutics for higher-risk Black patients with advanced HER2+ breast cancer.

Similarly, a deeper view into disparate patient journeys – and ensuring the inclusion of race insights to inform commercial strategies – allows more targeted efforts in market sizing, messaging, education, and access in an unbiased manner. This type of refined patient segmentation also allows for more custom commercial opportunities and the appropriate geographic alignment for field teams.

Seizing the whole opportunity 
The path to health equity begins with a solid understanding of gaps in care for historically underserved patient populations. Insights into the complete patient journey can play a critical role in this effort, helping industry leaders better analyze patient populations at a local level to understand who is and isn’t getting the access or care they need. 

To get there, we need to evolve the way we think about patient targeting and identification, HCP engagement, messaging, and therapeutic adoption metrics to be much more dynamic and specific to the needs of a given community. By marrying a more robust approach to healthcare data with an on-the-ground understanding of the social environment of patients, the Life Sciences industry is in a prime position to help address the roots of inequitable care and outcomes. We cannot afford to wait any longer to seize that opportunity.

About the Author: Vivian is Komodo's Head of Strategy for Commercial Life Sciences. With over a decade of experience working with Life Sciences organizations to bring new therapeutics to market, she is passionate about applying real-world data, coupled with scientific and clinical advancements, to improve patient outcomes. She received her MBA from Berkeley Haas and her AB in cognitive and computational neuroscience from Princeton University.

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