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How Commercial Teams Can Break Down Barriers to Multicultural and Multilingual Patient Education

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We hear a lot about the Life Sciences industry’s challenges in advancing diversity in clinical trials. In fact, a recent Komodo analysis of clinical trials conducted in the last decade found that patients of color have been consistently underrepresented. In oncology trials, for instance, 85% of participants over the last five years were White, while Black patient representation remained stagnant at under 7%. 

But what happens after the clinical trial, once the therapeutic is launched and available nationwide? It should come as little surprise that the cultural, racial, and ethnic barriers to care just keep multiplying. In fact, one of the biggest obstacles to widespread commercial adoption of a new therapy is inadequate patient and provider education in ethnically and racially diverse communities. 

This is not a new phenomenon. In 2003, the landmark "Unequal Treatment" report from the Institute of Medicine gave the healthcare community hard evidence that racial and ethnic minorities experience a lower quality of health services than White Americans and are less likely to receive even routine medical procedures. In 2007, a National Institutes of Health study concluded that racial and ethnic disparities during the first five years of marketing of a new therapy result in lower utilization among Black and Hispanic patients. More recently, a CDC study conducted during the pandemic found disparate monoclonal antibody treatment of COVID-19 in Hispanic, Black, Asian, and other race patients relative to non-Hispanic and White patients.

Addressing Racial and Ethnic Barriers to Care
Countless studies have examined all aspects of the “whys” behind this persistent gap. With barriers ranging from implicit biases among providers and cultural preconceptions among patients to language and transportation hurdles, it is clear that delivering truly equitable access to new therapies is not a simple task.

Various public health and advocacy groups have taken steps to address parts of the problem. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently launched an initiative that delivers more than $4 million in grants to promote equitable access to language services in health and human services. The AMA has developed a Health Disparities Toolkit aimed at helping providers develop better cultural competence and literacy. 

Despite the best intentions of these and other programs, efforts to address racial and ethnic barriers to care historically have been missing one critical link: comprehensive, nuanced, real-world data that makes it possible to spotlight the areas where this gap in care is most significant and target patient-specific solutions to address it. 

A Data-Driven Approach to Multicultural Patient Education
Life Sciences Commercial teams are uniquely positioned and incentivized to drive a change in the way patients from diverse backgrounds are educated about the availability of new therapies. Thanks to advances in real-world data (RWD) analytics, which have made it possible to better assess real-world experiences and outcomes for diverse patient populations, both Clinical and Commercial teams have become the earliest adopters of solutions that provide a detailed view of patient journeys. 

On the Clinical side, the data is being used to improve and diversify clinical-trial recruitment. The Commercial side has been less widely explored, but it represents a potential game-changing opportunity. 

Consider the status quo. Until recently, pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to encourage more equitable adoption of their new therapies by members of different racial and ethnic groups were essentially limited to sending providers patient education materials in different languages. That’s not a scientific approach, and it certainly does not address the countless other social determinants that could influence new drug utilization.

Today, using the same technology that Life Sciences teams use to identify candidates for clinical trials and assess the total addressable market for a new therapeutic area, it is possible to zero in on diverse patient populations and the providers that see them most frequently. From there, it becomes possible to design patient education and provider outreach strategies tailored to the languages, cultural sensitivities, and socioeconomic factors that wield an outsized influence on new drug utilization.

Some pioneering Commercial teams have already begun to incorporate race and ethnicity (R&E) data into their outreach and education efforts, with amazing results. One leading biotech company conducted an analysis using Komodo Health’s Iris solution to identify healthcare providers managing metastatic and locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer, basal cell carcinoma, and esophageal cancer among diverse patient populations. Armed with this information, the field team was able to tailor personalized messaging and patient-education strategies for these specific providers. The result was an immediate increase in HCPs' reach and engagement, which led to an accelerated product launch.

The logic behind this type of personalized outreach is impossible to ignore. By addressing language alone, Commercial teams create an opportunity to address more than 26 million people in the U.S. who do not speak English as their primary language and have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand it. With these numbers, the catalyst for delivering a data-driven, multicultural patient-education initiative goes beyond the moral obligation of diversity, equity, and inclusion. There is also a clear-cut business case to get the culturally aware outreach formula right.

To learn more about how Commercial teams can use R&E data to unlock new insights and reduce the burden of disease, check out Closing the Gaps in Health Equity - A Call to Action for Commercial Teams.

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