Transcription: A Conversation with Emily Gibb, Head of Patient Services and President of the Patient Access Foundation at GSK



Greg Kefer: (00:07)
Welcome to Digital Conversations. I'm Greg Kefer, and today I'm joined by Emily Gibb from GSK. Emily, welcome to the show.

Emily Gibb: (00:16)
Thanks Greg. It's great to be with you today.

Greg Kefer: (00:18)
So you're the Head of Patient Services and President of the Patient Access Foundation at GSK. Before we get into a discussion about innovation and technology, maybe you could just give us a quick sense of what you do there at GSK.

Emily Gibb: (00:32)
Thanks. So in essence, what we're trying to do is help patients. So once a healthcare practitioner prescribes a medicine that GSK makes, or a vaccine, we know that sometimes patients encounter some challenges, either accessing that vaccine or understanding their insurance coverage or accessing their medication. And so my team is really charged with helping patients through that process. That's essentially what we do.

Greg Kefer: (00:58)
Right. So, is that a new dimension for a company like GSK,...to kind of get more directly engaged with patients? Or is that something that you've been doing for eons?

Emily Gibb: (01:07)
Well, I think all manufacturers have been helping patients for a long time in what we manufacture, but I do think as medications have become more specialized in the last several years, the need is growing and our healthcare system is complex. And we do see patients facing some hurdles in their insurance coverage, or not really understanding what their coverage is. Or in some cases we still have patients in the country who are completely uninsured. So the need has grown, the service has continued to evolve, and we're trying to keep pace with where science is headed.

Greg Kefer: (01:43)
Now, when we talked before, you had mentioned you've got some professional DNA from the provider side of the world, and obviously big healthcare systems are dealing with patients all the time as well. Is there anything that's going on on that side of the world or that side of the industry that you see, or aspire to? That's something you're gonna try to bring over to GSK?

Emily Gibb: (02:05)
Well, I've been fortunate in my career to have worked on the provider side and on the manufacturer side. And I do think there is a lot of synergy. I think on the provider side, there's some care coordination models that have been really effective in helping patients navigate an inpatient experience out to discharge and then helping patients once they're back in the community setting. And I do think that,your medication management is a key component of that overall healthcare picture and healthcare journey. And so as much as possible from a manufacturer perspective, we want to make sure that we have supportive programs that can help patients with that medication journey. We don't want to duplicate anything that patients are able to get through their provider's office or through their integrated healthcare system in their region. But we certainly wanna make sure that if a medication is going to help someone stay well and help them lead a fulfilling life, that they have the support that they need for it.

Greg Kefer: (03:05)
Yeah. We work with a lot of providers at my company and it's a challenge. You know, digital is obviously vital --almost for survival these days, with the labor shortage being what it is. And there are so many different channels that are being utilized to connect with patients and communicate with them. My DNA as a marketing person looks at that, and it's a very, very challenging proposition because it's not like convincing somebody to buy a product. You're trying to get them to use a digital tool of some sort to do something that maybe they once did on paper, but for multiple reasons, we're trying to get everybody more digital. And it's a challenge. How do you see that? Is that something you're striving to break through or overcome? What's your thinking in that zone?

Emily Gibb: (03:50)
We are, and there's not one best digital channel. It all depends on what the patient wants and how they receive information. You know, in the past, the best digital channel might have been a piece of paper and a phone call, but now we have the option for patients to have online portals, where they can track their healthcare status, where they can make sure that they're understanding their treatment plans. We also have text messaging capabilities to outreach to patients, and then for patients who still need that traditional touch with a phone call, we have that as well. So it's becoming more complex to run patient service programs because we do have multiple channels where patients would like to be contacted. And so it's just a matter of offering choice.

Greg Kefer: (04:39)
I did a consumer survey several months ago where we polled, I think it was 4,000 adults in the United States and asked them things about mobile and app usage, et cetera, from healthcare providers. But what was really astonishing to me was that 86% of people have a smartphone. And chances are they're addicted to it if they're like everybody else in the world, yet the number of people that are routinely interacting with their healthcare providers through smartphone was only like 7%. And I thought to myself, wow, you know, there's so much investment that's been made -- and is being made -- in mobile apps., because if 86% of people have a smartphone, then that's the platform where people are spending their time, yet it doesn't seem like the apps still have broken through. And maybe it's because there's too many of them, or they're too hard to use or they're all different. What's your thinking on that area?

Emily Gibb: (05:35)
I think the apps are challenging. I think some of them are very effective. You know, I know my health system has an app that I leverage for myself and my family, but it took me a while to get used to it. And I think we have pockets of the country where we have patients who may struggle with health literacy issues or just sheer bandwidth on their phone. You know, some patients have very basic data plans and they may not have the ability to download apps. And so I think the more simple that we can make the outreach, the better apps certainly have their purpose. But back to my earlier point that we have to have a lot of different channels for reaching patients, you know, simple things like text messages or reminders from your provider's office. Those go a long way still.

Greg Kefer: (06:20)
Yeah, they sure do. The name of this podcast is Digital Conversations, and we often talk about a new class of technology, which is called conversational AI. It's like text messaging in that it's using words versus dials and buttons to help guide people through different workflows at healthcare and frankly, any workflow in any industry, you know, it's working with banking and the DMV even does it, but healthcare seems to be a little behind other industries. That's a relatively new thing. I think it's still early, but I do see a lot of movement in that realm in terms of just using language, you know, just words as the interface between humans and machines. Have you leaned in on any of that at all? Or have any perspectives there?

Emily Gibb: (07:02)
We have leaned in a little bit on that and I think there's more that we can do. I think it's a very effective tool. The more simple we can make it for someone to reply...I know if I get a message to confirm an appointment that I have, and it says, reply with one to confirm or reply with two, if you need to reschedule, you just hit one button... that's really easy. And I think the next wave of that is really taking it into that conversational level. Particularly if we have somebody who is on a treatment and we need to be curious about how they're doing on the treatment, how are they experiencing it? And collecting more information through that conversation can go a long way to getting good data that we can ultimately use to improve the healthcare experience and then ultimately create new innovations for patients.

Greg Kefer: (07:51)
Yep. I think you're right. I think the one, zero story is so spot on. It's funny because it is simple, but it also feels clunky (versus just saying, yes, I am coming). You know, I also think one of the other things that's beginning to happen is when you fuse the power of the smartphone with that language user interface. So for example, turn your camera on and take a picture of your card, and we'll upload that for you, versus walking to a clinic and handing it to the person at the window who then puts it on the photocopy machine and adds it to your file, which was the old way. But it even gets into things like maps. If you've got to get somebody down to something or summoning a ride, or using apple wallet to make a payment, which I feel is really cool and innovative,...it's still early, but, are you thinking along those lines as well as you kind of look ahead and think of ways to be more patient-centric in the way you operate in some of your trials, or with some of your drugs?

Emily Gibb: (08:49)
We are. And I think what you're describing is sort of a mix of language tools and visual tools. And I do think visual tools can go a long way with patients: take a quick picture of your insurance card, take a quick picture of your explanation of benefits that you receive from your insurance company. That's so much easier than typing in 25 different fields of information. And it, in many ways, also cuts down on error. If you're having to manually type that information versus having a computer that can scan it, you can get the information more quickly and it can sometimes be better, less prone to normal typos and errors. So I think there's a lot there that can continue to evolve. And it's definitely an area that we're exploring as we think about our patient services at GSK.

Greg Kefer: (09:38)
Yeah. What we're talking about here is this idea of unlimited conversational horsepower, right? Which kind of flies in the converse direction of a call center, where it's all about, how do we get shorter calls, and try to get more stuff offloaded because there is a constraint of human time when you're dealing with people that are dialing. This kind of technology doesn't necessarily replace, say a call center or nurses or whatever, but it augments them, and picks up a lot of what I'll call the mundane routine stuff, which is probably 85% of all the communications that have to happen. Do you see an opportunity in the life sciences world to begin to kind of add more labor horsepower without actually having to hire thousands of new people?

Emily Gibb: (10:22)
I think it's always gonna need to be a combination of technology and then people to interface when you need to speak to a human. But I'll say we just recently completed a study at GSK around first fill rates on prescriptions. Once a healthcare practitioner has prescribed one of our products and the number one reason that patients did not fill their product was that they were unable to be contacted. So either they couldn't sign the consent form or their specialty pharmacy couldn't reach them. And you know, the patient programs that we offer and often many pharmacies, they'll outreach two or three times with a phone call, and if the patient doesn't return it, then they'll just cancel the prescription. And that's a shame. I do think that there's a lot that can be done there to give a patient a heads up that someone's gonna be calling if they need to talk to them or send them a simple message on their phone so that they can respond to it in order to reduce that 25% abandonment rate.

Greg Kefer: (11:23)
Yeah. That's interesting research. I hadn't heard that one before. I thought for sure you were going to say, because it was too expensive or something like that, but to not even be reached,...I had a guest on this show several years ago, and he talked about, one of the moves that you can make is when you first alert somebody say, hey, we're gonna call you. And this is the number that we're going be calling from, so they don't think it's a spam call. They see the number and they'll go as far as to say, add it to your address book, that it's GSK, or something like that. So when we do call you, they know it's you and it's not like, oh, it's some robo call that's trying to sell me an extended warranty on my car or something, right?

Emily Gibb: (12:02)
I completely agree. I mean, I've used that service with my car insurance company very recently and you know, everybody screens their calls now. Every single person screens their calls because they got so used to having telemarketers and robocalls. And if you don't know the number, the likelihood somebody is going to pick up is very slim. So I think that's a great technology. I think that invention has helped a lot of different industries. And I think it's definitely a place where healthcare can continue to focus.

Greg Kefer: (12:34)
Yeah, right. Now, one of the other areas that we see happening as technology becomes simpler and more engaging and more people use it, is that you begin to move from a transactional engagement to more of a lifetime value engagement. Like it's the ultimate marketer dream, right? To have lasting loyalty of your customers or patients. And you know, I've talked to some healthcare executives who have this vision that they want to check in with people, whether they're sick or not. They want to tell them happy birthday, or they want say, hey, it's time for a mammogram, you know, every year, to make sure that they're communicating with everybody regardless, whether they're coming or not. Does that idea percolate over into life sciences?

Emily Gibb: (13:21)
It does. I mean, I think really the goal for many life sciences companies is to help patients better manage their disease. But even beyond that is really to prevent disease, you know, to prevent exacerbations from happening. If somebody has a respiratory illness, prevent cancer therapy from having an adverse event. And there's a lot of data that can be collected through those ongoing touchpoints that can signal whether someone needs more outreach or not. And so it sounds good and it certainly is the direction that we're headed. But I think over time as data streams become more connected and we learn more from the inputs that people are able to give back to their healthcare systems or to their specific life sciences companies, then the hope is that it helps us better manage someone's health and actually prevents them from getting sicker.

Greg Kefer: (14:20)
Yeah. You touched on something, which is the notion of analytics and behavioral insights. And it is one of those things that I feel is really interesting and is really untapped at this point. But this idea that when you're interacting with everybody, give or take, but everybody digitally this way, you begin to get some very, very micro level behavioral insights in terms of, you know, what time of day is it best to reach them, how many reminders does it take before they take action, and things that you would never get with paper. And you may or may not get with a portal, where they're just coming in, but I have to believe that your business intelligence division would have a field day, if you could capture every moment, every touch, every timestamp across long arc interaction with hundreds of thousands of customers or patients.

Emily Gibb: (15:10)
Absolutely. I mean, in many ways we would. I think we have to make sure that it's done in a way that a patient feels comfortable, and that their privacy is still being respected. So there are a lot of nuances to how we do it. And, when we do that outreach, so that a patient feels like it's a value add to them, and not something that's intrusive to their life. And that's tough balance to strike.

Greg Kefer: (15:33)
Yeah, it sure is. But, you know, I would think that if somebody's on a drug that's a lifetime prescription because they've got, some condition that just needs to be managed, there could be a relationship that they build, and the digital assistant becomes part of the mix -- becomes more and more normal as society continues to get digital. I think of all the people that walk around that talk into their phone and ask Siri how to, you know, get to San Francisco or, give me a recipe for soup... It's amazing how quickly people are talking to machines these days. And I think it's just a matter of time before it migrates from play a song, or give me directions to help me with my health, you know? And that obviously is a very broad term. But as you look out and put your vision hat where time and money was no object, what would you like to see happen over the next five to 10 years as innovation just continues to roll? If you could be a wizard here, what would you like to see happen, say by the year 2028, which isn't that far off.

Emily Gibb: (16:34)
Yeah. Amazingly it's not that far off!

Greg Kefer: (16:36)
Weirdly, right?

Emily Gibb: (16:38)
So, I think the data piece is one. I would love to see data be more coordinated and connected so that it really helps someone's life journey and their healthcare journey. It's funny, you talk about speaking into phones. I have twin boys who are 12 and I watch them interact with their phones and they don't type anything. They always talk into the phone. And it's not a habit that I've really developed with a regular basis, but it's certainly something that the next generation is really comfortable with. So I think as we think about solutions to help people manage their health, we need to harness that. And if someone's comfortable talking to a digital assistant or a digital personal trainer or a digital grocery shopper, then let's figure out a way to help that individual make healthy choices as they engage digitally. I have a Fitbit app, and every now and then we'll engage with the digital trainer. So I'm starting down that road a little bit and my kids of course are encouraging me, but there's a lot of opportunity there. And I'm hopeful that as science continues to evolve, we can pair some of these digital technologies with the new innovations that are coming. I mean, some of the really great advances in cancer care and management of chronic diseases like lupus are really transformative and in some cases curing disease, not just treating it. And so it would be really phenomenal to have the digital experience be additive to that journey.

Greg Kefer: (18:10)
Yeah, I think that's it, Emily. I mean the idea that you have a prescription or something, and instead of a folder, a brochure with all of the stuff, it's a digital assistant that just comes with every prescription and people would gain trust with that over time. And I do think it will get smarter and better. Your point about watching what kids do is important because that's the new generation, and I'm of the email generation. And that seems to be still the primary means that I get communicated to from my healthcare provider. It's the same email that everybody gets, right? It's just a monthly thing that I get that I barely read. I normally don't even see it. My kids don't use email anymore. They don't use Facebook. They're on Snapchat and Twitter,...the shorter, the better. And it's all about ease and simplicity. So I think if the technology can get there, into the world of healthcare and especially life saving drugs and treatments that GSK is making, wow! I mean, it's a brighter future. Maybe I'm an optimist, but that's how I see it at least.

Emily Gibb: (19:09)
Well, I do hope it's a brighter future, but I also think it allows us to address some places in healthcare system that just are frankly inefficient right now. You know, at GSK, we spend a lot of time manufacturing medications, and every bottle of medication that we manufacture comes with a package insert. It's attached to your bottle when you get it from your pharmacy, but I would venture to guess very few people actually ever read it or understand it. And so if there's a way to take that same information and convey it to people in a way that they will understand, through a digital means or, you know, through real-time engagement, when they're ready to receive the information, that would be fantastic, because then we're increasing health literacy across the country. And we're also making sure that people are being active participants in their healthcare.

Greg Kefer: (19:58)
Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more. I personally have never read any of that stuff, so, it's a focus group of one, but still!

Emily Gibb: (20:07)
There's good stuff in that insert!

Greg Kefer: (20:08)
You're probably looking at me like, oh, you should! Shame on you, bad patient! Also, I feel like sometimes when you say digital, someone says, okay, well, I'll email him a PDF. That's not the same thing -- that's not a step forward, that's a step sideways. Great stuff, Emily, thanks so much for coming on! And I'd love to have you back on occasion to check in and to see how it's progressing, because I feel like the work you're doing is super important for all of us and GSK is a leader, so it's important to pay attention to what you guys are up to.

Emily Gibb: (20:43)
Well, thank you. Yes, Greg, this has been great. And you know, I grew up in a really rural part of the country. And one of the things that really excites me about digital technologies and where we're headed in healthcare is that we can really reach people no matter where they are. And so we can eliminate some geographic disparities and hopefully contribute to a broader health equity challenge that we have across the country by leveraging some digital solutions.

Greg Kefer: (21:07)
Yeah. You know, a lot of the hard work has been done, right? The installed base of smartphones. And as you said, connectivity is there and people are using these things. Now it's a matter of just cracking the software code and delivering delightful experiences that are easy and engaging and smart. And I think that we're on the right course. So, hopefully, things will be really cool by 2028. And we can talk about something else in the podcast in 2029., right?! Okay. Well, that was great.

Emily Gibb: (21:37)
I will look forward to that day!

Greg Kefer: (21:39)
Yes, for sure. Okay. Well, this has been Digital Conversations. Thanks for listening to Digital Conversations. If you liked our show, you can always subscribe on iTunes, and feel free to like retweet and share on your social networks. This and other episodes are available on iTunes, Spotify and Linkedin.com. We'll be conversing again soon with a new episode. So long!