Last month, Lash Group, a part of AmerisourceBergen, launched its new patient support technology ecosystem, Fusion. The platform combines different technologies to deliver an end-to-end solution for manufacturers, providers, and ultimately, patients.
In an interview with Drug Discovery & Development, Bill Smith, Senior Vice President, Business Transformation, discussed why they created Fusion and what they hope it will do for the healthcare industry.
Drug Discovery & Development: What is Fusion and what exactly does it do?
Bill Smith: Fusion was designed to meet the needs of patients, pharma manufacturers, and providers. We understand the increasing pressure that manufacturers face when launching new products into a competitive landscape. There are always commercialization challenges when bringing new therapies to market, such as rising costs, operational efficiency, data quality, and security concerns of patient data. And, ultimately, we’re looking to provide a better patient and provider experience.
Fusion is a technology and advanced analytics ecosystem which provides three chief benefits for stakeholders: accelerates speed to therapy; improves patient and provider experience, and generates actionable insights for patients, providers, and manufacturers.
Drug Discovery & Development: Is your customer in manufacturing or in the clinical setting?
Bill Smith: Our services are provided primarily on behalf of manufacturers to the patients and providers who use their products. Given our strong level of interaction with patients and healthcare professionals in provider offices, we also consider them to be key customers with whom we work to get patients on therapy, and to keep them on therapy.
Drug Discovery & Development: Does a patient have access to the platform?
Bill Smith: Fusion is our internal technology platform that is used primarily by our associates, with providers and manufacturers accessing specific portals built for their needs. So a provider’s office will connect to us for a digital experience through, what we call a provider portal. Provider office staff will send in a referral to the support center who will, in turn, navigate the process of accessing and paying for treatment on behalf of the patient, helping the patient start and stay on therapy, and giving providers real-time visibility and ability to track progress in the support center. We use different multi-channel communication approaches for patients, which is something new that Fusion brings to the market for us—we’re really trying to connect with the patient in different ways, whether it’s texting, live chat, email or phone calls, so that the experience is tailored for each patient.
Drug Discovery & Development: How is it different than other CRM platforms?
Bill Smith: When we were planning Fusion is, we surveyed the industry for current trends. What we saw was service providers using three different and distinct platforms associated with their services. Point solutions, if you will, provide a specific technology that supports only one application within a patient’s journey, such as benefit verification. So they are very limited and targeted in their approach within the patient journey in gaining access to therapy.
And then you’ll see that there are customized CRM platforms in the industry. They essentially use a cloud-based platform and they customize the application to meet the needs of the services they want to provide. However, the customization you see today doesn’t include customized patient workflows, and, you know, the maintenance costs of customized solutions are very high.
What Fusion brings to the market is really an end-to-end comprehensive solution that we built as a proprietary data model with workflows that are customized for each patient service that we provide. We are using and configuring commercial software to meet the access, affordability and engagement needs of patients and to provide information and reports to the manufacturers and providers. . So it’s really a comprehensive ecosystem made up of a number of different technologies that allow us to have flexibility in the services that we provide for clients and patients.
For example, we use Informatica and Microsoft SQL, to help cleanse and master quality data that manufacturers can trust. So Fusion really is using the best of existing technology to fit specific needs within patient services, while also creating a seamless experience for our clients.
Drug Discovery & Development: Is this platform replacing an existing one?
Bill Smith: Yes, it is. I like to use the analogy of remodeling or building a house when speaking about Fusion. We technically built a whole new city with the entire connecting infrastructure which will replace our current platforms.
Drug Discovery & Development: What role does AI play?
Bill Smith: We are using machine learning, one type of artificial intelligence, to predict outcomes for benefit verification (BV), a process that verifies coverage for a product with the patient’s medical plan(s). Given the scale of BVs every year—for one client we will verify the benefits for over 100,000 patients in January alone for the annual reverification process—and the ongoing changes of payers and plans, manufacturers and providers want technology to drive speed and efficiency, while maintaining quality of the benefits statement. So we’re using AI to implement adaptive learning techniques, ensuring that benefit answers are answered quickly and accurately, and ultimately enabling patients to access therapy faster.
Drug Discovery & Development: Will there be other capabilities in the future?
Bill Smith: Absolutely. Fusion will continue to be a key component of our network of solutions and we will continue to add updates from the different technology and software capabilities. We also plan to build out different capabilities within our system, too—different clinical capabilities and patient engagement capabilities—as we continue to enhance our core offerings available on the base system today. We’ve launched our first client on Fusion and look forward to building out these additional capabilities.