Virtual Patient Communities
A response to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases
Andrew Ploszay, PhD , VP Digital Strategy, Technology Solutions
Apr 09, 2020

Not in recent history has there been such a demand from the general population, patients, health care professionals, and health systems to align around a common disease that affects the global population like the outbreak of the Coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Affected patients and the general population alike want answers—the right answers—and there’s no single source of information that’s providing it to them. They’re relying on the news, social media, and government websites for accurate information, but none provide the two-way dialog they desire.

Like any newly diagnosed patient, people around the world are scared. They want to know symptomology, where they can go to get tested, and what they can do to treat the disease. They want to remotely connect with health care professionals to ease their fears or be advised on next steps if they are presumed to be infected. They want to connect with other patients who have been diagnosed to better understand how to treat the symptoms and what the disease progression may look like. They want to connect with local health systems to see if they are equipped to treat them. And they want to connect with their local and state governments to see what restrictions have been put in place. And they may be willing to participate in clinical trials, but don’t know where to find them. They want the right information at the right time, and they want it to be easily accessible. What they want is to be engaged in an ongoing conversation with people who have the answers. What they need is a virtual patient community.

Additionally, patients with chronic preexisting conditions, or those whose treatment plans may be impacted by this epidemic, are looking for answers, too. They may require information about how to access a surgery they may need, get a transfusion, or ensure their ongoing treatments can progress as expected. Because COVID-19 tends to affect the most vulnerable populations—those with compromised immune systems, the elderly, and those with concomitant health conditions—it is imperative that those who stand to be impacted the most by this virus are able to get the answers they need to ensure they are able to protect themselves from becoming infected.

At the same time, the governments around the world, life sciences companies, health systems, and all medical professionals are looking for insights that will help them better understand, and prepare for, the impact of this novel virus. These stakeholders want to better understand symptomology and what patients are doing to successfully treat their conditions, in the hope that enough evidence can be generated to shed light on potential treatment options. They want to understand the rate at which the disease is spreading and in what geographic areas.

Virtual patient communities can do all this and more. These communities give patients on-demand access to the information and education they need. Patients can directly communicate with HCPs for correct and precise medical information. They can directly engage with patients and caregivers to better prepare them for the progression of their disease or simply ease their fears. Additionally, they can access information from local and state governments to find out what the spread of the disease looks like in their local area and across the county, as well as locate testing sites.

The good news is that this kind of resource is already in action. Belong Life, IQVIA’s partner in Orchestrated Patient Engagement—a virtual patient community solution—is working with several European countries to address the COVID-19 crisis. It is helping give patients access to critical, reliable information, as well as feeding back de-identified insights that help macro efforts to stop the progression of the disease.

IQVIA is proud to join the global effort to proactively fight COVID-19. Above all, we are committed to helping everyone in healthcare do what needs to be done to keep things moving forward in this new reality.

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