If the ultimate goal of patient support programs is to create holistic, patient-centric ecosystems of assistance, 2023 saw strides forward. Patient support programs are better than ever at creating and analyzing meaningful data and have improved dramatically at providing the personalized engagement that patients desire.

But there is still more to be done. 

In 2024, I expect technology to continue to be a game-changer. AI will play a big role – but so will humans. We’ll see some shifts in the landscape, for both drug manufacturers and patient support vendors. And though change may be incremental, I anticipate some significant advances by this time next year. 

With the stage now set, here are five predictions for the year ahead in patient support. 

An in-housing trend among smaller drug manufacturers

In part thanks to the wealth of technology offerings now available, I expect to see an acceleration of mid-size and smaller pharmaceutical companies internalizing their patient support offerings. The tech solutions available today – and certainly those we’ll see introduced in the coming months – make it easier and less costly for drug manufacturers to take on these responsibilities instead of outsourcing. I anticipate an acceleration of companies saying, “We want to build our own program, and manage our own systems, using best-in-class ingredients in the recipe.”

Consolidation is coming

At the same time, there will likely be consolidation in the industry, in terms of the third parties that are providing services to patient support programs. There will be fewer providers, and those that remain will be bigger, offering more comprehensive solutions. I expect this to be a trend across healthcare; 2024 will likely see a significant consolidation of healthcare solutions providers, thanks to a wave of acquisitions and mergers, as others have predicted.

More AI patient-facing applications

Amongst patient support leaders this year was this sense of nervousness around the use of AI. It’s completely understandable; the discussion around AI and what it can do or cannot do is new and confusing for all of us. But as we become increasingly educated about AI’s capabilities, I think we’re going to start to see it involved increasingly in digitizing patient-facing engagements. In 2024, I believe we’ll start to see these seeds planted and start to see an increase in initial use cases and engagements. AI won’t be providing empathetic clinical support (at least, not anytime soon), but there are opportunities where it could make a difference.

Relatedly, I also expect AI adoption to increase in the “digital hub” experience. Patient support providers often promise completely automated experiences, when in reality, it’s manual actions like phone calls and faxes that are keeping their programs up and running. As comfort with and understanding of the technology increases, we’ll see more AI and automation help create truly digital hubs.  

Striving for a balance of technology and the human touch

While technology can make patient support programs more efficient, the human element cannot be ignored. There was a moment this year when it felt as though AI could do everything – and that it might replace workers in all elements in healthcare. And while there’s no longer room for a “one-size-fits-all” patient support program, I do expect a rebalancing of sorts. In the year to come, we’ll see a focus on determining the right balance of technology and humans, with an empathetic clinician or case manager involved at the right moments and technology helping to streamline at others.  

Innovation will help tackle underutilization

Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on patient support programs, yet they are woefully underutilized. There’s a need for new ways for patients to discover and interact with patient support programs, and a need for more awareness among both patients and providers. Technology can help solve this challenge. In 2024, as leaders become more informed about the capabilities of AI and machine learning, we’ll see these technologies increasingly applied to building awareness of patient support programs. 

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