Greg Jarvis

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the dire consequences of what can happen when systems, policy and society do not keep pace with the new challenges, scientific advancements, and broader trends shaping the healthcare landscape.

As we gradually progress towards a post-COVID era, we’ll also confront a different, but significant, paradigm shift in our healthcare system: the emergence of gene and cell therapies with a one-time administration and long-term durability of effects. With a single treatment, cell and gene therapies hold the promise of treating the root cause of disease at the cellular and genetic levels – with the possibility of permanently curing patients of their conditions.

The number of approved gene and cell therapies available to patients is growing rapidly, from a half dozen in 2020 to a dozen and more in the coming years. Patients, policymakers and other healthcare stakeholders will need to adapt from our current system that is based on treating disease with ongoing chronic treatment, to a new system of one-time therapies.

As the emergence of these therapies accelerates, healthcare communications will play an important role in their successful adoption – particularly for patients, policymakers and other healthcare stakeholders. Here are three key areas that communications and engagement can support.

Public Trust in One-Time Cell and Gene Therapies

Public trust in cell and gene therapies will be a gating factor to their widespread adoption. Particularly for diseases for which chronic treatments are available – such as hemophilia, diabetes and cystic fibrosis – effective communications will be critical to promote trust in these therapies, which often have less data on durability of effect.

Policymaker Awareness and Understanding

One-time cell and gene therapies will necessitate a range of policy solutions to address barriers across the healthcare system. From newborn screening and diagnostics to coverage, payment and delivery – healthcare policy communications will be critical to navigate, shape and strategize around the policy, political, regulatory and media environments.

Stakeholder Alignment on Access and Equity

All stakeholders – patients, manufacturers, payers, providers – will need to align on a shared vision for a future healthcare system built around cell and gene therapies with one-time administration and long-term durability of effect and build a system that can successfully adapt to them. Healthcare communications will be crucial to develop perspectives and evidence-based policy positions from a variety of viewpoints. Maintaining strong alliances and relationships will also be critical to the success of these therapies – which will require support from conveners like Reservoir that possess relationships across the entire healthcare stakeholder continuum.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated, paradigm shifts in healthcare have required rapid adaptation by the public and policymakers. However, public opinion and perception, as well as policymaker awareness and prioritization, have not often changed at the same pace as the surrounding environmental trends.

Cell and gene therapies are just the tip of the iceberg – and new technologies will beckon even more rapid adaptation. This is where healthcare communications will play a central role – today, tomorrow and for years to come – to help drive the changes needed across the environment to ensure our system and society can keep up with future paradigm shifts in healthcare.