Posted: 07 Jun. 2022 6 min. read

How to create a stand-out CGT customer experience

By Hussain Mooraj, principal, NextGen Therapy practice lead, Deloitte Consulting LLP

I recently had the pleasure of moderating a webinar via Endpoints News. The session, How to Create a Stand-Out Customer Experience for Cell and Gene Therapies, explored ways to define and design the customer experience to create value throughout unique patient journeys. We talked about the people, processes, and technologies involved in cell and gene therapies (CGT) and even looked to the future to envision some of the changes and challenges the sector could face over the next three to five years.

The panel also discussed strategies to accelerate collaborations across the customer experience. An ideal scenario could include one industry collaboration digital portal that was flexible enough to address the many requirements of multiple institutions and manufacturers, explained Kathleen McDermott, Immune Effector Cell (IEC) Program Nurse Navigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She described several scenarios that would require flexible technologies to support multiple products and organizations. She also questioned how much patient data is really needed by the manufacturer and suggested a universal risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) to reduce duplication.

Kristen Sudol, who is leading the Global Vein-to-Vein Supply Chain at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, outlined the importance of human interactions regardless of the technology. She introduced the concept of the “Amazon effect,” acknowledging that consumers have become accustomed to tracking shipments, delays, and deliveries using various technologies. However, the delay of a personalized medicine such as cell therapy typically requires an actual phone or email conversation. When looking across the customer experience, better communication strategies and visibility should be considered.

Bob Shelley, vice president of Global Market Access and Pricing at Kite Pharma, added that hearing stories about patients and caregivers can help humanize the work being done by CGT manufacturers. It can give employees a sense of purpose while also highlighting the company’s valuable role in the health care ecosystem. These stories can be useful in building an ecosystem mindset and culture that accelerates collaborations. 

Technology-enabled transparency in the CGT customer experience

While traditional supply chain siloes continue to be broken down in CGTs, it is still important to consider information and resource access throughout the customer experience. Digital connections through portals can help teams connect on patient and material status, respond to patient and caregiver questions, and capture key data within the patient record. Digital tracking, notifications, and alerts should be a product of team collaboration and scenario planning. This can help identify who needs the information, when they need it, who triages, who responds, and how these activities improve the patient experience. Much of this is being done manually, especially early-stage companies in clinical trials. However, there comes a tipping point when the risk of getting something wrong (e.g., chain of identity/chain of custody) warrants a digitally integrated solution.

While a digital ecosystem can help to improve transparency, it also opens a discussion of what data is required, how that data is used throughout the customer experience, and the opportunities to derive greater value from it. Kathleen questioned which patient data is truly required versus “nice to have.” She acknowledged the balance between gathering as much information as possible now versus the challenge of tracking down and following up with patients months or even years later.

Bob reminded us that improvement is an iterative process that never stops. He sees potential opportunities in the evolution of the existing hospital and academic institution workflows and more robust electronic medical records (EMR). He suggested that a single point of contact might not be feasible, but a primary point of contact could triage and help the customer navigate the complex experience.

An audience member asked about improving customer experience through patient outcomes. Kathleen suggested that community outreach and education are important for gaining a better understanding of personalized medicine. Post-CAR-T treatment, patients typically go back to their communities where a broader awareness could support improved outcomes. Bob agreed that we are potentially missing a huge opportunity to understand the post-treatment quality of life among patients. Kristen suggested that tying all of these threads of the patient experience together could take some time given the unique nature of each customer journey.

How talent wars impact the customer experience

During the webinar, we discussed talent and how current workforce challenges could impact the customer experience. One unique challenge for CGT manufacturers is that most work cannot be performed remotely. This can put a burden on leadership to find the right people and identify career paths throughout the organization that might not be traditional. Kathleen also noted the trend toward outpatient treatments as teams gain experience. This could have a decided impact on the customer experience.

As we looked to the future, the panel noted advances in treatments such as solid tumor therapies for larger populations (e.g., breast cancer, prostate cancer) that might impact the sustainability of the current white-glove experience. One audience member questioned whether we could simplify the current model and allow research institutions like Dana Farber to manufacture locally under license? Bob expanded on this idea and wondered if site administration could evolve to a community setting that could serve a broader set of patients and populations. This would likely require an assessment of capacity constraints and potential role changes.

Kristen emphasized that CGT manufacturers should be nimble and prioritize rapid evolution, learning, and growth. Teams should also continue to ask questions about site capabilities, capacities, regulatory requirements, and how all these factors might impact the customer experience. Kathleen said she expects that patient volume will increase in the future and posited that getting these therapies to customers earlier in their treatment journey could be beneficial to all involved.

A final note

All three panelists agreed that the patient is the bottom line but noted there are many partners/customers that directly and indirectly impact the patient experience. Kathleen pointed to the many systems and partners involved and the critical aspects of onboarding and communications across the experience. Bob echoed the importance of the complex ecosystem of advocates that should be engaged throughout the process (social workers, patient advocates, hospital administration, etc.) and cited their ability to influence the customer experience, referring to it as a “team sport.” Kristen suggested broadening the customer definition to include the patient and their family and/or caregivers dealing with a specific disease state.

CGT manufacturers should look for ways to address the unique needs of patients and enhance experiences through consumer-like, omnichannel experiences. New challenges and opportunities exist today that could fuel the continued evolution of the CGT customer experience. The complex ecosystem should remain flexible yet tightly integrated to help ensure that we are delivering value in the moments that matter most to customers during their unique journeys.

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.

Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

Return to the Health Forward home page to discover more insights from our leaders.

Subscribe to the Health Forward blog via email

Get in touch

Hussain Mooraj

Hussain Mooraj

Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Hussain brings more than 25 years of experience in manufacturing, supply chain, enterprise technology, sales and marketing, and strategy consulting to his role. Hussain works closely with senior executives from global life sciences firms helping them transform their end-to-end businesses and build start-up organizations to be able to launch life-saving new therapies, especially on the CAR-T and gene therapy side. Hussain leads the Next Gen Therapy practice and is the New England regional lead for life sciences.