The first annual Healthcare Collaboration Report—a survey commissioned by Charles River Laboratories International and conducted by The Harris Poll—reveals US patients think the quality of healthcare would increase if only industry players worked together more. Of the more than 1,500 Americans polled, 645 indicated they believe collaboration would elevate care.
Other notable findings in the survey:
- About a third (34%) believe the cost of healthcare is the biggest problem facing the system, followed by prescription drug costs (18%)
- A significant chunk of respondents (39%) believe the government is most likely to bear responsibility for improving healthcare (39%), but less than half (46%) trust the government to do what’s best for the people
- Most don’t know a great deal about the drug development process; only 10% of respondents correctly estimated the time to develop, gain approval for, and market a drug at 10-15 years; what’s more, they estimated the number of potential new drugs that actually make it to market at 36.4% (the actual figure is about 0.02%).
Birgit Girshick, corporate executive vice president of Charles River, spoke with Outsourcing-Pharma about the survey, and what the results reveal about the minds of US patients.
OSP: Could you please share some insight as to why you decided to tackle this survey?
BG: As an early-stage contract research organization, Charles River has a unique perspective on the importance of collaboration across the industry – we touch all steps of the drug development journey, from early-stage research all the way to drug manufacturing.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated just how powerful collaboration can be with stakeholders across healthcare working together to develop, approve, manufacture, and distribute vaccines at record speed. Our team wanted to examine how everyday Americans view collaboration in the industry – their perceptions of groups working together, what they know about the industry, and what’s important to them in years to come.
OSP: How did you determine which questions to ask, and whom to approach about answering?
BG: We partnered with The Harris Poll, a leading public opinion, social intelligence, and strategy firm to help us design and execute the survey. The questions were designed to get Americans’ perceptions of healthcare’s strengths and weaknesses, general knowledge of drug and vaccine development, as well as respondents’ key future priorities.
With the pool of respondents, we wanted it to be representative of the US adult population, so all respondents were weighted to align with figures from the US Census Bureau’s March 2020 Current Population Survey (CPS) on education, age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, household income, household size, and marital status for US adults age 18+. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the US adult population.
OSP: Please tell us about the pool of respondents.
BG: The survey polled 1,508 adults ages age 18+ living in the US, which were weighted to reflect the general population of the country.
OSP: Could you please share an overview of what you feel are the key takeaways? Particularly, please share some detail about respondents’ feelings on the strengths and weaknesses of the healthcare system.
BG: A major takeaway was that 59% of Americans believe that healthcare in the US is broken. While the majority of Americans reported feeling this way, it is believed that collaboration has the potential to transform the industry, with 90% of Americans agreeing it will take a united effort of all key players to improve the healthcare system.
Many Americans feel that the cost of healthcare is the biggest issue facing the system, with about a third saying healthcare (including health insurance) is too expensive, and about one in five citing the high cost of prescription drugs as the biggest issue facing the system. Nearly nine in 10 said greater collaboration across all groups would lead to more innovation in healthcare, and more than half said the quality of healthcare would improve with more collaboration.
OSP: What did responses reflect about what the participants noticed and experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly around the development and distribution of vaccines?
BG: The pandemic brought the need for future investment and collaboration in vaccine development to the forefront for Americans, with 88% of respondents agreeing that pandemic prevention requires a collaborative effort between government, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers, and patients.
Adults are somewhat split on their views about how well they felt the US handled the coronavirus pandemic compared to other countries. Most said healthcare systems need to do more to help prevent pandemics (80%) with only around two in three (62%) feeling the US healthcare system is very or somewhat prepared to deal with a pandemic in the future.
When asked what, if anything, should be done differently if there is another pandemic, adults were most likely to say there should be increased collaboration between all parts of the US healthcare system (56%), as well as a unified global approach to end the pandemic (55%). 67% agreed that they would support an increase in taxes if it led to increased funding for vaccine development for future pandemics.
Additionally, the survey found that Americans’ industry knowledge related to COVID presents an opportunity for education. For example, while most know all new vaccines and drugs will not be approved as quickly as the coronavirus vaccines, there are still a fair number – about one in four – of adults who are not sure.
OSP: Please share any insights you can into the public’s perception of the power of collaboration, when it comes to improving healthcare (as reflected in the survey responses).
BG: Overall, people believe in the transformative power of collaboration. Americans believe this united effort could improve the healthcare system, drive innovation in healthcare, and help drug development move more quickly. Americans are unsure of the role that government plays, but they do believe it is a key player in taking responsibility for this shift.
There is general agreement on the specific, positive impacts of increased collaboration across healthcare entities. Respondents felt that the quality of healthcare would increase with more collaboration, as would the amount of innovation, but when it comes to lowering healthcare costs and improving time-to-market for new drugs, Americans are less certain of the effects of greater collaboration.
OSP: How did respondents see this collaboration taking shape?
BG: Right now, due to the pandemic, Americans from all backgrounds are engaged in the conversations around the vaccine development process, and in general, more aware of how different industry players are part of the process. This is a critical moment for our industry to lean into this engagement and continue to educate people about drug and vaccine development, and how necessary collaboration is.
Collaboration is not only helping to improve how patients experience and receive care, but also changing their outcomes. One key benefit of collaboration is that continued relationship building with industry players means more advancements in the future.
When we see new blockbuster treatments approved, it’s not only a win for those suffering from the conditions that they are intended for. New treatments set a precedent for future treatments that are similar in nature.
Once the FDA sees that a therapy has been safely administered to one patient, it opens up a new pathway for speedy approvals for future patients. When it comes to bringing new and life-changing therapies to patients with rare diseases, this precedent is revolutionary.
OSP: Respondents saw the government as playing a key role in steering healthcare improvements, but they didn’t necessarily trust the government to do what’s best for the people. Could you please talk about that dichotomy and any parallel you might expect to see in how research industry professionals view the government in a leadership/facilitator role?
BG: For Americans that aren’t familiar with the industry, there are a lot of unknowns, from the role of governments to aspects like how long it takes to develop and market a new drug or how much it costs to do so. What most Americans are familiar with is the high cost of care and prescription drugs, unequal access to quality healthcare, and the complicated nature of accessing healthcare – just to name a few – and that affects their perceptions of key players, including the government.
Even with this limited understanding of the role of governments and regulatory agencies, the survey found that the US FDA is highly regarded, with 84% stating the FDA has an overall positive impact on the US healthcare system. The majority of adults said they are knowledgeable about the FDA; however, there is an abundance of misconceptions and a relative lack of knowledge when it comes to specific facts about the FDA. For example, less than half of respondents knew the correct answer when shown the following statements:
- The FDA requires animal testing for all new prescription drugs (27% correctly answered true, 44% not sure).
- The FDA approves fewer drugs now than they did 10 years ago (21% correctly answered false, 49% not sure).
Industry professionals across the life science and healthcare industries are more likely to be knowledgeable about the FDA and the role it plays in the system, but overall, we think it’s positive that so many Americans hold the FDA in high regard and respect the important work the agency does in helping to bring safe and effective treatments to market.
During the development of vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19, Americans for the first time saw the government and FDA make decisions and public announcements in real time, while still learning about the virus and possible treatments. We believe that this visibility with the public showed the importance of collaboration and leadership by the government and the FDA, but also created a level of uncertainty, which will take some time to resolve through continued education.
OSP: What do you expect or hope people working in life sciences might do with the information you’re sharing in the survey?
BG: Over the past year, some people have learned more about the development process than they had in their entire lives. Now, as vaccines get full approval from the FDA and Americans continue to educate themselves about the development and approval process, we’re hopeful that this curiosity and increased engagement will persist beyond the pandemic.
Players from all sides of the industry – from CROs like Charles River to pharmaceutical companies and research institutions – are in a position now to educate the general public. For our team, we’re focused on making our science consumer-friendly through blog and social media content where consumers can learn about our work in an easy-to-understand format. For example, our own blog Eureka continually searches for creative ways to talk about the science we do every day, including breaking news science and the people behind it.
OSP: Do you have anything to add?
BG: I’d love to share a recent example of the importance of collaboration across the industry. Charles River recently partnered with Cure Rare Disease, a nonprofit dedicated to developing customized therapeutics for those who have been diagnosed with rare, genetic diseases that have no treatment or cures.
Its founder, Rich Horgan, is currently pursuing a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Rich’s brother Terry was born with DMD and, today in his mid-20’s, he is considered too old to participate in one of the many clinical trials of experimental drugs for the rare disease.
Rich has assembled a team to quickly develop a gene-editing therapy for DMD. We’re working with him and his team to design the most appropriate set of studies to ensure the safety and efficacy of Terry’s therapy.
Rich is an example of how loved ones are becoming some of the most powerful advocates in the industry. And that’s where Charles River is proud to partner with these families, non-profits, academics, biotechs, and pharmas of all sizes on open science – all working together with a common goal of finding effective treatments. Collaboratively pooling these resources is critical for making advancements in rare disease research. This is just one example of the transformative power of collaboration, and we work with nonprofits and groups like Cure Rare Disease every day to move their treatments forward.