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EVERSANA is making the world a healthier place, providing solutions that improve patient experiences for more than 500 leading startups and established pharmaceutical companies in the life sciences industry. Whether you’re a patient, prescriber, channel partner or payer, EVERSANA is intimately involved in improving your experiences and interactions.
As the COVID-19 virus arrived in early 2020, pharmaceutical companies were among the first to spring into action and prepare for a global pandemic. To support those companies, EVERSANA sought to create processes for its clients that could keep up with the pace of rapid change required in the pandemic and wouldn’t break down when patients needed help the most.
In April 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the U.S., tens of million of Americans were suddenly out of work. That meant many workers lost their employer-based insurance and had issues affording prescriptions or other healthcare requirements. As part of its Patient Services business unit, EVERSANA provides affordability programs that reduce, and in some cases may eliminate the cost of product for such patients.
EVERSANA suddenly had many clients requesting solutions to help patients enroll themselves in affordability programs. One client in particular insisted on having a solution that’d be ready within a matter of weeks.
Chris Giddings, Sr. Solutions Architect & Innovation Lead at EVERSANA, had already been investigating a number of robotic process automation (RPA) tools that might address a variety of needs around EVERSANA. But he found most of them were highly technical tools that required a good degree of engineering expertise to truly utilize and didn’t fit the urgency of the COVID era. Instead of choosing an RPA tool that would take months to implement and see results, he chose Tonkean’s Adaptive Business Operations platform to make a more immediate impact.
“We didn’t have the time, ability or budget to bring in new engineering talent for this, but that didn’t negate the business requirement for us to quickly optimize and automate a wide variety of processes, especially this patient self-service project,” said Giddings. “We didn’t even have all the requirements yet, but we knew at a high level what needed to be done. We knew Tonkean would be able to help us deliver it more quickly than building it in house. With Tonkean we could realistically stand it up within a couple of weeks.”
To build the patient self-service solution, Giddings started by building a simple website using OutSystems, a low-code web development platform. Patients would start filling out their information on the OutSystems-built site, which would then make an API call to Tonkean. Tonkean orchestrated all of the behind the scenes processes of the patient’s information and determined their eligibility for the program. If the initial screening questions determined the client was ineligible, Tonkean would let them know right away so they wouldn’t waste time filling out pages of information.
“Tonkean orchestrates a variety of activities on the backend, including submitting content to our environment using in-house APIs that we’ve built for our own systems,” said Giddings. “And Tonkean released an enhancement that allowed us to deal with base 64 encoded bit arrays, which was helpful because that’s how our in-house API worked today.”
Patients submit their info via a web form and get an eligibility decision immediately, instead of waiting on hold on the phone to repeat information that is far faster to type. And Tonkean’s human-in-the-loop approach to automation ensures that any ‘exception handling’ leads to a quick response, instead of causing unnecessary delays.
“One of the most valuable aspects of Tonkean is its capability for human escalation. We’ve used other tools for business rules, but those tools are not intended for a conversational approach with the automation system,” said Giddings. “With Tonkean, anything that the automation doesn’t know how to handle gets escalated to the humans to resolve, and the human pops it back into the system conversationally so that the flow can continue forward.”
Over the course of less than two months, Giddings estimates he spent less than 80 hours of cumulative time to design, build and test the Tonkean system while also learning it, including implementing trial and error updates and changes based on new business requirements during that window of time. He worked closely with the Tonkean solutions team to understand features and answer questions whenever they got stuck.
“With all the other responsibilities I have on my plate, that’s a pretty fast turnaround. If we had all the requirements settled at the beginning, I could have learned and implemented it all and gotten it out the door in two weeks, which is pretty incredible,” said Giddings. “What normally would take us several months on the custom development side end-to-end with quality testing, for that to take just a few weeks in Tonkean is awesome.”
Giddings said there were both short-term and long-term reasons to be attracted to Tonkean. In the short term, Tonkean gave him a cloud-based solution to build bots, workflows and modules directly on his Mac.
“One big issue with the RPA and business process automation space is that the development and maintenance of those solutions is still platform dependent,” said Giddings. “The major players all require that you have Windows servers to run your bots, or they’ll host in the cloud but you need Windows infrastructure to build it. My preference is to not do that. Tonkean being a hundred percent cloud-based means I’m not blocked and don’t have to run virtual machines on my Mac in order to build automation out.”
For the long-term, Giddings had settled on Tonkean because of its ability to enable “citizen development” down the line. In the months and years ahead, he expects that non-technical analysts throughout the company will be trained and capable of using Tonkean for their own automation means. They chose Tonkean because the user experience was less technical and wouldn’t require engineers to do extensive work to maintain it or be involved with every new automation.
“I love how Tonkean is approachable from a nontechnical standpoint. I could go to any business analyst in the company, any engineer in the company, and any of our more ambitious business users, and they’ll all be able to use and excel with Tonkean,” said Giddings. “Our goal is to hand this work off to business analysts and savvy business users, allowing them to build their own automations with limited guidance from the technical side.”
A feature that was used heavily in the early stages of module building was Tonkean’s reliable and trustworthy history view. This allowed EVERSANA to understand the mechanism behind each executed drag-and-dropped action and facilitate any debugging efforts. Another standout feature was the ability to build its own integrations to EVERSANA’s APIs.
“The power of Tonkean, I don’t think it can be overstated,” said Giddings. “Tonkean is fast to learn, it’s approachable, the user interface just makes sense and it’s getting better. Tonkean has been extremely responsive to bugs, feature requests, enhancements, and the like. Tonkean being able to get features out the door helps us get our service out the door.”
EVERSANA started with one Tonkean module for their first client, serving hundreds of patients in the first month alone. And Giddings has since begun rolling out similar modules to a series of clients as part of the backend of a solution they are building. Their upcoming phases will offer more direct integration into EVERSANA’s system of record, support upload capabilities for patients to provide documents directly through the portal, and leverage Tonkean’s field level encryption for additional security. He also expects Tonkean’s versatility to be on display elsewhere for multiple business units.
“The flexibility of Tonkean as an organization to add features and capabilities has been big for us early on because of our needs. But there’s a lot of opportunity within Tonkean to continue to learn and grow,” said Giddings. “I think some of the most powerful capabilities in Tonkean are related to connecting and analyzing multiple data sources in order to generate information within Tonkean and then correlate activities together, and we’ve only scratched the surface of that so far.”