The Hackathon Challenge: Two hours, 252 opinions, one priority
Too many cooks or the perfect recipe for success?
Important to every CRDN event is equity of voices and we pride ourselves in bringing together the different rare disease stakeholders on an equal standing. RARESummit 2019 was no different and with innovation and stakeholder voices at the heart of our planning we launched our first Hackathon; “Looking to the Future of the UK Strategy on Rare Diseases”.
The aim of the hackathon was to gather the collective voices of those attending RARESummit and give them a platform and structure within which to feed directly into the newly launched “National Conversation on Rare Diseases”. Launched in July 2019 by Baroness Nicola Blackwood (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care [DHSC].
The purpose was to gather the opinions of the rare disease community: patients; families; and professionals on the impact of the existing 2013 UK Rare Disease Strategy and to set priorities for the 2020 update.
It is important to hear from the people who know the problems better than anyone else, and to move forward from this current Rare Disease Strategy to the next.
To usher in the hackathon, Nicola Blackwood gave an impassioned speech to the summit speaking honestly of her own experience of living with a rare disease and the challenges that brings and calling on the audience to share their experiences and solutions for a future strategy. You can watch her speech and Q+A with the audience below
At RARESummit19 we wanted to capture the moment and give all participants a voice. Could this work? Could we really throw individuals bringing such wildly varied experiences to the table and expect them to listen, contribute, collaborate, compromise and prioritise? Absolutely!
Delegates were invited to participate in cross-sector discussions to identify priorities across five key themes: diagnosis, coordination of care, acceleration of research, access to new medicines and reimbursement options, and patient empowerment. This provided an opportunity for representatives from patient organisations, biotech and pharma, academia and health services to share experience, knowledge, and innovative ideas to identify priorities to further improve the lives of those impacted by rare diseases in 2020 and beyond.
Given a tight schedule of two hours to get into cross sector groups, share experiences and perspectives, thrash out ideas, agree priorities, create pitches, deliver pitches and run through 2 rounds of voting, the pressure was on to stay focussed.
“The whole hackathon took under 2 hours and this time pressure was an important part of the process. We wanted to capitalise on the intense environment to really make people think what the most important priority is” said CRDN’s Operations Manager and creator of the hackathon activity, Jo Balfour.
Not only did the groups discuss their theme priority but they brainstormed and developed innovative solutions to the challenges of delivering a strategy for this priority.
We wanted people to collectively reflect on what they had heard over the course of the day and use this, alongside their own experiences, to generate the priorities and come up with ideas to the solutions to solving these challenges.
Below is a brief summary of each of the themes, including the winning priority for each theme and the overall winner. You can download and read the full Hackathon Report from our website. This report as created on a pro-bono basis by Cambridge based Med Comms company Costello Medical.
THEME 1: Diagnosis
Timely diagnosis is one of the fundamental unmet needs for patients with rare diseases and a challenge that many organisations and companies are working hard to overcome. Even with investment in this area current time to diagnosis is on average 4.8 years with patients seeing an average of 7 specialists.
Discussions centred around
• Wider use of prenatal and early years screening
• Whole Genome Sequencing for those with unusual or patterns of symptoms
• Improved collection of quantitative and qualitative data and centralised databases
Voted Top Priority for Diagnosis
To end the ‘diagnostic odyssey’ by introducing a more streamlined process for the diagnosis of rare diseases that prevents patients being moved from GP to different specialist groups within the NHS without an accurate diagnosis. This includes:
• Introduction of a policy whereby patients are flagged if no diagnosis is made within a fixed number of GP visits, or a given time period (such as 12 months). Once a flag is triggered the GP needs to consider a different diagnostic approach such as genetic screening
• Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) could use levers and drivers to incentivise both GPs and hospitals to flag undiagnosed patients; possibly via the introduction of a Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) payment framework
THEME 2: Re-thinking coordination of care
People living with a rare disease often require a complex package of care, including access to clinical specialists across hospital departments, and support from social and community care services. A multidisciplinary and coordinated team approach is necessary to ensure that patients and caregivers have access to integrated care across multiple services, which also considers their needs in daily life at home, school or work. However, results from a recent survey of 3,000 patients revealed over 65% reported having to visit different health, social and local services over a short period of time. In some cases, this can involve significant travel.
Discussions centred around
• The need for dedicated care coordinators to manage the multidisciplinary health teams involved in care of a patient
• GP’s navigating local hospitals and other agencies for specialist care services
• A need for nationally recognised care guidelines and pathways to ensure sufficient signposting to a point of contact for rare disease patients to answer the “What do I do?”
Voted Top Priority for Re-thinking coordination of care
Specific actions recommended during the cross-sector group discussions highlighted some unmet needs in terms of coordination of care:
• Creation of a “shared, cared, digital toolset” that would allow patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals to have access to the same datasets
• Use information to allow shared decision making between the patient and healthcare professionals
• Work at a national level; mandating that interoperability is a standard, overcoming acute needs in this area over the next few years
• Drive payment reform; with reimbursement linked to successful outcomes for patients and not just the healthcare system
THEME 3: Acceleration of rare disease research
Research has played a critical role in improving our understanding of the biological basis of rare diseases and their underlying cause(s). Since the implementation of the Orphan Drug Act in 1983, an increasing number of companies are taking an interest in developing treatments for rare diseases but despite these improvements, 95% of rare diseases still have no licenced treatment, and fewer than 10% of patients with a rare disease receive a disease-specific treatment.
Discussions centred around
• High drug development costs and lack of enough patients for clinical trials
• GDPR and maintaining registries
• Patient access to peer to peer support
Voted Top Priority for Acceleration of rare disease research
To address such challenges the group identified the need for a publicly run, national rare disease registry. ‘RARE Bridge’, would give every patient in the UK with a diagnosis the opportunity to opt in and be contactable. The registry would serve the following key purposes:
• Provide a screening library of genotype, phenotype and natural history of patients
• Provide patient data to the pharmaceutical industry, via a paid subscription, for the purposes of drug development
• Pharmaceutical industries using the registry could search by both phenotype and genotype, potentially offering both symptomatic treatments and cures
• Enable patients and patient advocacy groups to contact other patients with a specific condition or genetic marker, providing an element of social support
THEME 4: Access to new medicines and reimbursement
Whilst a major hurdle for bringing treatments to patients is associated with drug development challenges, delays in treatment also occur because patients face barriers in securing access to new treatments for their conditions. Orphan drugs often exceed cost-effectiveness thresholds in Health Technology Assessments (HTA) due to a lack of evidence for proven clinical benefits of the drug combined with high acquisition costs. Thus, new drugs with potential benefits for patients with rare diseases may not be recommended for reimbursement.
Discussions centred around
• Greater involvement of patients in the HTA process
• International clinical trials as a strategy to help overcome barriers for the enrolment of more patients with rare diseases
• Building robust real-world evidence (RWE) data sets that can be used to support HTA submissions
Voted Top Priority for Access to new medicines and reimbursement
Re-thinking of how economic evidence is generated for rare diseases to include a better understanding of the cost impact of having a rare disease from the perspective of both patients and their carers, for example:
• Introducing a sliding incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) scale, which incorporates a potential increase for very small populations such as ultra-rare diseases
• Flexibility to account for the use of Quality of Life (QoL) instruments that do not really measure the true impact of rare diseases on patients
• Incorporation of modular tools that account for the broader impact of the rare disease on caregivers, weighted according to the disease (e.g. mobility issues)
• The ICER threshold used by NICE should not be determinative (especially for ultra-rare diseases) and the introduction of Managed Access Agreements (MAA) should be considered when there is uncertainty over funding for a specific treatment
THEME 5: Empowering those affected by rare diseases
Helping patients become more knowledgeable and allowing them to take control over their bodies, disease and treatment is essential, so much so the World Health Organisation has described patient empowerment as a “prerequisite for health” and a “patient self-care strategy to improve health outcomes and quality of life among the chronically ill”.
Discussions centred around
• Using patient data as a route to patient empowerment via a national rare disease registry, where patients can access their own data and search for and connect with patients, participate in research
• Providing resources for patient groups to grow their information technology (IT) and communication skills so that they can support patients to obtain information and guidance on living with a rare disease
Voted Top Priority for Empowering those affected by rare disease
Education and knowledge sharing for patient and patient groups to overcome fragmentation of information and to avoid competition for funding amongst patient groups. This can be achieved by:
• Developing a series of online module templates that outline best practice, e.g. advice for GPs on diagnosing a rare disease, fundraising, policy development, engaging with the research community. Anyone will be able to contribute to these modules and a user rating/feedback system (like TripAdvisor) can be added
• Funding by pharmaceutical companies could be used to give back to patients and patient groups, and provide seed-funding so that smaller organisations are able to grow their capacity
With 31.3% of the votes Accelerating Rare Disease Research was voted as the number one priority. Our cross-sector delegates identified the need for a comprehensive national rare disease registry as a top priority for the post-2020 UK strategy for rare diseases.
The potential of a central database such as ‘RARE Bridge’ could go much further than its ability to collate valuable information from patient registries, patient-reported outcomes, genomic services, and digital health (e.g. from wearable devices). By acting as a screening library of genotype, phenotype and natural history of patients, the database may overcome some of the challenges associated with rare disease research, including difficulties in recruiting a sufficiently large population of patients for clinical trials and indeed could address many of the identified challenges across all of the themes.
We are now working to ensure this hugely valuable outcome does not lose its impact. This final report will be shared with the Minister and we hope, used to feed directly into the National Conversation on Rare Diseases and the continuation of the 2020 UK Rare Disease Strategy.
At CRDN we will continue to use this type of innovative interaction to build events that are impactful, meaningful and succeed in putting the voices of the rare disease community at the fore.
Thank you to all of our sponsors and partners whose continued support allows us to achieve our vision. Missed RARESummit 2019? Catch up on the whole event with our RARESummit 2019 Review.