The inability to pay for essential medical care is not just a significant problem for the uninsured, but also for people who have health insurance. Rising premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance prevent many people from being able to afford the critical treatment they need. This is a substantial issue, with 58% of Americans having delayed or gone without essential medical care because of high out-of-pocket costs.
Since 2004, the PAN Foundation has worked to help underinsured people with life-threatening, chronic, and rare diseases get the medications and treatments they need by assisting with their out-of-pocket costs and advocating for improved access and affordability. I talked with Leena Patel, vice president of development at the PAN Foundation, about the organization’s life-saving work and how technology helps them accomplish their incredible mission.
Since 2004, the PAN Foundation has provided nearly 1 million underinsured patients with $4 billion in financial assistance.
How does the PAN Foundation make healthcare more equitable?
Leena Patel (LP): The PAN Foundation works to be a voice for the underinsured, as well as work towards long-term solutions for all people to have access to the healthcare they need. It’s easy for the population that we serve to miss their critical medications due to facing high out-of-pocket costs and rising costs for other essentials, especially as a result of the inequities the COVID-19 pandemic amplified. We serve as a safety net to assist people in getting the help they need by providing funds for nearly 70 diseases. We also work towards long-term solutions through advocacy and policy at the federal level.
How do patients access the services the PAN Foundation provides?
LP: In order to be eligible, patients must have a diagnosis that fits into one of the 70 disease-specific funds that we have. We also require that their incomes fall within a certain range to ensure we are helping the most underserved. The application process can be done through our website by patients themselves, or their caregivers, healthcare providers, or pharmacists. There is also the option to contact our call center. From start to finish, the application process takes between 7-10 minutes.
The PAN Foundation provides medication assistance for over 70 diseases.
What does your fundraising strategy look like and how has it changed the last year and a half?
LP: The goal of our fundraising team is to sustain our funds throughout the year and ensure we are assisting all of the patient populations throughout the 70 disease areas we serve. In 2020, in the wake of the pandemic, we had concerns about how the budgets from our corporate and individual donors would change, and how that might affect our fundraising. We also knew that COVID-19 would affect the population we serve disportionately and that we needed to do something to support them.
Within one week our team was able to put together an emergency relief fund that provided those who were eligible with $300 to spend on essentials like groceries, transportation costs, and more. We were overwhelmed by the support we received for the fund. In a time when so many were evaluating how they needed to support their own families, we saw unprecedented generosity, raising over $2M, which meant we were able to help over 8,500 people.
How has technology helped the foundation accomplish its mission?
LP: Technology plays a huge role in everything we do at PAN, it allows us to know who our supporters are, why they donate, understand giving habits, analyze trends in engagement levels, and even help us identify opportunities for larger gifts or ways to re-engage with donors.
Our team uses Salesforce.org Nonprofit Cloud as our CRM, which enables us to house our data in one location and to demonstrate our work and impact at a very up close and personal level. It has also helped streamline our internal management through centralized data, which allows our lives to be more efficient, freeing up time to do the critical work of building and fostering donor relationships.
We are also better able to communicate effectively and regularly with our donors and accurately convey the needs of the population we serve and the value of the critical services we provide. We are also able to engage constantly with our other stakeholder groups: patients, provider groups, pharmacy groups, and advocacy groups.
Do you have a favorite patient access story that personally moves you?
LP: It’s incredibly hard to pick just one. Every story we hear is so touching and motivating for all of us here. We really do have the most dedicated group of supporters.
One story that has stayed with me is the one of Robert and his wife, Virginia. Robert was a teacher and in the early 90s, he had a sudden sharp pain one day while teaching. They thought he had passed a kidney stone. A few years later, the same pain came back. He found out eventually that he had cancer. It had progressed quite a bit and the doctors had mentioned that it was too bad they didn’t find this a few years earlier because he could have had surgery and been in the clear.
He was given only a few years to live. In 2014, his cancer metastasized, and he was put on a drug with out-of-pocket costs that he could not afford. He learned about PAN and found out he was eligible for assistance. The joy, happiness, and relief we were able to provide him and his family is just indescribable. He got his life back: he has time with his family, he’s more active, and independent. It’s all we want for our patients.
Robert and Virginia have benefitted from the PAN Foundation’s work.
Learn more about Robert And Virginia’s incredible story.
The PAN Foundation has big goals ahead as they work to move all of their operations into the Salesforce platform so that they are able to house not only their donor information, but their programmatic data, call center, and all communications in one place. “While we love what we do”, says Patel, “the ultimate goal for the foundation is to not need to exist because everyone has access to the healthcare they need.” Until then, the PAN Foundation will continue to grow these critical safety net programs and advocate for long-term solutions.
About the Author
Associate Manager for Nonprofit Customer Marketing and Events at Salesforce.org