Patient Support Programs (PSPs) have become pivotal. They bridge gaps between service and consumers’ external and internal hurdles. Many of which condition service effectiveness.
Patient adherence is a challenge all over the world. Here in the U.S., it’s no exception. Elements such as the difficulty in access to treatment to the reluctance over drug intake and therapy options, make the list. So, pharma companies need to fight to stay on the patients’ good side.
Today we’re exploring PSPs’ importance and their relationship with the patient buyer journey.
What are PSPs?
Patient support programs refer to the initiatives taken by pharmaceutical companies. These are an attempt to improve success. This is a strategy that intends to break the barriers to patient adherence to prescription drugs. In fact, these often need a long-term commitment to a specific treatment.
These programs tend to be used for:
- Drug and treatment access;
- Clarification on drug usage and cautions to bear in mind;
- Adherence improvement from patients, while reinforcing their trust in science, through education and information.
With this, pharmaceutical companies enrich the value of their service. Going beyond providing treatment, these pave the way for personalized treatment. One that focuses on the patient’s health and satisfaction.
PSPs are especially important to patients’ treatment journey of chronic diseases. These imply complex schedules and assessments of analytics which are overwhelming for the average patient to manage.
The Challenges that guide PSPs action
PSPs’ main concern is patient adherence. This and other challenges gained new relevance with the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Overall, they classify as internal and external.
The internal challenges faced by pharmaceutical companies are inherent to patients’ ancient relationship with medicine and disease. Despite the wonders, fears are grand. So some of the greatest challenges presented are:
- Motivation to seek treatment and maintain it;
- Treatment empowerment; and
- Drug affordability.
With COVID, these fears and challenges worsened. This is an external challenge that has led to a real hit in the success of the treatment. This is because when patients seek help, the conditions are already advanced. It has further led to a greater distance between healthcare professionals and patients.
In truth, in 2020, patient visits to HCPs’ offices decreased from around 70% to 80% (IQVIA). So, the number of diagnostic tests run by visits and urgent care decreased from a whopping 75% to 80%.
During the first wave of the pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S experienced an alarming high treatment abandonment. This has forced brands to think outside the box.
They needed to find new ways to better support patients while offering an improved, inclusive service. This was only possible through the creation of PSPs.
PSPs’ impact on a patient’s buying journey should start with the consideration of elements such as:
- Patients’ necessities;
- Available income and drug affordability;
- Location and access to treatment;
- Education on their health and condition.
PSPs & Patient Buying Journey
Pharma companies want consumers on prescribed drugs. This is a follow-on treatment and helps to restore their trust in their products. So, PSPs aim to make patients’ treatment journeys both more effective and seamless. For that, it is important to target patients at the right time in their buyer’s journey.
What is the buyer’s journey? It is a customer’s path to purchasing a product or service from a determined brand. In addition, there is a component of need and/or desire behind the process of buying. So, marketers and sales professionals assess this process as a way to better target customers.
The patients’ buying journey has three main stages:
- Awareness. The consumer identifies the problem and needs.
- Consideration. After understanding the problem, it is time to move on to research. This helps to understand the different possibilities that exist in the market.
- Decision. The consumer evaluates the options and decides on what is the offer that better fits the needs at stake.
PSPs consider these different stages in a patient’s buying journey. In essence, they are a way to make their actions more effective near the consumer. After all, you want to build and/or renovate trust in your brand.
Yet, there is one major challenge that these initiatives and pharma companies face. And that is the gap between what patients say they intend to do and what they, in truth, do.
In 2018, a Deloitte survey concluded that 53% of U.S consumers demonstrated a likeliness to use a physician and hospital rating tool. But, only 23% of these consumers did indeed use it.
So, how do you tackle this? By targeting the patient and establishing a link of communication in its consideration and decision stages.
There are still clear challenges faced by pharma companies, especially in patient adherence. But PSPs prove to be effective in mitigating the relevance of these. All while building a pathway into an impactful influence over patients’ treatment and buying journey.
Did you know that…31% of U.S. consumers who search for a new doctor or physician show concern about the price and out-of-pocket expenses? (Deloitte)
People want to improve their health. Yet, that comes with a cost that oftentimes is crushing to the family’s savings. So, PSPs come into action as a supporting force. One that turns complexity into simplicity and inclusivity.
With this in mind, there are pharma companies that invest in financial assistance programs. These can act in the fields of:
- Pay management;
- Claims support;
- Loan management; and
- Prior authorization.
Patient adherence is one great challenge in the pharma and medicine industries. Which was further aggravated by the impact of the pandemic. In brief, this led to a significant reduction in patient adherence. For example, in the U.S., for patients taking chronic disease medications, the percentage was around 50% (PharmExec).
Education Meets Digital Engagement
Education has become a pivotal component of marketing practices. It also became a vital patient support initiative. To tackle patient adherence, PSPs have been being deployed, then, into systems for patient support and counseling, such as:
- Inbound support helpline;
- Home nurse visits;
- Outbound calls and appointment or treatment reminders; and
- SMS reminders.
Patient adherence and treatment dropout are particularly significant in chronic diseases. These demand from patients a high capacity for monitoring and regulation of reports and analytics.
Because of that, PSPs have been focusing on generating technology-enabled engagement. A flow that establishes a link between results and the care provided. Some of the initiatives carried out use elements such as:
- Remote monitoring;
- Artificial intelligence (AI); and
- Patient Apps.
PSPs can further provide clinical support and intervention. This aims at managing a patient’s treatment adherence through:
- Drug administration;
- Home-based clinical support; and
- Medical tests.
Digital platforms and an omnichannel approach are at the core of PSPs. They are turning into accessible goods to the average U.S. consumer. As opposed to traditional assistance programs, they turn initiatives into a responsive stream of communication and engagement. They can contribute to elements such as:
Through the use of digital platforms and mobile apps, pharma companies can collect insightful data on their patients. From their necessities to specific requirements, treatment and service adapt around one’s particular circumstances.
Allied to this, is finding the right, personalized voice tailored to your audience. By doing this PSPs become more resonant among consumers. All in all, this helps increase performance and adherence to your initiatives.
For example, if you rewrite your content and adapt it to a tone of voice that is relevant to your audience, you can increase in-app clickthrough rates by a whopping 40%.
Improve user experience
By allowing service personalization, PSPs improve the user experience enhanced by digital platforms. Through mobile apps, helplines, websites, and telehealth, you can provide patients with 24/7 support. This not only puts patients’ minds at ease but also restores their confidence in seeking professional help.
This digital assistance further simplifies patients’ experiences with a brand and treatment. Companies can invest in educational materials. It can come from their own database of research and analytics. In fact, by sharing insights, patients can make more informed decisions based on fact-checked content.
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