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Pharma Brands Tap Physicians to Enroll Patients In Adherence Programs

Strategy: Enroll patients in adherence programs to keep them on therapy

Tactical plan:

  1. Digital media – display banners on targeted websites – CHECK
  2. BRC cards stuffed with product at pharmacy – CHECK
  3. Email reminders to take medication as prescribed – CHECK

That felt comfortable. And quick. Time for lunch.

Sorry, I was just doing some 2019 planning and checking things off of the list. Don’t worry though, I’ve been doing this for years now. I’m comfortable with it and even though I’m not seeing the ROI on some of the big ticket items like media spend to drive patient acquisition, I believe it still makes sense to allocate 30-40% of my total budget to media spend. I mean, how else am I going to capture patient leads, right?

WRONG!

The 2019 planning season is upon us and pharmaceutical brands everywhere are pulling together their tactical ideas and budget for next year. Every year I am shocked by the budget number next to digital media. It is absolutely astonishing that brands pour the amount of money that they do into digital media, only to see diminishing returns on their investment. Digital media is a quantity over quality approach. Yes, you can segment and target, but at the end of the day you’re throwing ads out there and hoping your target market actually engages. Some do, some don’t, but unless there is a program tied to the media campaign, brands have no idea who’s enrolling and if they are a good fit for the brands’ products.

Patient lead capture and patient enrollment has become a numbers game. The assumption is: spend big, attract a lot of folks, and then some of those folks MUST be good candidates. Great strategy when competition is low and budgets are big. Ah, the good old days of patient marketing… Reality check, those days are LONG GONE.

In this article we are going to discuss a new approach to patient lead capture. We are going to detail out how pharma brands can partner with physicians to enroll patients in adherence programs, and discuss the benefits of doing so.

enroll patients in adherence programs

Mobile Allows Pharma Brands to Conduct Patient Acquisition Wherever Patients Spend Their Time

Pharma brands use this strategy when selecting the digital properties to run ads on, yet we aren’t putting nearly as much effort into targeting physical locations where patients spend their time. Why? My belief is that the process of executing patient acquisition programs at physical locations such as physician offices, rehabilitation centers, and hospitals is filled with friction, and lacking adequate tools. All that has changed with the adoption of mobile. No matter your patient population these days, most patients have a smart phone. Most healthcare providers also carry a smart phone or use a tablet in-office. Mobile is providing forward-thinking pharma brands with an opportunity to experiment with programs designed to enroll patients in adherence programs while they are participating in an office visit with their healthcare provider.

Let’s play out 2 scenarios:

  1. Traditional patient scenario
    • Patient has an appointment with a healthcare provider to review the results of their latest bloodwork
    • Their doctor informs the patient that he has high cholesterol and needs to take medication daily to lower those bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels
    • The patient and physician spend a few more minutes together talking about the importance of staying on therapy even though the patient might not actually “see” results
    • The physician puts a prescription into their system and sends it off to the pharmacy
    • The patient leaves the office, stops by the pharmacy, and picks up his prescription
    • One week in and the patient is doing well in remembering to take his medication as prescribed
    • By week two, a life event occurs which gets the patient out his daily routine, and from then on it becomes a struggle to remember to take the meds – some days are easy, while others are not
    • Unfortunately, when not taking the prescription as prescribed, it creates frustration on the part of the physician and angst on the part of the patient – a vicious cycle ensues of remembering for a while and then not remembering
  2. New patient scenario using mobile to enroll patients in adherence programs before leaving the physician’s office
    • Patient has an appointment with a healthcare provider to review the results of their latest bloodwork
    • Their doctor informs the patient that he has high cholesterol and needs to take medication daily to lower those bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels
    • The patient and physician spend a few more minutes together talking about the importance of staying on therapy even though the patient might not actually “see” results
    • The physician takes out her iPad, opens an app, enters the patients’ mobile number & a text message is automatically sent real-time to the patients’ phone – The patient clicks a link in the text, immediately enrolls lands on a branded enrollment page and enrolls in the brand’s text message reminder program
    • The physician puts a prescription into their system and sends it off to the pharmacy
    • The patient leaves the office, stops by the pharmacy, and picks up his prescription
    • Each day the patient receives a text message to remind him to take his medication
    • By week two, a life event occurs which gets the patient out his daily routine, but because he receives his text, in the middle of all of the chaos, he remembers to take his medication

In scenario 1 above, everyone loses. The patient’s cholesterol levels are constantly out of whack. The physician is frustrated that she cannot keep her patient’s levels in check. The pharmaceutical company who sells the product is not seeing profits from prescription refills.

In scenario 2 above, everyone wins.

By leveraging the clout of physicians, and the relevancy of the moment in the physician’s office, pharma brands can using mobile to enroll patients in adherence programs on the spot before ever leaving the office. This gives the patient the greatest opportunity for success in staying adherent to their medication.

Physician Recommendations Carry More Weight With Patients

There are many reasons why the in-office enrollment strategy works so well, but the biggest reason is because the recommendation to sign up for the program is coming directly from the physician. Patients are more apt to follow instructions provided to them from their physician vs. seeing a media banner with a call-to-action to enroll. By integrating patient enrollment into the office visit, and making it a part of the physician’s overall treatment recommendation, pharma brands tap into a patient’s biggest influencer right in the moment.

Think about it for a moment. Put yourself in the shoes of the patient. You’ve just been diagnosed with some ailment, for which your doctor is recommending a specific treatment approach. That treatment approach requires you to regularly take medication. As part of your discussion with your physician, she says she wants you to sign up for a prescription reminder program and sends you a text with a link to enroll. How likely are you to start enrolling right away while the physician is finalizing your prescription?

The biggest benefits of providing physicians with the tools to enroll patients in adherence programs during office visits are:

  • There will never be a more relevant time than during the office visit. Pharma brands must execute strategies that take advantage of this moment. Office visits are happening every. single. day. Are you going to get your brand front and center during those conversations?
  • Physicians have clout and can heavily influence patient decisions. If physicians believe in this new tool and think that text message reminders can help patients stay adherent to therapy, they will recommend the program.
  • There’s no friction in the process. The physician enters the patients mobile number into the app which automatically triggers a pre-approved text message to the patient’s phone. The patient can then click a link from the message and sign up on a mobile-ready enrollment form. All of the major barriers to enrolling in the adherence program have been removed.

Medical, Legal, and Regulatory Approvals for Text Message Reminders

You might be saying to yourself, this all sounds great, but how the heck am I going to get this approved through by our Med-Legal-Regulatory team? You can probably hear the objections from those team members already:

  • We can’t let physicians send texts to patients on our behalf – How can we ensure they are sending homemade bread?
  • Our ISI can’t fit within the confines of a text message.
  • How are we going to get the app installed on physicians’ and staff’ phones?

All great questions and concerns. All normal when you’re innovating. The good news? Programs like this have been approved by other regulatory teams, and are up and running for many Pharma brands. Not only that, but there is a lot of research out there that shows the positive impact text message reminder programs have on patients  (if brands can just get past the barrier of actually enrolling patients in adherence programs).

Here are the answers to the above objections:

  • The text message coming from the physician to the patient which contains the link to the mobile enrollment form is pre-canned and pre-approved. Within a closed system like OnSpot Social, physicians simply hit a button to send an auto-generated text. No homemade bread available here!
  • The copy within the text does not need to contain any claims and might not even contain your brand name. The beauty of this is that it’s happening while the patient and physician are having a conversation about your product, so when the text arrives it’s implied that it’s part of a program that your brand has developed. Not only that, but once the patient lands on your enrollment form, all of your branding, ISI, etc. will be accessible on that web page.
  • There are many ways to get physicians access to this new program, but the best way is through your sales team. Reps needs fresh things to talk about with their customers. How great would it be to arm reps with a sales tool for texting customers? Not only that, but if you want to get really innovative you can actually program a version of the app to work on Reps’ devices. When they detail their customers about the program they can follow the same steps – enter the physician’s mobile number and automatically send them a text with a link. The text would be different from the patient’s text in that it would link to the app and provide instructions for the physician to install the app on her device. So Reps could actually DEMONSTRATE how the program will work for physician-to-patient communications by using the same functionality to deliver the app to physicians.

Pharma Brands Equip Physicians with Tools to Enroll Patients in Adherence Programs

By now, if you’re still reading this article, hopefully you can start to see all of the possibilities that a program like this can unfold for your brand. Now let’s discuss THE APP to use — Yes, I’m pushing the OnSpot Social platform, but that’s because it works. It works and it’s cost effective and brands know that every patient that signs up through the system is of the highest quality because they enrolled during a consultation with their doctor, presumably after they were just given a new prescription for your medication or during a routine visit to discuss how things are going with their treatment with your product. A physician, NP, or staffer wouldn’t request that a patient enroll in your adherence program if that patient wasn’t being prescribed your product.

It’s a beautiful thing. High quality patient leads, low acquisition costs. Not only that, but the physician feels more confident that the patient will stay on therapy after ensuring that patient signed up on the spot for your brand’s adherence program. This reinforces the concept with the physician, and the next patient that comes in and needs treatment with a drug in your class, guess which product the physician is going to prescribe? The one he knows has a branded adherence program that she can use as part of her toolbelt to effectively treat patient and keep them adherent to therapy.

If this is something that you think can benefit your brand, I hope you will test it out. We offer a free trial of our premium subscription package which you can take advantage of to see how you can tap physicians to enroll patients in adherence programs, creating win-win-win scenarios for all parties.

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