Using third parties to improve patient compliance

How third parties can add value for patients while improving adherence rates.

How third parties can add value for patients while improving adherence rates.

More than 50 percent of patients divert from the medication plans their physicians prescribe, leading to health risks in the general public and lost profits for the pharma industry. How do you create value for the patient and make sure theyre really engaged in their plans? One option, according to Jeff Dierks, senior director of products at Endo Pharmaceuticals, is to use third parties. Third parties can add tremendous amounts of value, he says. Its a very underutilized portion of your marketing mix plan.

Dierks defines a third party as any type of professional society (like the American Academy of Dermatology or the National Headache Foundation) or patient advocacy group (like the National Diabetes Center or Cancer Patient Advocate) that acts or advocates on behalf of a specific segment of the population. Pharmaceutical companies can partner with such third parties to engage customers in a targeted way and thus increase those customers adherence to a specific brand.

Dierks offers the example of the skin cancer awareness campaign Tee Off Against AKs. The brand CARAC, a fluoroucail cream, wanted to increase awareness of actinic keratosis (AKs) among at-risk populations and to drive branded requests. Dierks recommended that they partner with several third partiesthe American Academy of Dermatology, the Womens Dermatologic Society, and several professional golfersand host a series of golf outings where at-risk members of the general public (in this case, golfers) could learn about the disease, how they can prevent it, and why its important to adhere to a medication once theyre on it.

At the outings, participants were offered free skin cancer screenings from the American Academy of Dermatology and were encouraged to fill out feedback forms and evaluations afterwards. Thus, not only did they learn about the disease and why they should use CARAC, they also became part of a database that CARAC could track into the future. In the following year, CARAC found that those customers who had taken part in the golf events stayed on the medication three times as long as regular customers. A lot is understanding what are some of the drivers of adherence, says Dierks. We assume if youre out in the sun and you see enough of those advertisements, that you know youre at risk for skin cancer. But realistically most people are out there to play golf.

Dierks cautions that in choosing a third party, pharmas should be aware that the biggest third party isnt always the best. Its important to identify which segment you want to target and which third party provides the most direct inroad. Also, companies should be sure to hash out joint metrics beforehand, as well as agree on a shared tone.

Third parties also can be used to increase the understanding and engagement between a physician and patient, and thus increase a brands effectiveness. Listening to patients talk about pain and listening to doctors describe pain, theyre coming at it from completely different angles, says Dierks. The doctors want to talk about all the qualitative metrics, while patients are going to talk about I have this burning, this stabbing, this shooting pain. How is it that we can help connect this dialogue together so that doctors are not talking over the heads of patients and patients are coming in telling doctors things they can help put into a recipe for success?

Third parties can help, in this case a technology like Verilogue, which plays conversations between patients and physicians in real time. Listening to such patient-physician interactions allows pharma firms to hear how their customers (physicians) are distributing their product and, from that, to develop a better message and strategy. A new strategy might include an educational tool that physicians can distribute to patients while prescribing the medication, a patient diary, or a few verbatims that the nurse can reiterate after the physician consultation. We need to work on shaping the dialogue, Dierks says. Third parties allow you to be on the front precipice of shaping the dialogue rather than having it shaped for you.

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