Boehringer Ingelheim expands adherence-improving respiratory rewards program

BI expanded its rewards program after data showed it improved drug adherence. (Boehringer Ingelheim)

The word "gamification" gets tossed around a lot in marketing and loyalty programs, but for Boehringer Ingelheim, it’s more than just a buzzword. The pharma recently expanded its RespiPoints online rewards program because it works.

After an initial nine-month pilot begun in 2016, Boehringer Ingelheim found that before patients enrolled in RespiPoints, which is run in conjunction with HealthPrize, they filled their prescription on average every 40.9 days, or about every 41 days for a 30-day prescription, said Jason Marshall, senior associate director in marketing at Boehringer Ingelheim. But after patients enrolled in the program, they filled prescriptions every 31.6 days on average, or almost on target for a 30-day prescription. Over the course of a calendar year, that adds up to 3.7 more prescriptions filled, he said.

RELATED: Will gift cards motivate COPD patients to stick to meds? Boehringer aims to find out


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RespiPoints, which involves BI meds Spiriva Respimat in two different versions for COPD and for asthma, Stiolto Respimat, and Sprivia Handihaler, is built around a website that encourages patients to take actions such as day-to-day medication adherence logins and monthly prescription fills to earn points. It also offers daily tips, trivia, quizzes and surveys that allow users to earn more points to redeem for gift cards from retailers including Amazon, Starbucks and Apple iTunes.

One of the unexpected positives Boehringer identified with its study was the return of some patients. Marshall said 16% of COPD patients who enrolled in RespiPoints had previously been on a Boehringer respiratory medication but had lapsed, meaning they had not been on one of the drugs for 60 days before joining. Even more positive was that 16% remained adherent, conforming to the average 31.6 days between fills as other patients in the pilot did.

Another benefit for Boehringer is the direct connections with and feedback from patients. Patients visit the RespiPoints website 4.6 days per week and stay an average of 2 minutes and 35 seconds, Marshall said.

RELATED: Got game? Pharma's moving into gamification but needs to drop the bribes

“For 50 minutes a month, we have the eyeballs and attention of currently known patients who are on our products, and we can communicate with them. There’s not a whole lot of opportunity in this space where you get to get real-time feedback from people you know for sure are currently on your product without doing big market research,” he said. BI has used the platform to ask questions that can help shape marketing decisions, such as what factors are important to patients when they make decisions about treatment.

The platform has proven sticky as well in keeping patients interested over time. Boehringer's research found that 56% of participants stayed active in RespiPoints over the nine-month pilot period, compared to a 9% engagement rate for health apps in general after nine months. The average age of patients in the program is 65, with half of the traffic to RespiPoints coming from mobile phones or tablets.

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