3 Principles to Optimize Patient Support Programs

By Natalia Gallur

Pharmaceutical companies are undergoing a profound transformation. No longer confined to merely developing treatments, companies are assuming a partnership role to collaborate with healthcare providers and patients through their healthcare journey to foster optimal outcomes.

Companies such as AbbVie, Takeda, UCB, and others are implementing patient-centric initiatives through websites, mobile apps, wearable devices, and smart technology that address medication adherence and health management challenges.

However, despite this evolution, many patient support programs remain underutilized. Addressing this challenge requires constant analysis and optimization.

3 Principles of Effective Patient Support Programs

Our work with pharmaceutical leaders has found these guidelines essential.

1. Measure to understand. The first step requires understanding the most imperative unmet needs of the patient and establishing baselines, objectives, and services to address them. This is usually done through focus groups, patient discussions, etc. Then, implement key performance indicators that measure the program's impact and allow you to make informed decisions.

  • Clarify the goal of the adherence optimization approach, engagement (driven by relevance), and related healthcare management metrics.
  • Cross-reference the number of patients enrolled in the program against the total number of patients prescribed. This helps you understand your reach and increase the number of patients that benefit from your service.
  • Compare the disease incidence among patients using the patient support program (PSP) against those who are not. The results could reveal outreach opportunities to support patients in their chronic disease journeys, even if they are not prescribed your treatment.
  • Calculate the percentage of hospitals and medical centers that offer the program against the total addressable market to identify onboarding opportunities. Reinforce the benefits of your program with medical science liaisons and sales teams.
  • Determine the program’s satisfaction, engagement, and relevance scores, including the Net Promoter Score, which measures the likelihood that patients will give a positive recommendation to others living with the same condition.

2. Listen to what patients and HCPs tell you and act on the right information. This is key in ensuring your patient support program is part of the connected care ecosystem. Addressing obstacles with simple, common-sense solutions often has a bigger impact than complex behavioral analysis. For example, programs can provide guidance about how to travel with medications, access non-public bathrooms for patients suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease, manage needle waste, etc.

3. Embrace partnerships. Some of the most refreshing and promising alliances are pharmaceutical companies teaming up to provide best-in-class agnostic health technology tools and solutions. Examples include Novo Nordisk and Abbott’s partnership to enhance diabetes support. Including health technology in the connected care ecosystem is a huge step in fostering patient empowerment, understanding disease evolution and management, and improving patient adherence.   

Next, Apply Best Practices

Improving adherence takes rigor. Among the go-to strategies leading pharmaceutical companies use:

Avoid generic language. Communications that are market-tailored, based on regulatory and cultural differences, are more relevant.

Put the patient first. Patients are not passive recipients of medical interventions; they are active participants. Understanding and addressing evolving needs with the right solutions through personalization increases engagement.

Cover all stakeholders in the care journey. Complete patient-centricity requires collaboration with healthcare providers, insurers, and caregivers to understand the entire ecosystem and its role in the patient journey.

Cover all enrollment opportunities. Regularly scout for moments when patients can be invited into the program, from doctor visits to refill triggers, posters in waiting rooms, to online disease-related content. Make it easy for patients to find you at the moments when they need you so your registration calls to action are stronger.

Connect channels and people. Any program that is not seamlessly accessible across all digital and traditional physical channels will be disadvantaged. Ensure the program information is delivered through channels tailored to the patient and health care professionals’ preferences. Connecting patients to their care team, relevant disease management tools, and a community of other patients living with the same condition all help to create a connected care ecosystem.

Treatment Adherence Requires Connected Care

Recognizing patients as active participants, tailoring support programs to their unique needs, and creating a connected care ecosystem will improve adherence and overall healthcare outcomes.

The negative impact on patient outcomes, unnecessary hospitalizations, healthcare costs, and the billions of dollars pharmaceutical companies risk losing due to patient non-compliance are not in a vacuum. Every person and organization that works with patients faces the risk of loss. Industry-trained experts who can reinforce and streamline the process will ensure adherence and accountability. Learn more about patient support program solutions that drive adherence and improve efficacy for pharma companies in more than 20 countries.


Natalia Gallur is Group SVP for Harte Hanks, a leading global customer experience company with expertise in pharmaceutical marketing.

The editorial staff had no role in this post's creation.