The 4 E’s of Patient Support Programs

By Natalia Gallur

Patients aren’t the only healthcare participants who believe self-care is necessary since the COVID-19 pandemic – 86.6% of healthcare professionals now believe so, too.

However, connecting patients with self-care tools, such as patient support programs (PSPs), has been a critical barrier. Nearly 60% of patients have little or no knowledge of the support programs available to them, studies reveal. These patients are less likely to stick with their therapies and get better, as research links participation in PSPs with higher drug adherence.

If patients want self-care yet are unaware of free PSPs, it’s time to refresh them. Pharmaceutical leaders can get in front of assisted self-care and overall wellness by monitoring these 4 E’s.

     1: Enablement – Overcoming practical barriers to prescription adherence.

Why do patients stop taking prescriptions? Lack of access, transportation and forgetfulness typically come to mind. But get this: 55% of patients say they don’t adhere to drug therapies because they want to lead “normal lives.”

Standardized enablement features can support that feeling of normality and control. PSP technology can, for example, provide instant gratification – think gamification-like points systems – that encourage patients to stick to their therapies.

Artificial intelligence can assist by analyzing patient data, predicting needs and then personalizing care plans. If third-party expertise is necessary, a connected care system can manage coordination.

We advise approaching enablement in these steps:

  • Program your database management system to recognize patient behavioral shifts and related events that influence change.
  • Design the program from the patient’s point of view, factoring in behavioral barriers as well as emotional reinforcements to encourage healthy practices.
  • Using live data feedback, integrate motivators that encourage PSP engagement and navigation with the goal of more positive behavior.

     2: Education – Making patients and caregivers comfortable with self-administered treatment.

Patients are not the only frequent users of PSPs – nurses and caregivers also count on the programs to improve healthcare outcomes.

So, while PSP education relies on the expertise of all healthcare providers (HCPs), it also should include virtual care options, monitoring tools and other resources that inform frontline workers. Equip HCPs to achieve their purposes more effectively so they, too, see PSP value and become advocates.

It’s likely that training programs, support networks and collaboration tools will have to be implemented. And don’t discount the value of recently untraditional education formats, including social crowdsourcing. Research shows that a substantial share of healthcare providers use social media for professional purposes. In 2021, 3.8 million HCPs were active on TikTok alone.

Regardless of the information source, start by identifying unmet needs and then tailor therapeutic solutions as needed. If an effective function already exists, simply incorporate it into the PSP.

     3: Execution – Integrating the subtleties of culture, regulations and individual treatment paths.

By 2028, the effect of global pharma brands losing their exclusivity is expected to more than double from 2018 to $192 billion.

This gives you a picture of how fluidly PSPs need to transition from old treatments to new ones without disrupting patient care. The alternative – launching separate programs for each drug release – can be pricey, time-consuming and frustrating to healthcare providers.

The watchword is scalability. International borders can hamstring a PSP that is not designed to adapt to regulatory guidelines, cultural inclinations and multiple healthcare systems. Win local support by starting a dialog early and letting it ease the passage – particularly in North America and Europe, where pharmaceutical communications regulations can differ wildly.

Forecasted budgeting is essential to the above. When a drug’s patent approaches expiration, patient-experience leaders should be prepared to scale back while maintaining consistent patient outcomes – the latter being a key performance indicator in today’s purchasing systems.

Pro tip: Review subscriptions and licensing models to avoid inflexible commitments.

     4: Enrollment – Updating onboarding tools for 3.0 security, ease and compliance.

The greatest ideas in engagement, scale and budgeting won’t achieve their purpose if a PSP’s enrollment process is complex or burdensome. These essentials are designed to optimize participation:

  • Don’t overload new patients with information. Offer solution-minded communication options, user-friendly interfaces and tailored resources that can be staged for patient and HCP journeys.
  • Solicit stakeholder input using continuous feedback mechanisms to extract feasible, iterative improvements.
  • Use enrollment data as the baseline to keep pace with the patient and the broader market. Combine these insights with patient personas and maps that can be continuously refined. 
  • Establish clear performance indicators. The program should be measurable by design, monitoring adoption, engagement, adherence and experience.
  • Manage housekeeping using flexible tools and secure partners that ensure friction-free integration with third-party systems. This will provide the foundation of an infrastructure customizable to geographies and treatments.

What Do The 4 E’s Equal?

The beauty of the four-E approach is it produces other E’s – notably effectiveness, engagement and evolution. There’s no special elixir; it simply takes what we all want for patients: An A+ for adherence.


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.