Not Getting Traction with Your Patient Services Program? Here’s Why and What to do About it

6-Company News

As life science companies continue to invest in and launch specialty and specialty-lite medications to help patients manage chronic - and sometimes debilitating or life threatening - conditions, they are tasked with developing patient support services programs to help patients access and stay on these therapies. Unfortunately, a poorly utilized program can undermine clinical efficacy and often hinders a brand’s commercial success. Despite pouring $5 billion each year into patient support programs, pharmaceutical manufacturers only get an estimated 3 percent of eligible patients to enroll and use their programs. That’s a staggering missed opportunity. The key to turning things around is understanding the barriers to utilization and taking steps to maximize the adoption and the value of your program.

The 3 biggest barriers to patient services program utilization

There are three main reasons why eligible patients and prescribers fail to utilize a brand’s patient services program:

  1. There’s a lack of awareness that the program exists. One study found that nearly 60 percent of patients have little or no knowledge of the medication support programs available. And while most patients rely on their physicians to provide information about prescribed treatments, a healthcare provider survey revealed that 42 percent don’t understand what support is available for their patients.

  2. Providers and patients don’t see any benefit from participating in the program. If a healthcare provider does not perceive the value of a patient services program – for example, how it will save the practice administrative time by automating prior authorizations or improve patient adherence by making therapy more affordable, they are unlikely to adopt the program. In fact, 11 percent of HCPs believe that the time it takes to learn about patient service programs outweighs the value they offer. Almost half of patients think that pharma companies don’t understand what they need to manage their health, reducing the likelihood that they will trust that a sponsored program will help them. Without an understanding of how much the program will make it easier and more affordable to access their prescribed medication, they won’t be motivated to engage or even enroll in the first place.

  3. The program is too complex or not delivered in a consumer-friendly way. A program that is difficult to access, understand, and navigate is bound to underperform. Provider practices are hectic and often understaffed, so they may not have the time to spend on helping patients enroll in a program or figure out how to use provider tools, such as benefits verification and prior authorizations. With 80 percent of patients preferring to use digital channels to communicate with HCPs and brands, they will undoubtedly be deterred from participating in a program that doesn’t give them the streamlined, “e-commerce-like” experience they’ve come to expect.

How to maximize adoption of your patient services program

Patient-support services programs are critical to clearing a successful trajectory for specialty-lite and specialty therapies. Life science brand teams can ensure uptake and utilization by taking the following steps to address the barriers to program adoption.

  • Educate HCPs and practice staff about your program. Make sure they understand how it works and will alleviate their pain points and benefit their patients. This can be accomplished through several communication channels, such as sales reps, conferences, emails, and your website. For example, Medical Economics, in its latest annual survey, reported that paperwork burdens, third-party interference (e.g., prior authorizations), and staff shortages were among the top ten issues physicians are facing. An AMA survey revealed that physicians and their office staff spend close to two business days per week completing PAs. Most physicians report that the PA process delays care and leads to treatment abandonment. If you can show them how your program will reduce the administrative burden of PAs and expedite access to therapy for their patients, you will gain a loyal prescriber and program advocate.

  • Make program enrollment and engagement across the patient journey as easy as possible. Today, more than ever, you need to meet patients where they are. That means providing them with a frictionless, digital-first customer experience. Patients are more likely to trust the program if the enrollment process automatically initiates at the point of prescribing. Send them a text with a direct link to an enrollment form already pre-filled with the relevant information pulled from the doctor's EHR. Allow them to choose the form of communication and engagement they prefer. And then be sure to make staying on therapy as easy as possible. This can be done through messages informing patients of their therapy's benefits and potential side effects and enabling them to set up automated refills.

  • Integrate the program within the physician's practice workflow. Your program should include easy-to-use tools that streamline the prescribing, benefits verification, and PA processes. Make sure the platform is configurable within current workflows and works within their EHR – enabling form auto-population, for example – which will save them significant time as they work to help patients access their prescribed therapy quickly and affordably.

  • Use data insights to evolve your program as needed. You can ensure your patient services program is living up to its promise by tracking the right metrics. With greater visibility into the prescription journey and how it impacts patients, you can make meaningful changes when necessary throughout your brand's lifecycle.

The bottom line is that a patient services program in today's healthcare environment needs to streamline medication access and provide an integrated approach to data analytics across the patient journey in a digitally-driven way that accomplishes more with less. As an end-to-end commercialization partner, PHIL does just that. Check out this case study about a life science company that partnered with PHIL and achieved a 90 percent program enrollment and engagement rate, transforming the trajectory of its brand.

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