Today’s best adherence programs emphasize the critical role of patient engagement in driving success. In my first article, I discussed the overall value of patient adherence programs and how implementing best practices for program design can make your programs more relevant to patients.
Taking this approach one step further, engagement programs can and should occur on many levels and within the various stages of adherence programs. Let’s explore how.
- Understanding the product
Building patient engagement begins with a comprehensive understanding of the brand and the product. First and foremost, it is necessary to have a discussion about various factors that define a drug going to market, including indication (use of drug), therapy duration, side effect profile, distribution channel, and cost, before you can develop a patient adherence or support program. Consider, for example, how the level of engagement will vary greatly between specialty drugs, conventional products, and long-term or short-term therapies.
Remember: Adherence solutions are not “one size fits all.” For every brand, there can and should be a different approach. The level of services, types of services, and positioning of services will first be defined by the product.
- Selecting the optimal channels
Once you have an understanding of the product, you can begin to evaluate the best channels for engaging with your patient. Adopting an omnichannel approach, whereby you provide many channel alternatives and let patients determine their channel of preference, is ideal. Just keep in mind that an omnichannel approach differs from multichannel — it involves not solely offering a variety of pathways, but serving patients with equally beneficial resources in each one.
Your investment and the product type influences the level of engagement, which in turn determines channel/communication type. For instance, 24/7 live nurse support — a necessary protocol for certain treatment protocols or serious health conditions — is vastly different than sending out basic text message reminders to take a medication, and the engagement within these programs should be recognized as such. Similarly, therapies that are dosed at varying intervals (once per month, every three weeks, etc.) require a different approach than a drug dosed at once daily. Conventional drugs treating asymptomatic diseases would likely focus on reminder-type messaging (perhaps with some disease management/wellness reinforcement), whereas an approach to an infused biologic product that may have a more serious side effect profile may try to optimize a full patient engagement strategy, pairing an experienced health care coach to interact, on an ongoing basis, with patients to assist them to remain on therapy and make it to their next infusion appointment.
- Recognizing the ways patients define your program
Although the product and investment determines level of service and engagement, at every point, the patient profile should be assessed. Consideration should be given as to how individual patients want to be engaged (or not) and at what level. This holistic understanding of a patient’s history, current condition/medical situation, and mindset will determine how a patient engages in meaningful conversation. These factors will ultimately play a role in determining whether patients are likely to be compliant in adherence programs. In fact, putting yourself in the patient’s shoes to get a 360-view relates back to one of the most basic principles of designing effective adherence programs — to be aware of any and all potential barriers to adherence.
The typical patient profile (considering demographics, medical history, etc.) and the nuances of individuals themselves can influence engagement design and program services. These may entail more specialized services that go beyond more traditional medical care/support. Consider, for instance, a Hepatitis C drug prescribed orally: on paper, it may be “simple” to stay on the treatment, but because a subset of patients with this health condition could be more likely to have a history of drug addiction — a finding that could be uncovered in the patient-profile research and discovery stage — these patients may need the added support of a social worker to stay engaged in the program and adherent. In certain cases, the patient profile is as simple as recognizing the typical patient tendencies, such as in vaccinations that require a multi-dose regimen, where staggered timing can make it difficult for patients, like students going back to school or frequent travelers, to stick to the routine.
All in all, these various factors, considering both the product and the patient, will help you develop a well-rounded program that sets the stage for compliance. Along the way, remember to track and measure your successes and areas of improvement, and patient and product challenges. Doing so will allow you to continually innovate and successfully implement patient engagement tactics in the future.