Customer relationship management has many connotations, as the view of our customers keeps evolving. Right now, I’d like to address one aspect: putting relationships into the core strategy to improve health outcomes through patient-centric adherence.
ADHERENCE: AN AREA OF OPPORTUNITY?
Many articles have been written and statistical studies published that cite medication adherence as the next blockbuster brand. Estimates of additional brand revenues for increasing adherence even the slightest bit are in the billions of dollars. And yet, many brand programs focus primarily on patient acquisition. A few key driving factors may be: 1) each brand uses static values for the refill ratio and patient value when developing a strategy; and 2) it’s perceived that getting a patient to try a medication is less complex than trying to figure out why a patient is not adherent. I believe that each of these areas presents an opportunity and that impacting the adherence challenge may not be as insurmountable as it appears. But that depends upon your expectations, including the time frame.
FRAMING THE SITUATION
That being said, let’s briefly frame some of the challenges as you, a brand professional, may see them today:
• Adherence is a behavior, which makes it complex: you need to first understand the individual before you can influence his or her actions.
• Patients have access to a tremendous amount of information, which helps them form beliefs that affect the way they take their medications—this is outside of your control.
• You have this year’s brand goals that you need to achieve, so you may not have enough time to see the adherence end-results.
So you may be struggling with the conflicting goals of affecting behavior and changing beliefs (which are longer term objectives), versus delivering on shorter-term brand targets. If these are the options, then spending time on patient adherence rather than on increasing patient acquisition is an easy decision to make.
Over the years, several types of programs have addressed this. And many of the “solutions” have been costly and complicated. Some were so complex, indeed, that in the end they may not have returned results in line with expectations. In other situations, the cost and difficulty of obtaining the information necessary to run an effective program was a barrier to entry, and if the program, as good as it is, adversely affects patients’ desire to enter into the program or fill the first script, then it’s a flop from the beginning.
SETTING IMMEDIATE AND LONG-TERM GOALS
In my recent travels, I have been discussing this topic with pharmaceutical executives, and the conversations have been robust. The good news is that adherence is a part of every discussion across a widely diverse group of companies, categories, and brands. The view is also changing from individual brand-by-brand initiatives to a more enterprise-wide, cross-brand approach. In the end, we do not need to affect the adherence curve very much to have a large impact. At the same time, I am not suggesting that we lose focus on acquisition. I suggest we keep acquiring patients as the immediate goal, develop a long-term program truly based on what patients tell us and the actions they take, starting small without barriers, learning from every interaction, and refusing to make the process so complex that it is not measurable.
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