The Stars for Healthcare Partnerships are Aligning!

It doesn’t take a marketing and sales genius to know that your bottom line improves if you can improve patients’ adherence to treatment. Drugs work better when patients take them, and drugs that work better will sell better—not to mention adherence rates are directly proportional to refill rates or something very close to that.

There’s probably few things more frustrating than, after seeing all the work you do to get patients started on your product, finding that existing patients are discontinuing that product as fast as new patients start. Getting patients to take a medication consistently for long periods of times is about as difficult as identifying and developing a new chemical entity. But right now, while payers and healthcare delivery organizations may not be terribly interested in partnering with you to sell a new product, they are very interested in working with you to promote better adherence to existing treatments.

Making Patients Proactive

The movement to systematically improve our health system has taken root. More and more, health plans, payers, and physicians are rated based on tangible metrics of their patients’ outcomes—just like you are rated on sales figures. The fire has been lit under healthcare delivery systems to pay more and closer attention to factors that will keep patients out of hospitals and to factors that will improve patients’ other treatment outcomes. That fire—along with a growing body of scientific knowledge of how poor adherence is—has warmed healthcare deliverers to the importance of treatment adherence and the need to do more to proactively get patients to take their medications. Shockingly (and hopefully you will follow my sarcasm), now that health systems are being paid more when adherence is better, they care more about adherence.

Caring and doing are two different things. While health systems now care about adherence as it affects their bottom line, they have little to no experience in how to improve adherence. They are fairly expert at the delivery of care within their walls, but have done and thought little about what happens beyond those walls. Many physicians are in the same position, their pharmacology texts filled with information on absorption, metabolism, volume of distribution, and excretion, yet devoid—utterly and completely—of any practical information on how to get a patient to take the medication.

The time has long been ripe for your efforts to improve patients’ adherence to your product. But now you have potential partners. The opportunities are rich for working with payers, healthcare systems, and physicians—with every level of the healthcare system—to enhance patients’ use of their medications. You can design, develop, and implement programs, yet many patients may question the motivations of pharmaceutical marketers. Partnering with healthcare providers may not only increase the flexibility and range of potential adherence solutions you can develop, but such partnerships may also enhance the appearance and the effectiveness of those programs’ frame prices. We can apply the same tools to improve adherence.

  • Steven Feldman, M.D.

    Dr. Steven Feldman is Professor of Dermatology and Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Steve studies patient adherence at North Carolina’s Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. He is also Chief Science Officer of Causa Reseach, an adherence solutions company (, founder of, and author of “Compartments” and “An Illustrated Dictionary of Behavioral Economics for Healthcare Professionals.”


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