With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic triggering less in-person healthcare interactions, new and established drug brands are at a higher risk of underperforming — especially as consumer and healthcare provider (HCP) channel preferences continue to shift.
The pandemic has reinforced the need for pharma companies to develop advanced digital strategies that stimulate successful brand launch and adoption while supporting sustaining marketing programs. A fundamental shift away from traditional commercial models will be an essential requirement for pharma companies seeking to establish themselves as market leaders.
One critically important strategy is leveraging companion digital health programs that provide patient and HCP support while capturing robust analytics to inform go-to-market strategies. Below are three important go-to-market considerations as Pharma evaluates how to optimize digital investments in support of brand launch and sustaining programs.
Digital Support Programs Elevate Medication Initiation, Adherence, and Retention Rates
Traditional pharma marketing approaches have focused on reaching as many patients and providers as possible with branded messaging. However, the key to substantial return on investment is not only successful initiation, but also long-term adherence to branded medications. Unfortunately, studies demonstrate that 50% of patients stop using a new medication within the first year of treatment. While nonadherence is a complex issue, the convergence of virtual care delivery and the rise of personalized digital health technologies presents a tremendous opportunity to elevate brand initiation, adherence, and retention goals
Too frequently medication drop-off occurs because patients do not fully understand their disease state or recognize the benefits of the prescribed medication. They may not recognize the value of continuing the medication without a perceived benefit or a feeling of improved health. Financial issues, challenges accessing healthcare, and pharmacy access can also lead to significant drops in initiation and adherence rates.
By incorporating companion digital health programs, pharma companies can provide patients with support that extends healthcare access, improves patient satisfaction, and stimulates better outcomes.
For example, remote coaching platforms provide patients with convenient access to expert, disease-specific clinicians who can:
- Help them understand the importance of taking medications correctly
- Explain the reality of potential side effects
- Encourage positive lifestyle changes
- Steward patients to other support resources
This support results in more engaged patients, increased initiation and adherence rates, and improved branded medication commercial performance.
Consider Outsourcing Patient Support to Bypass Functional Silos
Research conducted by Deloitte found that new drugs launched by larger companies tend to underperform despite big advertising budgets, robust marketing programs and sales forces. Researchers found this underperformance often stems from functional silos thus generating significant inefficiencies when bringing a drug to market. Additionally, researchers suggest the second most common reason for missing analyst expectations in year one is a result of inadequate understanding of the market and customer needs.
Functional silos hinder larger companies because silos tend to operate independently, causing teams to deviate from the organization’s primary focus. This deviation is particularly detrimental during an event requiring intense focus, collaboration, and cooperation, such as a new brand launch during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, lack of focus can result in limited tactical effectiveness and ability to pivot when discovering insights that can enhance uptake.
Digital health tools can help pharma companies reduce silos, promote collaboration, and allocate resources effectively. For instance, resource allocation may involve building the right team or infrastructure to properly educate new and/or existing patients. This process can prove overwhelming, especially when performed by a large organization with many matrixed teams and competing objectives. As such, when evaluating whether to “build it or buy it” there is value for pharmas to consider outsourcing their digital health approach to 3rd parties that can bring focus, implement support strategies, and enable efficient solutions at scale.
Use Agile Workflows to Streamline Patient Support Program Development and Management
Now more than ever, pharma companies must learn to adapt to new patient and provider preferences, or risk decreasing returns driven by brand underperformance – due to sparse investment in patient support and retention. Therefore, it’s critical for pharma companies to leverage agile workflows when designing, implementing, and managing digital patient support solutions.
Potential solutions include real-time, virtual access to physicians as well as virtual patient coaching services that support medication initiation, adherence, and healthy lifestyle changes. While many health plans and healthcare systems are increasingly adopting these solutions, pharma companies have been a bit slower to follow for a variety of reasons including limited qualified resources, lack of a defined patient engagement strategy, and unsatisfactory performance by 3rd party partners. Fortunately, they can apply a new playbook — one that offers patients more convenience, access, and knowledge that improves health outcomes.
In summary, for both new brand launches and existing in-market therapies, novel digital health and analytics capabilities demand that pharma companies move away from a “one size fits all” approach in favor of customized patient and provider solutions that foster brand adoption, loyalty, satisfaction, and growth.
About the Author
Steven Hickson has over 3 decades of Business Development and Client Engagement experience in the marketing, strategy, creative services, and professional services space. For the last 8 years, Steve has served in management roles focused specifically in the Pharmaceutical, Medical Device, Animal Health, and Nutraceutical categories. He’s led several Pharmaceutical and Healthcare client relationships including Bayer, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Sanofi, Bausch Health, Eisai, GSK, and Otsuka.