With the rise of speciality medicines, the staggering cost of non-adherence and the demand for increased value from all stakeholders, it’s no surprise that patient support programmes are becoming ‘cost of entry’ for some products. It’s not enough to simply bolt on a one-size-fits-all support service around a new medicine; the bar is high and the ambition is to deliver a truly differentiated service with measurable results.

This year’s theme at eyeforpharma Barcelona was “United for healthcare – Driven by outcomes”. With an increased focus on adherence and patient outcomes, we wanted to take the opportunity to share our best learnings and advice. We’ve been delivering patient support services for over 15 years, and our programmes have continuously evolved over that time to meet the needs of pharma, patients and HCPs.

Our Head of Clinical – Europe, Nagore Fernandez, presented her thoughts on the five biggest pitfalls to avoid for effective patient support programmes (PSP):

1. Failing to demonstrate return on objectives

“This may sound like something you think about towards the end of the programme, but actually it’s one of the first things you should address. It’s a huge reason why PSPs fail, and it’s because either the right objectives haven’t been set in the first place, or because there aren’t the proper systems in place to capture and report on the objectives.

There are a number of different considerations to help you define your objectives upfront, such as the patient journey, therapy failure points, the point in the product life-cycle and the health outcomes you want to achieve. And ultimately when thinking about how to measure success, you need to consider which performance indicators will support your commercial and medical decisions.”

2. Working in silos – inside and outside of your organisation

“Communication is critical – different departments want to see different outcomes from a PSP – and they will have different drivers to motivate them to support the programme. Talk to your internal stakeholders and understand what success looks like to them.

But don’t forget it’s just as important to engage with your external stakeholders – what’s in it for them? We can work with you to map out these stakeholders (e.g. prescribers, payers, carers and patient groups) and understand their needs and touchpoints with patients.”

3. Underestimating how difficult it is to change behaviour

“Patients are people and people are not always rational. It’s a real challenge to diagnose the true drivers of non-adherence and to design interventions that will result in a positive behaviour change. Behavioural change needs to be embedded into all aspects of a programme from the insights to design and delivery. All of our nurses are trained on behaviour change theory and motivational interviewing techniques and we ensure that the look, feel and messaging of materials are right for individual patients.

You need to talk to patients and then turn the insights and data into something meaningful to ensure the PSP is tailored to meet their needs. We have identified key ingredients to successfully change behaviour including: deep insight into how patients think, feel and behave; behavioural change and health psychology expertise; the agility to respond to individual needs and change. We use a tried-and-tested behavioural change model, COM-B (Michie et al 2011, Michie et al 2014), to create segments and personas which provide something tangible to design solutions around.”

4. Managing channels and data in isolation

“It can be chaotic, inefficient and time consuming to deliver a multichannel programme with each channel managed in isolation. And it becomes even more challenging if you deliver a multi-country programme!

With this approach, you have no single view of the patient, you limit the potential of the nurse/care coordinator, the patient experience is more likely to feel disjointed and it’s more difficult to measure success.

As a partner to Pharma, we deliver integrated, multichannel PSPs – every channel is connected, empowering the nurse/care coordinator and providing a seamless patient experience. An integrated platform also hugely enhances live data, real world evidence and global reporting capability.”

5. Designing a fantastic programme – but no patients enrol!

“You could design the best PSP in the world, but if you don’t identify and enrol patients, it’s worthless.

You should break down the barriers to enrolment by first getting the commercial field force on board. This goes back to the upfront objectives setting and collaboration – so that the PSP is also embedded in the commercial strategy, and the field force are trained and equipped to promote the service.

It’s vital that there are clear benefits statements to motivate prescribers and HCPs to enrol patients. Talk to HCPs about the impact for both them (e.g. time saved) and the patient, and ensure that the process to enrol is quick and easy.

Just as care plans should be tailored to the needs of individual patients, you should also provide enrolment information which is tailored to different patient types. Again, make the process simple and easy and provide multichannel opt-in options.”

Finally, ask the experts! Ashfield have been delivering multichannel and multi-country PSPs for over 15 years. We can help you achieve the desired outcomes both for patients and your pharma company. Contact Nagore to find out how we can help you.