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The Forgotten Piece to the Adherence Puzzle

Medicines don’t work if patients don’t take them. It’s one of the biggest culprits in healthcare’s nearly $300 billion problemEstimates show poor adherence causes approximately 125,000 deaths and at least 10 percent of hospitalizations annually.

Patient Engagement Programs

Pharma companies are actively trying to quell the compliance problem by implementing patient engagement programs (PEPs) which make adherence easier and drive better health outcomes for patients. They offer call center support, in-home trainings and reading materials to educate patients on particularly complicated medicines. On the tech side, patient-centric compliance apps have been developed to remind patients to take their medications, and soon, there may even be a so-called smart pill.

So, what’s the disconnect?

Most of the numbers we have on adherence – none of which come from the pharma companies themselves – show patient engagement programs haven’t worked so far. A study showed 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions are never filled and about 50 percent of medications are not taken as prescribed. If big pharma is working so hard to offer these programs, why are we not seeing what should be significantly better adherence rates and health outcomes?

The Missing Piece

We’ve analyzed and helped improve a lot of these engagement programs for our pharma clients, and many of them are making great strides. However, what we’ve found as a common thread is most patient engagement programs omit or minimize one of the most important steps to any effective program: tracking. Big pharma is taking all the steps to engage with their patients, but they’re not effectively tracking which of those engagements are actually catalyzing meaningful change. In our experience, this is a big mistake.

We believe pharma companies can establish long-term improvements and differentiate their programs through simply tracking the success of their PEPs. It is nearly impossible (let alone time or cost effective) to optimize any program if there is no data to show what tactics are working, and where improvement is needed. This is precisely the case with PEPs, which are multi-faceted, multi-stakeholder initiatives that must work in unison for success.

We tell our clients: if you don’t track outcomes at each step of the way, you are leaving progress and profits on the table. Is tracking a simple task? No, but it is certainly doable. And from our experience, it is the critical link to saving money, improving outcomes, and growing share.

Another way to engage with patients is to help them understand their risks for diseases. Here is a case study on how a pharma company identifies disease risk sooner and uses that risk to develop personalized health programs for prevention.



Written by Michelle Katz Segal

Michelle is the Director of SPRIM US and acts as the executive leader across the health marketing, strategy & innovation, and regulatory practice areas. Prior to joining, Michelle worked in management consulting firms where she focused on market research, strategy and organizational development. During Michelle’s tenure at SPRIM, she has covered a range of global projects leveraging her MBA and management consulting experience to assist clients with opportunity identification, breakthrough innovation, new paths to market, and health care professional communication programs.