With tight budgets and aggressive brand goals, marketers needs to take a close look at what drives sales for a pharma brand. Why should patient education be a critical part of the marketing mix? Here are 5 key reasons.
- It is valuable to healthcare professionals (HCPs)-Aside from samples, patient education is one of the resources most requested by HCPs from pharma sales representatives. The fact that the American Academy of Family Practioners (AAFP) has an entire section on their Web site featuring patient handouts, counseling tools, and other resources, illustrates there is a need. Also according to research conducted in late 2011 by HealthEd OnDemand, HCPs -- specifically 99% of dietitians -- consider educational materials to be important or essential. In short, having patient materials provides sales representative access to HCPs.
- It drives adherence -When patients’ expectations for treatment are set up front, they are more likely to remain committed. Patients need to understand the importance of taking their medications, what the benefits will be and how quickly the benefits will come. Sometimes they can’t tell if a treatment is working. Or their treatment may not work right away. They need to know what to expect.
- It helps patients effectively manage side effects– This is tied to adherence but I feel the need to call it out separately. Setting patients understanding of side effects is much more than placing safety information on materials. Side effects are one of the top reasons for patient drop off for most medications; however, if patients truly understand what to expect upfront and are prepared with how to manage, then the likelihood of drop off decreases. The phone calls to their HCP’s office also decrease which I’m sure physicians and healthcare extenders appreciate. Patient complaints about side effects can be a huge barrier to physician prescribing so focusing on the patient can have a halo effect on prescribing.
- It provides accurate and understandable information-My parents’ generation still takes a physician’s recommendation at face value, doesn’t question things and doesn’t really understand their disease state or their treatments. This is no longer the case with younger generations. The baby boomers spend a lot of time online. In fact, 79% Americans age 50-64 are online. And 80% of adults who are online are looking for health information. So patients are getting information about their health and treatments but it may not be the correct information. Or it may be confusing and not health literate. Developing good patient materials ensures that patients are getting the right message about your brand.
- It improves patient outcomes – This last one may sound altruistic when you’re used to thinking about brand sales; however, with healthcare reform a physician’s compensation will be increasingly based on patient outcomes. There is a link between a well-educated patient and improved health outcomes and helping physicians improve outcomes for their patients will provide the best value pharma can bring to the table. Plus, helping patients is the right thing to do for both personal and professional reasons.
Mary Lou Szekeres
Client Development Manager