The Customer Experience: Patient Support and Engagement

Posted by Juhi Patel from Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide on January 9, 2017


We live in an era of many types of health-focused websites, spanning from pharma-related to cost support to advocacy. Web-based communities allow patients to communicate with one another with the convenience of a quick Google search. Consequently, patients are no longer subject to lengthy cycles of doctor’s visits.


In fact, the average medical consumer is looking for and increasingly taking advice outside of the doctor’s office.1 Digitally enabled patients have the ability to learn more about their condition, self-monitor, and test via wearable technology and personal devices. They can also inform other patients of their findings and experiences. For example, self-testing blood glucose levels allows diabetes patients to take control of their health and observe how well their treatment plan is working. Given the changing landscape of disease approach, opportunity exists for pharmaceutical companies and marketers to reach patients through direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing, including patient support programs.

Physicians have the ultimate authority in prescription writing in the United States. As a result, numerous campaigns continue to target health care providers (HCPs). Another method to make disease states, drugs, and treatment options top-of-mind for physicians is using their patients. Many patient support programs primarily function to enroll new patients by driving conversion through an initial prescription. The National Institute for Healthcare Improvement says one of the recommendations “to reduce medication errors and harm is to use the ‘five rights’: the right patient, the right drug, the right dose, the right route, and the right time.”2 When marketing a drug or treatment option, the goal is to maximize demand. But optimizing demand generation for the right patient proves more effective in the long run. Purpose-driven marketing via patient engagement is central to value-based care, which incentivizes patient outcomes.


The holistic patient experience influences patient outcomes. Hence, access is key. A multi-touch approach is crucial to ensure patients have access to the right tools and assistance when needed. Diagnosis, testing, and treatment for terminal or rare illnesses are time-consuming for providers and consumers—especially given spaces like an emergency room or distances traveled for specialty appointments. An integrated support network—ranging from dealing with the high costs of sustained treatment, to medication instruction, to starting a conversation with a doctor—can alleviate patient frustrations.

The access to such a network is particularly crucial for idiopathic conditions where the cause is unknown, inevitably leading to many patient questions and concerns. Support programs can include offering educational materials, tips, and advice surrounding patient symptoms and disease state. These resources are a route to encourage patients to discuss the topic with their HCPs, and manage the dialogue by perhaps requesting a particular drug or therapy, or driving efficient conversation around specific concerns.


Quantifying the “patient experience,” or even the patient outcomes, is where the difficulty lies. Promoting patient engagement by encouraging patients to leave feedback on their support network experience creates patient-generated health data. Patient support programs can result in patient-generated data in the form of survey results, engagement with program tactics (such as email or a website), and prescription fills. 

Patient feedback from an operational standpoint, (such as what channels felt most valuable to their treatment experience) or personal perspective (such as likeliness to recommend the drug) allow brands to measure overall program performance. By integrating this information, analytics can paint a picture of how potential and current patients are likely to continue treatment, how profitable the program is, and what optimizations can be made to increase engagement. Driving patient-centered enhancements within the care process through patient-generated data in itself is a method to drive behavior change within the healthcare field by using patients to reach HCPs.


As the National Quality Forum said recently, “Raw data alone cannot lead to systematic improvement, it has to be turned into meaningful information.”3