Your Job’s Not Done When the Doc Writes the Script

Dear House Rules,

I recently had a meeting with one of our agency’s major clients, who said, “No matter how good the marketing material you give us is, no matter how much more often it gets the docs to prescribe our product, it doesn’t matter at all if the prescription doesn’t get filled or refilled. Our adherence numbers are killing us, and I don’t know what to do.” How I can I help our clients reach beyond the clinician’s office and address the complex issue of medication compliance? I’d love to be able to offer a marketing-based solution.

Want patients to stick with it

Dear Stick With It:

Your client isn’t the only one facing a drop-off in their bottom-line sales numbers caused by the patient adherence problem. As with any problem, it’s vital that you understand the reasons behind it before investigating or proposing a marketing-based fix. Learn all you can about the reasons patients may have for not sticking to the medication regimen prescribed by their doctors. The most common predictors of non-adherence have been found to be:

•Expressed concern over the cost of medicines – often, patients simply struggle to pay for their medicines due to insurance problems or other financial issues. This is a major cause of non-adherence to prescribed therapy, and should act as a major red flag to the physician

•Limited English language proficiency or low literacy – if patients speak English as a second language or use language that indicates a limited educational background, they may not be able to verbalize their questions or concerns about their medication regimen, and may find it easier to simply “agree” with the doctor and then not follow through

•Mental health issues like depression or anxiety – these patients may experience low motivation to act on (or even try to fully understand) their medical condition, and feel even less motivated to have their prescriptions filled or take them as instructed

•Skepticism about the benefits of treatment or a belief that medicines are unnecessary or harmful – religion-based superstition, long-held “family tradition” of self-treatment, a particularly lurid episode of a less-than-reputable “medical” show – all are causes of the patient skepticism that can lead to non-adherence

•Concern about side effects – patients may worry about the adverse events associated with the medicines prescribed, but not bring these concerns to their doctors’. They may not know how to express their fears, or they may assume the doctor has no time to address them – so they wind up relying on the anecdotal stories from friends or relatives about that one-in-a-million case they heard from their cousin’s best friend’s brother-in-law’s sister’s co-worker

Fortunately, there are many marketing strategies and tactics you can suggest to your clients to combat this problem. Not only can these items strengthen your relationship with your client – they can also generate additional revenue for your agency:

•Leverage the pharmacy – While time-crunched physicians can often spend only minutes (if that) discussing medications with their patients, pharmacists often spend more. After all, medicine – its effects, side effects, how long it takes before it “kicks in,” whether it should be taken with or without food – is their entire job, while it constitutes just a portion of what physicians do. Recommendation: A piece aimed at pharmacists only, advising them to emphasize the importance of compliance to patients (and perhaps even suggesting inexpensive compliance tools such as pillboxes sold right at the pharmacy)

•Identify and Assist with Financial Issues – Inability to pay for medicines is a prime factor in patient nonadherence. If high cost, specialty medications are made more affordable, especially for patients suffering from chronic illness and infectious diseases, those patients will be more likely to comply with their prescribed regimens. If patients have enrolled in high-deductible insurance plans, they can be overwhelmed by the costs of copays for their medicines, causing them to choose between treatments or, worse, go without treatment entirely. Recommendation: Produce a pocket-sized guide for the physician with information pertaining to copay assistance for your client’s specific drug. The physicians will be glad to know there’s a better chance of their patient adhering to the prescribed therapy, and the patient will be glad to know there’s financial help available

•Help the Doctor Communicate – How many times have you gone to see your physician and nodded knowingly while they discuss information about your condition and its treatment that you don’t even understand so as not to appear “stupid?” Clinicians are knowledgeable about many complex and difficult subjects in the healthcare realm, but often, it’s difficult for them to impart that knowledge to the ones who need it most: their patients. Recommendation: Give physicians a simple “Communication Guide” to remind them that how they talk to their patients is as important as what they know about a given condition or therapy. Remind them to allow patients to speak freely (research has shown that patients will usually only talk for 2 minutes or so), use plain language, and ask for patients’ input when making decisions. These small gestures can go a long way to increasing patient adherence rates.

At Xavier Creative House, we’ve developed each of these types of communications – plus many more – for our clients. We’d love to share our expertise in this area with you. Don’t hesitate to contact us via our website, social media, or even a phone call any time!


House Rules

1. https://millionhearts.hhs.gov/files/TipSheet_HCP_MedAdherence.pdf. Accessed February 5, 2018. 2. http://managedhealthcareexecutive.modernmedicine.com/managed-healthcare-executive/news/five-ways-improve-patient-medication-adherence. Accessed February 5, 2018.

About Xavier Creative House

Founded in 2013, Xavier Creative House (XCH) is an award-winning healthcare creative agency specializing in pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device. XCH’s global team of brand builders and healthcare marketers, tech-savvy go-getters, and innovative dream-vetters are passionate about the big idea that changes behavior in the healthcare marketplace. They believe life is about connections and that healthcare is about life. That is why XCH delivers bold and evocative creative solutions, amplified by meaningful technology, to energize brands and authentically connect with patients and HCPs.

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Sunny White
Founder & CEO of Xavier Creative House