Issues in DTC: New Approaches to Patient Compliance

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

Patient compliance continues to be a major threat to healthcare, and a big concern for the pharmaceutical industry. Non-compliance has been proven to negatively impact both medical outcomes and the U.S. economy. As we continue to explore digital solutions to encourage people to adhere to their medications, Medical Bill Dog’s Dennis Grace argues that the first step may be an attitude change:

I recently received a message from the Center for Connected Health that asked: “How do you solve the puzzle of patient compliance?” I responded to the gentleman who sent the invitation with: ‘Well, you might start by calling it something less offensive. Patient compliance? The phrase assumes ‘patient’ as direct object rather than subject of participatory medicine. We are all patients. We are not comfortable in the third person. We dont want to be compliant. We want to be connected, educated, empowered participants.”

These are some pretty powerful words that address a chronic problem in the healthcare industry. When it comes to compliance, there seems to be a dissonance between our desire to empower the patient and our desire to market our drugs. According to Dennis’ blog post, it sounds a bit like we’re trying to blame the patient – and I completely agree.

While it may take some time to change the widely-used rhetoric, we can let our actions speak louder than our words. First, let’s attempt to deconstruct the idea of “patient compliance.” Compliance does not just refer to the medicines that a patient takes – it refers to the health regimes, diets, and other medically-prescribed apparatus & instructions that are assigned to the patient by his/her doctor. Again, let’s go back to our friend Dennis Grace, who asks: “Were the instructions clear and complete? Did they explain the rationale or just provide marching orders?”

That’s where we have to take responsibility. What are we doing to facilitate two-way communication between patients and doctors? Emphasizing patient individuality is key here. The doctor needs to understand the specific circumstances of the patient’s lifestyle and environment, and the patient needs to know that this information is being used effectively to personalize their treatment. The University of Oregon’s Institute for Policy and Research Innovation developed a self-assessment survey called PAM that assigns a score to each patient. This score is sent directly to the physician to help them make tailored decisions when deciding treatment options.

“If they’re low activated, they may feel overwhelmed and discouraged because they’ve had a lot of experience with failure in trying to manage their health,” explains Professor Judith Hibbard, “So the physician knows that instead of giving them a list of 17 things, they should start small. Give [patients] permission to focus on one thing first, so you build their confidence and set them up for success.”

Another factor to consider is that not all patients are e-patients. Some of our consumers do not know the right questions to ask, or are aware of the need for increased dialogue with their doctors. Empowering the non-e-patient is also our responsibility. Without the right information, it’s easy for a patient to become disappointed by the lack of results from their health care regimen, and lose faith in the medical system. Fortunately, mobile applications like Epocrates is not only popular among doctors, but among patients as well. Epocrates works because it’s a simple way for patients to get vital information when and where they want it. Clarity and convenience equal an effective application. Back in December, we pointed out how the Google Body Browser improves patient literacy, by making learning about medical procedures and drug effects both easy and fun.

Patient compliance, along with other major issues in DTC Marketing, will be a much talked-about topic at this year’s DTC National Conference. Each year, the DTC National Conference draws hundreds of industry experts, leading pharma marketers, market researchers and politicos to converge their insights on the latest innovations in DTC Marketing.

Over 3 days, attendees will benefit from case studies, new market research, media & marketing gurus and networking opportunities. The DTC National will give you the latest tools and innovations essential to creating best-in-class DTC marketing campaigns with improved ROI. And since a DTC Marketer’s job is about more than just the bottom line, the DTC National will also give you insights into using DTC marketing to improve patient health outcomes.

Last year, Pixels & Pills had some of our most memorable interviews right form the floor of DTC 2010. We talked to Governor Howard Dean and actor Joe Pantoliano. We talked about the Flomax campaign with Rich Baron and healthcare reform with Jim Davidson. And we made new friends, like Epsilon’s Mark Miller, Roska Digital’s Kurt Mueller, and ContextMedia’s Rishi Shah.

This year, we’re looking forward to another blockbuster lineup, and the same high-quality educational programming that we’ve come to expect from the folks at DTC Perspectives. Here’s the low-down on this year’s conference:

Date: Wednesday, April 6-Friday, April 8
Location: Marriott Copley Place, Boston, MA

What’s more, this year’s Gold Pass is better than ever – Gold Pass holders get an Kindle Wi-Fi Edition with access to the Conference Materials in the form of two Kindle book credits. Special terms and conditions apply.

We’re excited to see you there – you’re welcome to swing by the Pixels & Pills set and lend us your thoughts on the future of digital DTC!



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