Patient Support Programs: 5 Steps to a Winning Launch

(Part 7/8)

At this point in the patient support program (PSP) design process you have created …

a defined set of customized interventions …

rooted in an established patient journey …

based on verified input from HCPs and patients …

with the managerial and financial support of senior leadership …

and an implementation plan secured with reliable and genuinely vested third party vendors.

Congratulations, it is time to launch!

The steps and ideas discussed in previous posts may be resource and time intensive, but launch time is when the stakes are at their highest. The hard work is far from done. How you design and roll out your program will determine it’s future success, or lack thereof. As in the case of products and services across all industries, the launch plan is of preeminent importance. Here are some best practices to ensure a winning beginning to your PSP:

Step 1~ Build a multi-stakeholder launch event: Remember all the awesome research exercises you did when constructing the patient-driven concept and the patient journey? It’s time to return to those external stakeholders with your brand new, evidence-driven PSP. If the program has the endorsement of local health authorities, plan a combined launch event.

Invite patient organizations and HCP societies who participated in the initial brainstorming process. When they see that their ideas and feedback have been incorporated into the program, they are highly likely to trust and support the program.

A launch event doesn’t entirely have to focus on the PSP. Presentations with thought leaders in the patient support space, or a speaker panel with HCPs who champion patient support are great ways to creating community-level conversations around patient health and well being. This in turn reflects well on your program and organization.

Step 2~ Have a focused PR plan in place: I underestimated the power of PR during my initial months in the PSP space. I assumed that if you launch a program in partnership with health authorities and KOLs, the program would gain traction and then uptake would be a matter of good work and word-of-mouth.

There is no substitute for quality patient care and recommendations from patients and their caregivers, but PR plays a critical role in the first month of launch.

As a basic plan, have local newspapers and health magazines present at the launch event. Your PR team can prepare bytes for the media to be shared by select spokespeople who represent the program e.g., head of medical societies, NGO directors, pharmaceutical/biotech CEOs. Have your PR agency secure follow-up pieces so that 6–9 months after launch you can showcase initial results and success of the program, as well as plans for expansion.

Step 3~ Begin with a pilot program: If there is only one learning I would apply to PSPs, it would be to never roll out on all sites in the beginning.

Despite all the research and interviews and mock runs, there is no way to know exactly how a PSP is going to fall into place in the real world. Begin with one site, ideally a well reputed hospital or clinic. Create an understanding with the staff that this initial phase is to understand what is working well and what requires improvement, especially in the patient flow of the program.

A pilot could last anywhere between 1 to 4 months, depending on the complexity of your PSP. During this time the PSP manager should have daily check-ins with vendors and the clinic and conduct weekly discussions with the larger PSP team to share findings and discuss program updates.

This phase will tell you if the nurse can skip certain parts of the Welcome call for certain patients, or if it is better to emphasize device related education in the first session versus the third. The pilot uncovers a wealth of operational tweaks that you could not have foreseen during the planning and design phases, and that you certainly do not want to discover after going live in multiple sites. If nothing else, plan for a pilot phase. You can thank me later.

The pilot phase also provides you with a sense of initial program performance, which brings me to …

Step 4~ Communicate your wins: By the end of the first 3 months your PSP should have some metrics and trends emerging from the CRM system.

Perhaps you expected to enroll 10 patients/HCP/week and after the first week, owing to the superior quality of your program, you achieved 40 patients/HCP/week. Maybe the nurse conducting the program provided you with glowing praise (anonymized, of course) from patients. Or maybe your commercial colleagues spotted a trend of increased product/service usage since the time your PSP hit the ground.

Sharing strong results early in the PSP not only cements your organization’s faith in the program, but will also help you build a case to convince other hospitals and approval bodies and aid program expansion.

Step 5~ Chase momentum: The frenzy of activity surrounding the launch of your PSP will coalesce to create the program’s momentum. Guard it vigilantly. If you lose the momentum in the first year of launch, you’re looking at having an expensive re-launch in the future or scrapping the project altogether, which isn’t an option given the steep and high investment.

The launch plan should, following the pilot phase, have a set calendar for various awareness and press events to communicate the PSP’s impact on the patient community, HCP meetings to discuss program performance and ways to streamline the process even further to make the program more convenient for clinics and hospitals, and internal updates to your organization.

The last point is often overlooked, but while it is important to keep our external stakeholders engaged and active on the program, it is just as important to share our results and reiterate our purpose within our organization. I often find that sustaining momentum is a difficult task, requiring my teams to really amp up our creativity. But it also means that while we’re waiting to demonstrate the program’s ROI, we are able to keep the program alive and thriving. This in turn feeds into future success.

One day you’ll stop by a clinic to conduct a training or to share program updates with HCPs, and you’ll see a line of patients waiting to sign up for your program, or a nurse reassuring and educating a patient while handing over a starter kit, and it will all be worth it. I say it’s the best feeling, the best part of creating a patient support program.

Part 1/8: Patient Support Programs: Introduction
Part 2/8: Patient Support Programs: A Patient-Driven Concept
Part 3/8: Patient Support Programs: The Patient Journey
Part 4/8: Patient Support Programs: Interventions
Part 5/8: Patient Support Programs: Finances
Part 6/8: Patient Support Programs: Driving Implementation with Third Parties

Next week, in our final installment, we discuss the different types of measures to assess the impact and future of a successful patient support program.

If you have thoughts or questions, reach out to me at Thanks for reading!

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