Patient Support Programs: Driving Implementation with Third Parties

(Part 6/8)


Most patient support programs (PSPs) will engage one or more vendors, either in the set up or roll out phases, many times both. The critical thing to remember is that this third party company will represent your brand, your service and your product(s) in the market. They will have the privilege and the responsibility of interacting with patients on your behalf. No surprise then that bringing on board the right vendors is important, albeit a complicated process.

Here are some discussion points to keep in mind as you decide which companies to partner with.

  1. Patient/consumer experience: Patient support is a relatively new field. It’s grown considerably in the last five years, but remains largely fragmented and any regulations for PSPs are brand new or in development. This places the responsibility of executing a compliant and effective program on you, the creator, and the vendors who implement the project. When evaluating vendors for any task (value messaging, CRM systems, collateral), request samples of previous work done for patients and/or direct-to-consumer deliverables for clients in other industries. IfEmpa home care, nursing support and a call center are part of your program, it’s important to know if the staff have relevant and specialized trainings, soft skills and patient communication capabilities.

2. CRM capabilities: I recently had a discussion with a biotech professional looking to create a region-wide PSP for a chronic disease. We were wondering what the best CRM approach is for these projects; building a system from scratch or adapting an existing system. The truth is, it’s going to depend on the scope of the program and the key performance indicators. E.g., for a diabetes program that requires home visits and personalized education for patients, a CRM should be flexible enough to capture open-ended discussion with patients along with metrics such as body weight and blood sugar. For a program that is more unidirectional, such as a smartphone app to push medication reminders and lifestyle support, the CRM doesn’t need as much flexibility. It is important that a vendor has the human and technical resources to ensure that the CRM can be adjusted around the needs of the program.

3. Roles and Responsibilities: It sounds simple. Turns out, it isn’t. Since PSPs are a massively cross-functional undertaking, it’s important to differentiate the core team from other contributors to the project. It is imperative that both, company and vendor, have clear project leads who are the primary points of contact for the duration of the association.

It’s also important to note that hiring a vendor doesn’t mean that you’ve outsourced the program. This is a mistake.

The vendor is responsible for the day-to-day operations in the field. You are responsible for the vendor being able to drive a program that meets you team goals. Have your PSP manager lead the process at each stage, from CRM set up to staff hiring to writing phone scripts. Be involved and contribute actively. It’s got to be a combination of your vision and the vendor’s capabilities.

4. Due Diligence: A vendor who wants to partner with your organization in an ethical and efficient way will not only answer any questions you have, the team will welcome you to see their organization and set up. Especially since PSP vendors include home health services, call centers and educators, it’s imperative to conduct site visits, spend time with employees and understand their workflow. Evaluate no less than 5 vendors for each intervention required by the program and conduct site visits with the best 3. I find that during proposal discussions, the vendors who have included ideas specifically for your PSP are more vested in the long run, versus those who run through the standard offerings presentation and little else. Ask all the questions necessary for your organization to feel comfortable in partnering with the vendor. It will be a long-lasting alliance and a costly one at that. Best to be aware and make an educated decision.

5. Long-term vision: I’ve tried to work with vendors who are genuinely vested in the patient support space. A design agency with doctors who work on value messaging and a commercial team focused on consumer/patient projects is more likely to create high impact collateral than an agency for whom a PSP is an ad hoc project. The same applies for tech, home health and education providers. Third party senior management are usually the best to discuss long-term vision with, and since they will be the ones negotiating the contract with you, it pays to start with a high-level discussion on where they see themselves in the patient support space, and how this program fits into their strategy. The program should to mean more to them than a revenue bump.

PSPs are living, breathing projects that demand flexibility and resourcefulness from their teams. This is a steep learning curve towards taking better care of patients, but the rewards are well worth it. As in life, the people you surround yourself with on this journey will determine its outcome. Choose wisely.

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

Next week I will talk about launch plans and how to ensure that your patient support program enjoys the best possible start.

If you have thoughts or questions, reach out to me at surbhi.puri@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

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