Patient Support Programs: Measuring Success

(Part 8/8)

As 2017 edges towards completion, many of us look back at the past year to see how we have fared. It is natural, healthy even, to inspect our personal growth, to marvel at how we have seized opportunities and transformed challenges into solutions.

And so it is with patient support programs (PSPs).

Once your program is up and running in the real world, empowering patients and relieving over-burdened HCPs, once the passage of time has allowed the program to cement itself into clinics and hospitals, it is time to measure program performance. The obvious metrics of patient uptake, retention, intervention usage and follow-up surveys to measure long term adherence of treatment/lifestyle changes are valuable to demonstrate the impact of you PSP.

However, there is a gold mine of additional insights you can glean from patient engagement. Given the resources and investment that a PSP demands, you’d do well to dedicate time and set up a framework that extracts additional information that can drive your business forward and differentiate your organization from the competition.

Measuring success then comes down to two fundamental questions.

Why did we create this PSP?

A Patient-Driven Concept and The Patient Journey provide a PSP with a set of goals, a clear directive. Measurements should stem directly from these goals.

If your program is to improve adherence to medicine by newly diagnosed patients of a certain chronic disease, then your CRM must capture this information and the the educator nurse should be trained to input these metrics. Eventually you should be able to see average length of therapy across demographics, new vs. returning patients, preference and usage of various interventions and match patient volumes with refill data trends. Long-term adherence can be easily measured through monthly check-ins with patients, or even quarterly follow up for patients who have completed the program.

If your program is centered around improved product usage, then use scaled measures for nurses to record a patient’s understanding and ability to self-administer the medication after each education session. The goal is to change behaviors. A simple approach is to compare patient capabilities at the beginning and end of the program. These measures will demonstrate if the PSP has met (and hopefully exceeded) your initial expectations.

What do we not know about patients on our product/service?

You design a PSP to help and support patients. But do you realize how helpful a PSP can be to help you understand your market better? This is your opportunity to capture insights and information that, despite well-intentioned efforts, advisory boards and key opinion leader (KOL) interviews do not provide.

My love for open-ended questions and comment boxes is continually validated by the varied nuggets of absolute gold that nurses collect from conversations with patients.

Now, to be completely clear, this feedback is always anonymized and devoid of any identifiable information. The thoughts of individual patients reflect the thoughts of many of their peers. Once I was working on a program, and at the end of the 3 month pilot we learnt that a certain subgroup of older, less tech-savvy patients felt the need for more human interaction than was available in the existing default program structure. In many of the open-comment field reports we saw requests for more guided education calls and visits.

In contrast, a younger, professional patient group requested fewer calls, but appreciated the SMS medication reminder service and the travel friendly medication kit. We adjusted the program. Now, at the point of enrollment patients who fit into either subgroup would have their needs met accordingly. Not only did we improve the quality of the PSP experience, but we reallocated our resources to achieve greater impact.

Measuring PSP performance and iterative improvements are fantastic. For maximum benefit, you need to communicate these achievements with the stakeholders engaged in the PSP. Here is some guidance on the “what” and “why” of these PSP updates.

  1. Share monthly metrics with participating HCPs: Alright, this is a no brainer. HCPs send patients to your PSP. You owe them regular updates. In addition to program performance metrics, it is useful to show HCPs how many patients they enroll in the program vs. the average HCP. No need to provide names, just a benchmark. PSP completion rates, patient experience ratings and patient behavior metrics are also a great way for HCPs to understand how patients navigate their healthcare beyond hospital walls. It is a new viewpoint whereby healthcare teams better understand the world that their patients live in and their daily challenges. Tweaking a treatment plan could make all the difference and improve health outcomes.

2. Follow up with patients who contribute new ideas or actionable feedback: It is a pleasure to speak with patients who are actively engaged on the PSP. They provide insights into what can be done better and also share ideas for new ways to interact and create a stronger, better communities. I personally feel that patient peer group discussion is a fantastic way to share the overall performance of the PSP with its participants. In some countries, where the law allows, patients who successfully complete PSPs and are managing their health well are appointed as patient advocates and conduct education and outreach sessions with other, newly diagnosed patients. This is how PSPs tangibly change disease management, one patient at a time.

3. Communicate success reports with authorities and payers: If you have launched a PSP in partnership with or with the endorsement of local health authorities, you’ll likely have to provide reports of the project’s progress. Use this as an opportunity to showcase the success of this PSP and gain buy-in for support and collaboration on other patient-centric initiatives.

In this age of health goals being set by governments to reduce diabetes by x% by 2020 and to improve access to breast cancer screenings by y% in the next decade, PSP efforts are not only highly valuable as a means to these ends, but also a way to learn about unmet patient needs that are unanimously considered to pave the future of our industry.

Similarly, for payers, you can use PSP success during negotiations, providing assurance that if a patient is using a particular set of products, they will be given access to a PSP and provided with tools that have a demonstrated success record of adherence. In the long term, PSPs can and will improve self-management, control disease progression and keep healthcare costs down. #holygrailofpatientcare

A good PSP’s work is never done. There are always new patients to on-board, existing patients to support and graduated patients who require ongoing assistance, or have new health issues.

If your PSP is performing well and garnering excellent feedback, then, once you are done celebrating with your team, it is time to think about how you can go further, how you can widen your reach and provide more patients with solutions and access to additional healthcare products and services.

I often find that going 10X on a successful project isn’t a matter of embracing complicated concepts, but of being human, of getting in touch with your consumer, and of observing the essentials required to sustain and enjoy life.

May 2018 bring success to our patient engagement initiatives. Good luck!

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
Part 7/8: Patient Support Programs: 5 Steps to a Winning Launch

It has been a pleasure to author this series and to engage with many of you in discussions on improving patient care. I look forward to sharing more writing projects in 2018.

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

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