Winning the patient loyalty battle holds big payoffs

June 6, 2005

Numerous market obstacles hinder the quest for patient loyalty and compliance. But those manufacturers and pharmacies that manage to win their patients' loyalty stand to gain considerably from their efforts.

Numerous market obstacles hinder the quest for patient loyalty and compliance. But those manufacturers and pharmacies that manage to win their patients' loyalty stand to gain considerably from their efforts.

That was the message delivered to more than 40 industry professionals at Dendrite International's second Thought Leadership Conference, which focused on patient brand loyalty. The conference was held recently in Bedminster, N.J. Participants discussed strategies on leveraging patient loyalty and intervention programs to maximize prescription value and return on pharmaceutical brands.

"It's not about riding the wave of the blockbuster drug anymore," said David W. Coman, VP of global marketing at Dendrite, in his opening remarks. "It's really about maximizing the drugs that you have and getting the most out of each one you have to offer."

Steele explained that while his organization is not always visible, by partnering with Dendrite and others, it can deliver these pharmacy-based programs through its member companies.

In fact, said Art Taft, managing director, MedWorks Consulting LLC, drug adherence is a "billion-dollar opportunity." It is the combination of compliance and persistence. The best medicine in the world may not help the patient if it is not used correctly, he noted.

Taft spoke about manufacturers' "leaking bucket," and how adherence programs can plug the leaks. He noted that patient use of a product averages less than 120 days, with about a third of all scripts that are written never being filled. This costs the healthcare system in the United States approximately $100 billion annually.

According to Taft, adherence is not a product issue. Instead, it is a behavioral issue that properly structured adherence programs can help overcome. Increasing patient adherence, he argued, is critical to grow revenue. "There's a real opportunity to educate patients using these kinds of programs," he stressed. "Pharmacy adherence programs are a very logical extension of the pharmacy relationship. The pharmacist's role is well established in providing counsel to patients on using medications. So there's a tremendous opportunity to recognize that role in helping achieve better compliance."

A key factor in the resurgence of compliance is technology adoption, according to Liz Boehm, senior analyst, healthcare and life sciences, at Forrester Research. As personal technology adoption grows, new and cost-effective ways of reaching patients expand.

"The difference is that there are new means for influencing patient behavior, and that is due largely to the proliferation of new communication platforms," Boehm told the audience. She cited three critical questions for compliance planning. First, how much is it worth to increase compliance? Second, how easily can the patient be reached? And finally, how easily can the patient's behavior be influenced?

Mass marketing's inefficiency can't survive in tough economic and regulatory times, Boehm concluded, but loyalty marketing brings new disciplines to consumer marketing teams. While these compliance programs may be more difficult to implement than general awareness programs, the payoff is greater in the long run. "Companies are finding success where they integrate loyalty and compliance interventions with mass marketing," she said.

Boehm also noted that companies are looking closely at the influence nurse practitioners and nonphysicians have on patients filling Rxs and positioning future programs accordingly.

Building customer trust among the more-educated consumers who have more influence over products is key to patient loyalty, according to Christian Neckermann, partner, and Tom Lacki, Ph.D., principal knowledge management, Peppers & Rogers Group, who explained why patient loyalty matters and what can be done to strengthen that relationship.