If you build it, will they come? Seven Steps To Driving Enrollment in Next-Generation Patient Support Programs

02.17.23   |  

Originally published at Pharmaceutical Commerce

Leading brand and commercial organizations are making significant investments in building next generation patient support programs. These programs integrate modern digital, data and behavior science techniques to differentiate brands in a competitive environment, while improving adherence and supporting patient outcomes. But, too often, these programs struggle to realize their promise because of underwhelming enrollment.

Potential solutions to the enrollment challenge are influenced by many factors, including therapeutic area, lifecycle stage, competitive outlook, country-specific market constraints, and corporate culture. Whilst no silver bullet exists, our experience has inspired us to define 7 critical success factors for driving enrollment in next generation PSPs.


The 7 Critical Success Factors for Driving Enrollment in Next Generation PSPs

1. PSPs must deliver compelling value and address a real unmet need

HCPs only recommend PSPs if they see clear potential for it to make positive, tangible differences to the way they care for patients, and the way patients care for themselves. The same goes for patients. Unless PSPs help them improve the way they live with their condition, they are unlikely to enroll or stay engaged.  Too often, assumptions are made about unmet need and little regard is given to options currently available to address the issue.

PSP teams should consider two questions: ‘Is this a burning need that, without addressing, the patient will have limited success with therapy?’, and ‘Is there any existing support that our PSP would be competing against?’ Recognize that your competition includes drug companies as well as other content and service providers.

In-depth research will help you to understand the scope and shape of the problem faced by individuals, be they the patient, carer, nurse provider or consulting physician. It makes no sense to create a PSP for a problem or inconvenience that does not exist, or one for which a solution is readily available.

Action: Run co-planning sessions with patients and providers and perform competitive analysis.

2. Integrate PSP messaging into brand strategy, value messaging and communications

Pharma teams put significant effort and spend into brand strategy, value message development, marketing, and communications focused on the product launch, but similar attention is not paid to PSP messaging. If PSPs aren’t prominently factored in as part of strategic launch planning, companies are missing a golden opportunity. PSPs should be an integral part of the messaging architecture and align with value messages.

PSPs should be prominent in the creative assets and communications materials at launch or shortly thereafter to help HCPs and patients appreciate the benefits of a new therapy and the accompanying support being offered.

Action: Create a comprehensive enrollment strategy prior to launch

3. Target the right audiences with a combination of face-to-face and non-personal

Understand who, besides the physician, has responsibility for supporting patients. Promotion of any PSP should factor in communication with the wider clinical team, including nurses, nurse educators and pharmacists. 

Sales reps often don’t have the time to integrate PSP messaging into a sales call. So,  consider having small teams of virtual reps whose sole focus is reaching out to the wider clinic to talk about patient support. Focusing on the staff that directly engage with patients is important and can be done affordably. Depending on the number of clinics and the therapy area, one person per market can be sufficient, and will make a big difference to patient enrollment. 

While face-to-face engagement is the anchor of successful enrollment, don’t assume conversations alone will draw in and maintain patients on your PSP. Ensure influential members of care teams have the right materials and opportunities to actively engage the patient with your PSP. To raise and maintain awareness of PSPs, consider a mix of peer-to-peer educational events, KOL speakers, testimonials, webinars, and rep-generated emails. Finally, don’t assume a digital-only approach will work, as digital channels struggle to drive enrollment unless they form a part of a more integrated channel mix.

Action: Create a targeting and omni-channel enrollment plan for each PSP.

4. Simple enrollment at the point of care (PoC) creates sticky engagement

Enrolling patients at the PoC makes practical sense. This is a time when clinical teams can give influential endorsement and spend time answering any questions. Make sure all areas of the PSP are well covered, but not too onerously described, since patients forget much of what is discussed in a clinic. Providing scripted guidance, information leaflets, brochures and support materials that allow care teams to readily share the benefits of the PSPs helps secure initial patient enrollment and longer-term engagement. Reinforcing the ‘what’s in it for me?’ in follow-up materials and ongoing care team discussions keeps patients engaged.

To make the process of onboarding seamless and effective, consider innovative approaches to transactional confirmation with sign-up at clinics. Alternatively, QR codes on support materials or sample products allow people to connect directly to information on their phone and quickly fill in any required forms.  Having patients complete tasks at home, supported by reminders from the clinic and online guidance reassures the patient and extends the engagement beyond the clinic. Making the process as simple as booking a table at a restaurant or buying goods online can be the difference between patients signing up or not.

Action: Map the enrollment flows and patient experience.

5. Co-create and partner with patient influencers and advocacy groups

Many patients look to national and international patient advocacy groups for information and guidance on managing their disease/condition. These groups have access to very specific, and sometimes niche populations. They understand the lived experiences of these populations.  Genuine and compelling value can be revealed through direct engagement with patient organizations, either as part of the development of a PSP or through the co-creation of one. Shared ownership of PSPs can solve enrollment issues, as the endorsements of patient advocacy groups creates awareness and credibility with patient groups. If you are looking to run a PSP in a particularly rare or difficult-to-reach population, consider running webinars and/or providing simple brochures or tools to the relevant patient organizations. Similarly, patient online influencers can play an important role in creating patient awareness of PSPs.

Action: Research patient advocacy and influencer partnerships.

6. Monitoring helps drive the evolution of PSPs

To demonstrate that your PSP is delivering value, whether to support resource investment or to showcase your PSP to external customers, you will need to build in processes that allow you to assess and measure the success of the program rigorously and continuously. Such monitoring helps to support decisions concerning the PSP by providing insight into how many people were made aware of the program, how many were trained on it, how many received materials, what proportion of patients were offered the program and consequently signed-up. It also lets you see the percentage of patients that may have fallen out and then explore ways to recapture the attention of these audiences.

In some instances, especially if you have little experience of running PSPs, it might help to run a pilot program to identify unforeseen blockers, determine enrollment drivers, understand how scaling works, and clarify operational efficiencies.

Action: Develop a measurement plan for each PSP.

7. Curiosity, innovation and cross-functional collaboration in the internal culture creates favorable conditions for successful PSPs

Next-generation PSPs can be unfamiliar territory for many organizations, which may result in watered down programs. Innovative PSPs are best realized when teams are aligned with cross-functionally, and with a genuine curiosity to analyze the data and solve problems together. Cross-collaboration takes many forms, depending on the company, but there are a few areas we believe help deliver impactful PSPs, and these revolve around having clear research/customer engagement guidelines that generate favorable co-creation of PSPs with customers. First, ensure that there is a global infrastructure that promotes transparency and efficient knowledge-sharing between PSP teams and affiliates. Second, modernize guidelines and policies for risk assessment that acknowledge the vital role of PSPs. And lastly, explore building a natural ecosystem where PSPs are embedded into a platform-based approach. An initial unbranded offering allows outreach to the public followed by in-platform deployment of content that leads to patient conversations with doctors.

Action: Define internal barriers and plans to mitigate.


Frequently, PSPs are seen as a marketing tactic rather than as “products” requiring careful planning, promotion, and maintenance. When brand teams and commercial organizations have a limited view of PSPs, it often shows up in the limited enrollment and usage the program generates. The seven critical success factors articulated in this article can help you avoid this fate and deliver a program that brings real, differentiated value to patients and providers, which can be seen in enrollment.

It can be difficult to skillfully incorporate these critical success factors as they frequently require significant change in mindset and business practices.  Seeking the help of those with extensive experience with PSPs can help you along your journey.



Gregg Fisher, Managing Partner, The Stem – gfisher@thestem.com, The Stem

Gregg Fisher is Managing Partner of The Stem, a global management consulting firm specializing in customer engagement and digital transformation in Life Sciences. The Stem’s unique networked consulting model draws on the industry’s most seasoned independent talent offering clients a nimble, cost-effective, and refreshing alternative to traditional consultancies. The Stem provides specialized expertise in customer engagement insight, strategy and analytics, digital transformation and excellence, program management, and impact measurement.


Category: Digital Transformation, eMedical Affairs, Featured blog post, Patient Engagement & Support

Tags: digital transformation, medical affairs, medical affairs teams, pateint engagement

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