Medication adherence is the elephant in the room for much of the life science world. When patients do not adhere to their prescriptions, the damage is pervasive and long-lasting. First, the patients’ health outcomes are poorer. Second, the physicians cannot do their jobs properly. Third, non-adherence costs pharma more than $100 billion annually.

As pharma is slowly branching out into the world of digital, it’s time to give digital adherence initiatives a try. Here are some of the reasons why traditional adherence promotion methods aren’t working, as well as what we can do to improve them.

Traditional adherence promotion is not effective

In the past, physician teams have tried their best to promote adherence using widely accepted methods. These include brochures, pamphlets, posters, cards etc. They are convenient to produce and you can place them in the waiting room for the patients to see and hopefully comply to.

Trouble is, print materials are rather dated and ineffective and many patients simply disregard them completely. Moreover, they’re fairly expensive for all stakeholders in the long run. Additionally, you can only place them within the office or the waiting room – or hope that an occasional patient will bring home a brochure with them.

However, the biggest problem with traditional adherence promotion channels is the inability to track how effective it is. There is no way to track whether a new brochure in the waiting room has an effect on adherence with patients who viewed it.

Many physicians also rely on verbal instructions as primary means of improving adherence. However, this has proven as anything but effective. Research has shown that over 50% of verbal instructions for adherence are forgotten right on the spot. Even if patients do remember something, it’s not very effective, as over 50% of information that is remembered is incorrect.

The message needs to change

When they think of promoting adherence, most physicians envision a brightly colored brochure in their waiting room. As already stated, this channel for conveying a message is anything but convenient. However, it’s not only the channel that needs adjusting to the 21st century.

adherence rates

Pamphlets and brochures are usually filled with overly complex medical jargon that patients struggle to understand. Even with the strongest will to adhere to their prescriptions, they are simply unable to do this if they do not understand the physicians’ messages. In USA alone, 90 million adults have poor health literacy. While this is a sign of a much bigger issue, it means that adherence programs need to adapt their message. The language should be simplified so that it caters to the patient and not the physician. More educated patients can make better and more informed decisions about their health, and everybody wins.

Pharma brands are trying out digital adherence apps

Boehringer Ingelheim recently came up with a digital adherence app called RespiPoints. It’s available as a web app, and more importantly, as a smartphone app. Using RespiPoints, patients can track their daily medication intake as well as report on refilling their prescriptions.

It turns out that the app is quite efficient – in the nine-month pilot prior to rolling out, there was an 85% decrease in gap days between prescription refills. Moreover, each of the pilot participants visited the RespiPoints website almost 5 times per month and spent an average 50 minutes there monthly.

This is just one of the more recent examples of digital engagement tools by pharma companies, but it is a great sign of things to come. As more resources are poured into digital, we hope that more pharma brands recognize the potential of adherence initiatives such as this one.

Why are digital adherence promotion methods more effective?

Without a doubt, digital adherence does work. However, is it really better than ways of the old? Here’s a few reasons why digital beats analogue every time.

    It’s more widespread. The majority of patients nowadays have a smartphone, and it’s easy to reach them using emails, websites and apps.

    It’s cheaper. Once you create a digital asset for promoting adherence, you can promote it across all channels, including email, websites, webinars, on tablets within the office, on TVs in the waiting rooms. Essentially, you can re-use one piece of content across a multitude of channels. On the other hand, print is fairly limited in use.

    Patients are already used to it. The majority of patients are already using channels such as email for their everyday communication, and digital adherence methods can be adapted to them so that patients’ everyday routines aren’t disrupted.

    It’s shorter. One of the biggest issues with printed adherence materials is that they’re usually walls of text. Digital allows the use of a wide range of formats, such as video.

In a world filled with smartphones and tablets, there is very little room for traditional print promotion. Pharma brands looking to boost their adherence rates have to embrace digital in their marketing strategy.

Our solution for digital engagement and improving adherence

If you’re looking for a reliable partner to increase adherence, we’d love to help you out. At BlueNovius, our MedExplainer solution is played every day in hundreds of physicians’ offices across Europe. In just 90 seconds, MedExplainer animated explainer videos allow you to present the disease, diagnosis and course of treatment – all in 90 seconds. Reach out to us today to learn more!

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