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Beyond the Prescription Pad: Empowering Patients with Knowledge

July 20, 2016 by Linda Ruschau0

July2016-RuschauArtworkOne of the first health lessons many of us ever heard was that famous rhyme our mothers used to recite frequently: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. With all due respect to mothers everywhere, while apples are a perfectly good source of nutrition and have many benefits, unfortunately we know that simply eating one every day is not enough to keep us in perfect health.

However, if you’ll indulge me for just a minute, let’s pretend that apples really could keep the doctor away. Sadly, here’s what we know would happen:

  • Roughly one-third of people who are supposed to eat an apple a day wouldn’t even go to the grocery store to buy a bag[1]
  • 75% wouldn’t eat an apple all seven days of the week, but they’d definitely try their best to eat an apple at least four or five times per week[2]
  • More than 70% of those struggling with depression would start eating apples every day, but would no longer be eating them after six months[3]
  • The grocery industry would be spending hundreds of billions of dollars per year trying to figure out why nobody wants to eat their apples[4]

Unfortunately, as we all know, we’re not talking about apples. This is the reality of the pharmaceutical world, as study after study has shown that patient adherence and compliance are two of the biggest challenges facing the industry.

You can write this off as human nature if you want. After all, people are notoriously bad at taking orders and following directions. But what if the problem isn’t that patients don’t know what they are supposed to be doing, but rather, they simply don’t understand why they should be doing it?

As a brand marketer, there’s a huge opportunity for you to go beyond the prescription pad to give patients what they want most: knowledge.

By incorporating key messages in education materials placed in the offices and exam rooms where they receive this prescription, you can go beyond simply telling the patient what they should be doing. Rather, you are showing them why they should be doing it and empower them to ask questions that truly make a difference in their health journey.

What are those questions? Here are a few to get you started (using our “apple a day” example):

  • What do I need to know about this disease/condition?
  • Why is an apple a day the right treatment option for me?
  • How is the apple a day going to improve my disease/condition?
  • Do I want a red, green, or golden apple?
  • Are there any side effects to eating an apple a day?
  • In addition to the apple per day, what are other treatment options or things I should be doing to manage this disease/condition?

And it’s not just patients who find this information helpful. As Debra Miller, M.D., from the Mapleton Medical Center in Indiana told PatientPoint, “Staff and patients really love [your] brochures because it’s easy to get the information they need. Often, I walk into the exam room and the patient has already taken a brochure and has questions ready for me.”

By planting the seeds of knowledge before the script is ever written, you encourage a meaningful conversation between patients, staff and physicians about the disease and medication options. And while telling someone to eat an apple a day may result in temporary success, showing them why it’s an effective option can produce much more fruitful results.




[1] http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1852865

[2] http://www.talkaboutrx.org/documents/enhancing_prescription_medicine_adherence.pdf

[3] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/818850

[4] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/818850


Linda Ruschau

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