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May 20, 2015

Diabetes. Heart Disease. Obesity. These are three preventable conditions that millions of Americans are living with today. Is misinformation or lack of information the cause? Are they educated but lack motivation to take necessary precautions? Each day people make numerous decisions that have a tremendous impact on their overall health. As health industry marketers, our job is to give them the right information, support, and inspiration to help them make judicious decisions to live healthy lives and prevent chronic conditions, when possible.

According to the CDC, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity are among the top diseases that are the most preventable. “Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputations (other than those caused by injury), and new cases of blindness among adults.” One would think these consequences could provide enough motivation to make healthy choices, yet millions of Americans continue to be diagnosed because they fail to take action. Unfortunately, the number of cases keeps rising year-after-year. Fortunately, we can break the cycle and reverse the trend.

Knowing the facts & their future

The American Academy of Family Physicians stated that patient education and filling prescriptions have about the same impact on health outcomes. Our responsibility is to provide the necessary information patients need to understand the impact of these conditions, steps to prevent them and the difficult future they may experience living with these conditions if precautions are not taken. Empowering patients to act now, by taking steps to wellness, starts with education. Pharmaceutical brand marketers, health content developers, and healthcare providers must work together to create expert disease prevention content. But what is the right time and method to make an impact? The encounter must be highly engaging personal experiences filled with emotion, and distributed through key platforms for easy access by patients.

Support through connections
After educating patients and instilling motivation, the next step is ensuring prolonged commitment to health. This can be accomplished by creating connections between people through online communities and social groups. In a recent Remedy Heath Media study, 7 in 10 people said they were motivated by others to take an action such as eating healthier, exercising regularly, and getting a routine physical. It’s pretty amazing how contagious good health decisions become when surrounded by other like-minded individuals. Plus, there is the opportunity to make new friends who will push you when you need it most.

Through online outlets, health experts such as Amy Hendel (The Health Gal) – physician assistant, nutritionist, and health coach – provide connections for people needing support with their weight-loss, nutrition and fitness goals. These experts give people a sense of belonging and that they are not alone – they have somebody to turn to for trustworthy insights, advice, and guidance – keeping them focused and on track.

Other connections can be made through health and wellness social groups, like the one my wife started last year by connecting with neighbors, exercising together and sharing healthy family eating habits, grocery shopping, fitness tips, and more. Not only did it build a community focused on health and wellness, it created a support system sustaining their commitment. When a member of our wellness group cannot attend meetings the group reaches out and rallies together to ensure they remain engaged. Yes, peer pressure is still alive and well… but for good reason.

Remarkable health heroes spark inspiration

We have found that people become empowered through emotional storytelling. Remedy’s research indicates that among respondents who were highly motivated by emotional storytelling, 90% felt inspired after hearing an emotionally charged personal story.

To spark motivation, sites such as are developing emotional marketing programs including Be Well, Be Brave™, which captures the spirit of being brave by challenging themselves to lead a healthy life. Be Well, Be Brave™ presents emotional personal stories of everyday health heroes, who, despite huge hurdles, made important choices needed to live well. These stories depict the real-life transformations of people taking charge of their health. In turn, they inspire others to take action. The health hero’s story are chronicled in a long-form multi-media experience with video and text infused with expert supporting content – buying guides, diet and fitness plans – providing support, inspiration, and engagement for others to go above and beyond what they thought possible.

Whether it’s connecting online, through a social group, or via emotional storytelling, people need to spark their motivation to live healthier. That motivation comes from being educated, not just about where they are today, but what their future holds if changes aren’t made. Motivation will drive action and ultimately lead to a more healthy life, without the worry of preventable conditions. Remember, today the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, and obesity is climbing year-after-year; but by working together, our mission is to break this cycle, stop the trend, and reverse these growing numbers.

Ryan LeMonier

April 15, 2015

In last month’s edition of the DTC Perspectives’ DTC in Focus newsletter, we discussed patient engagement and provided prescriptive thoughts on maintaining and even increasing patient commitment. This month, we take that thought one-step further (as well as, adhere to this month’s theme) and focus on patient adherence. The discussion includes whether the emphasis of such programs should be on both long and short-term medication adherence particularly in how they are resourced and measured.

A situational review

  • Current support programs typically devote a large amount of time and money ensuring patients initiate therapy. However, these programs never allocate time or funding to safeguard that the patient maintains adherence after that time period.
    • Studies indicate that patients with chronic diseases may not either grasp the severity of their condition; understand the literature they receive about their condition; or require multifaceted efforts to achieve adherence.[1]
    • Current support programs operate in silos. While these programs are typically mapped out strategically, they are not executed in a coordinated fashion.
      • These silos execute patient adherence programs:
        • Ad agency
        • PAP vendor
        • Co-pay card company
        • Reimbursement and benefits investigation vendor
        • Specialty pharmacy
        • Technology companies
        • Consumers, patients, and caregivers often are not satisfied with the content and creative contained in patient adherence programs
          • These targets at some point in the treatment process stop at All find the information initially helpful, but tend to look somewhere else for information because the information they want or need is not in the adherence program.
          • Patient adherence programs today are like an inverted hourglass. The strategy is thin at the top, disparate and expansive in the middle due to the silo construct, and then the program strategy attempts to narrow again. Yet, often this does not occur.
          • While all pharma brands say they have patient adherence programs, the reality is – and I am basing this information on my 20 years of experience – very few deeply engage and build a relationship with the patient; maybe 10% to 15% really execute this well. These programs work because senior leadership is committed to them for the long term, both in human and financial capital. (See last month’s column re: Biogen Idec.)

Operational issues still exist today

Along with the barriers already mentioned to pharma’s delivering quality adherence programs, there are two more barriers, and they are formidable.

First, product managers are no longer brand champions. Their roles now resemble those of purchasing procurement agents who buy a single program; their sole hope is to get noticed by senior leaders.

The second, arguably more significant complication is the FDA, namely its regulations. Companies have allowed their legal and regulatory teams to make business decisions regarding programs that minimize risk in terms of providing the evidence and content that patients and healthcare professionals want. The pejorative natures of today’s drug marketing regulations are designed to educate, not inform. Grant Corbett, a psychologist we have worked with says pharma produces content from the perspective that patients and others affected by disease are not competent to understand the information so brand programs need to “educate them.”[2] He asserts companies should make the opposite assumption and assume the patient, caregiver and consumer understand their condition and work to provide information that fills in the knowledge gaps. This is where great programs in the marketplace are focusing their efforts today.

Answers exist today

The short-term lead generation and conversion marketing strategies of patient adherence programs are no longer viable. The key to winning at the ground level is to have the program’s patient advocate be part of the solution that has been prescribed. It is paramount to ground a multi-channeled adherence program in a scientifically validated model to instill confidence in patient and caregiver. Patients and their care team need to believe they have the complete and long-term support needed to overcome their disease. Moreover, to accomplish this, the program needs resource and execution in a coordinated fashion. These are the factors creating a real competitive advantage in adherence programs today!

While industry spends $10s of millions on various aspects of the entire effort, that resource is cut up into smaller chunks or pools of money. This causes all parties to fight for their chunk of the pie and to lose interest with the whole strategy. Senior leaders, in this age of consolidation of resources, must consider these programs at a total cost level and ensure they all are driving value. That is why we advocate bringing back the role of a Brand Champion, an individual or set of individuals who commit to a longer-term career path with the brand, who can oversee the convergence and collapse of the silos – and decide how to spend the money.

Finally, we are big proponents of the net promoter score construct. Two or three simple questions added to any program to assess the patient’s willingness to recommend a product to a family member or friend. This simple measure helps leadership teams stay focused on the end goal of customer satisfaction, regardless of the program’s timeframe.


  2. Grant Corbett, Behavior Change Solutions.

Robert Nauman