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Building Successful PSPs: 5 Essential Elements

Published Date: Friday, Mar 08, 2024
Last Updated on: Friday, Mar 08, 2024
Building a successful PSP.

Patients are people. Like most of us, they strive to live longer, healthier lives.

But as care provision and health-related services become increasingly more digitized, expectations shift. Providing the right tools, accurate information and personalized support during the patient journey is now more essential than ever.

In this ever-growing digital economy, patient support programs (PSPs) go hand-in-hand with achieving optimal treatment outcomes. Effective programs that support the patient from diagnosis through treatment pathways can make a fundamental difference to their quality of life, regimen adherence and overall health outcomes. 

Today, improving, standardizing and extending patient support programs is a top priority for most pharmaceutical firms, and for good reason. An increasing number of patients fail to adhere to their treatment regimen each year, leading to unfavorable care outcomes and worsened health conditions.

In this article, we’ll explore five key tenets for a successful patient support program and the steps pharma firms can take to ensure effective deployment, improved patient engagement and more positive humanistic outcomes.

Why are PSPs critical?

The health space has seen unprecedented change for both patients and providers since the COVID-19 pandemic. People’s health perceptions and behaviors are in a state of flux, driven by growing skepticism around public health initiatives and medical science. 

The realization that healthcare is perhaps not as advanced as assumed, coupled with global governmental performance, has made people more fragile and self-aware of their vulnerabilities. Patients are increasingly taking ownership, becoming more engaged in the management and treatment of their diseases.

In fact:

Wellness is a key priority for 50% of consumers and is important to 81% (McKinsey)

48% of people say improving fitness is their top priority for 2024. (Forbes)

The value of PSPs

The value of PSPs focus on providing tools and information to increase the chances the patient obtains an optimal health outcome should be ideally multidisciplinary and personalized to their journey.

Pharma companies today collaborate to sponsor PSPs to support patients living with chronic conditions and also starting on a treatment, offering solutions to support disease education, adherence tools and support, treatment access and disease management tools. 

The key advantages include:

Adherence: Patients can face many factors that inspire non-adherence and can fluctuate throughout the treatment journey. These may include practical barriers (travel, finances, access), fear to administer, fear of long term impact on health, improved physical wellbeing and more. Treatments for chronic diseases are also known to be at times complex in their administration (injectables, strict dosages, medical devices), which can lead to further patient attrition.
Education: To effectively take disease management measures into their own hands, patients and caregivers need to be suitably educated on their individual diagnosis and treatment journey. A well-designed PSP can help patients obtain personalized, relevant information to encourage healthy lifestyles, treatment persistence (as prescribed by HCP) and emotional wellbeing.
Self-administration: Therapies for chronic conditions can require complex administration beyond simply taking a pill. Injectables and other complex at-home drug administrations have been known to interfere with adherence rates. PSPs can provide training on effective self-administration, at times replacing the need for patients to travel to a clinic, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Affordability: Increasing financial pressures on European healthcare systems means pharmaceutical companies have to demonstrate value to payers beyond just clinical efficacy. Patient satisfaction and patient outcomes are now key metrics under the Affordable Care act – and a key indicator of value in the new value-based purchasing system.

5 Essential elements for successful PSPs

So, what facilitates this success? What differentiates a best-in-class PSP from generic patient touchpoints?

Typically, there are five success factors that ensure the PSP is effective at engaging patients and enabling more positive outcomes.

1) Patient centricity

In order to remove obstacles for ongoing support and improve treatment adherence and overall healthcare outcomes, patients must be at the heart of the program. Content and touchpoints must be centralized around individual needs, journeys and behaviors to create an engaging and relevant treatment experience.

Success is rooted in understanding the patient journey and the stages when support is critical. Segmentation and persona mapping are the key to delivering this at scale. Pharmaceutical companies should go beyond demographic and health status to subdivide audiences based on emotional, physical and behavioral needs. By doing so, programs can be customized to customer requirements, achieving more personalized, dynamic and meaningful touchpoints.

There are three steps to understanding and aligning to the patient journey:


Use behavioral data to identify patients and their behaviors, as well as the influences that shape their decisions.


Show the journey from their point of view. Locate behavioral barriers and emotional accelerators that have a direct influence.


Uncover the key behavioral motivators that inspire people to navigate more positively through their journey and adopt new behaviors.

An effective PSP catering to different requirements.

2) Involvement of all stakeholders

Successful PSPs are not one-dimensional. To truly address complex, unmet patient needs, pharmaceutical companies need to comprehensively act on the different perspectives of internal and external stakeholders engaged in patient care. This can include HCPs, nurses, providers, insurers, caregivers and more.

Co-creation is essential for mutual buy-in and advocacy. Stakeholder workshops, surveys and requirement mapping can contribute toward a well-balanced program that achieves buy-in and shared direction for the benefit of the patient. Once information from all stakeholders has been obtained, it’s crucial that pharma-sponsored PSPs are built involving the cross-functional teams from an early stage to ensure a smooth approval process and a timely launch.

3) One size doesn’t fit all

An effective PSP caters to different requirements and regulations by country and patient segment. It evolves over time with a patients’ context and needs. PSP operational teams should consider practical barriers to full adherence, including access to refills, commuting to appointments, treatment administration and access to tools and information. A “one size fits all” approach will not be effective or relevant to all individuals.

Equally, while economies of scale and consistency can help reduce the cost of a PSP when it’s implemented in multiple countries, there can be no complete standardization. Teams must be prepared to navigate different regulatory frameworks, treatments, journeys, behaviors and languages. It’s crucial to build a PSP that can be localized, while operating in a consistent way. Consider designing a modular infrastructure with smart technology to accommodate flexible PSP builds. This allows the roll-out of localized instances based on regional regulations, legislation and cultural affinities, but still respects a common framework in a controlled environment.

4) Optimized enrollment and engagement

Relevance is crucial to achieving patient engagement and the subsequent positive influences on adherence and health outcomes. Patient adoption and adherence is the primary outcome of any successfully implemented PSP – but it’s also critical to ensure mutual buy-in from all participating stakeholders. By mapping the patient journey and connected behaviors, PSP operationalists will be able to optimize enrollment based on the different friction points that contribute to early attrition and ineffective onboarding. They typically include:

Overload: When the patient is diagnosed, they often experience ‘’information overload.’’ Thoughtful planning of communication and enrollment strategy is essential. Further, activation should consider how and when to engage the HCPs, nurses and other parties involved in treatment delivery.
Awareness: A recent study found that nearly 60% of patients have little to no knowledge of the support programs available to them. When a program adds value and integrates into the HCPs workflow seamlessly, physicians are more likely to show advocacy and present the program as an essential element of the treatment process.
Value: 11% of HCPs believe that the time it takes to learn about PSPs outweighs the value they offer. For improved implementation, look to educate HCPs and practice staff about the key value propositions of the program and how it can alleviate their internal pain points – such as saving the practice administrative time or making therapy more affordable.
Complexity: A program that is not user-friendly or easy to navigate is bound to miss the mark. In certain government-funded European nations, provider practices are often hectic and understaffed. They are unlikely to have the time to spend supporting patients through enrollment, so operationalists must focus on making onboarding as easy as possible, meeting patients where they are with frictionless digital experiences.
A healthcare professional practising patient engagement and positive influences.

5) Consistent evaluation and optimization

To ensure relevance and effectiveness, a patient support program must be adaptive to the patients’ changing behaviors and journeys – alongside a wide range of changing business and program factors, including:

Changes in the local healthcare ecosystems

Environmental and technological innovation

Your budget to support the program

Adoption of program engagement and outcomes

Pharma firms must be prepared to implement feedback from patients and stakeholders to continually move the needle on PSP engagement. This can be based on both direct feedback (patient) or from behavioral insights or trends in engagement data. By adapting a program through consistent evaluation and optimization, it becomes more relevant and sustainable for all involved parties.

Establish clear and measurable KPIs: Monitor adoption, engagement, adherence and experience to drive relevance for patients and caregivers.

Collect feedback: Track usage and collect feedback from patients plus other stakeholders (HCPs, nurses, insurers) to remove practical barriers to accessing treatment.

Monitor the market: Monitor the market and patient sentiment in communities proactively to increase sustainability over time for your budget (beyond LOE and financial changes).

Evolve the program: Address the feedback collected and serve the patients’ unmet needs vs. existing PSPs and PSP budget.

Final thoughts

In the rapidly evolving landscape of healthcare, the pivotal role of Patient Support Programs (PSPs) cannot be overstated. As the digital transformation of care provision continues to unfold, patients are confronted with the complexity of managing chronic diseases in an increasingly interconnected world. Recognizing the significance of effective support programs, pharmaceutical firms are placing a heightened emphasis on improving, standardizing and extending these initiatives.

Ultimately, the best PSPs encompass all five elements listed above and their approach harnesses data, technology and processes, delivering an effective ecosystem for all involved. We call this a Connected Care Ecosystem, in which the PSP is truly integrated across all stakeholders and technology platforms.

Looking to build an effective Patient Support Program (PSP)? Harte Hanks can help. With over 15 years of experience in designing, developing and delivering Connected Care ecosystems, we can deliver bespoke programs that address patient and HCP needs at every stage in the treatment journey. From starter kit distribution and onboarding to personalized SMS reminders and regional content, we design with you to implement and deliver disease management tools that help every patient take control over their condition.

Contact us today.

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