How To Measure The Impact of Pharma Patient Support Services: Avoid These 3 Common Missteps

Patient Services | Pharma | PeopleMetrics LIVE

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How To Measure The Impact of Pharma Patient Support Services: Avoid These 3 Common Missteps

Customer focus in the pharmaceutical industry is on the rise, and with it, significant investment in Patient Support Services programs. These programs are intended to provide positive experiences to Pharma customers (patients, HCPs, caregivers, etc.), but how do you measure the impact? Who "owns" this experience? What are the indicators of patient satisfaction?

In this session, we share our approach to measuring customer experience with patient services in pharmaceutical companies, and review 3 common missteps to avoid when setting up your Pharma CX program.


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Sean McDade: Pharma companies are literally saving the world -- enabling us to go back to our lives, to hug our parents, to catch a ball game, to see a live concert... Yet when you see all of this data around which companies people love, you never see Pfizer or J&J or AstraZeneca -- you see Peloton and Apple and USAA -- even financial organizations
you see up there -- and the reason why is those companies find an emotional connection to the customer somehow. And I think this is Pharma's unique opportunity to reconnect and emotionally connect to people around the world in a way that they've never really done before...

Madeline Good: Hi everyone -- welcome to PeopleMetrics LIVE! Today we are talking about how to measure the impact of pharma patient support services programs, and we're going to go through three common missteps that we've helped our clients avoid when measuring customer experience with in pharmaceutical companies. If you've got any questions for our team, please drop them in the comments below and we'll be sure to answer them. So Sean, we all know that customer focus in pharma is on the rise, but I'd imagine that measuring customer experience in pharma looks a little bit different than it does in a traditional CX arena like the hotel or restaurant industry -- is that right?

Sean: Yes and no. So as you know, Madeline, I'm in the middle of this book called Pharma CX Secrets, and it's about secrets that pharmaceutical companies are employing to create, manage and measure great customer experiences. And you know, great customer experiences has been have been measured and managed in other industries like hospitality, and now you can go almost anywhere in any industry and that's being done. Finance, restaurants, insurance, you name it. And I've been head deep into this topic now for months and I'm really excited by it because I think pharma has this incredibly unique opportunity to manage experiences with their customers, which I'm defining as patients primarily, and then anyone who helps the patient have a better experience -- and that's HCPs, caregivers. So the mentality, Madeline, is actually exactly the same as hospitality -- or at least it should be, okay? And I'm calling this a "pharmaceutical mindset," and that's, "how do we manage the experience of our customers throughout their treatment journey and react and course correct when that experience isn't what we want it to be?" So that patient has better outcomes. And that could be a higher quality of life, it could be saving their life... I'd say the stakes for pharma around the customer experience is so much higher than other industries, right Kirk? You've managed accounts in a variety of industries, so you've helped telecommunications companies improve their billing and speed up their contact center response, but I think it's quite another to help a pharma company help a patient who may have a rare disease get onboarded into a new medication in a way that's a great experience that could save their life.

Kirk Lohbauer: Yeah, absolutely. I've been doing this type of feedback for a while. I've been reading these comments for a long time, and when it's in telecommunications, it's good when you can find a problem and solve it. But what patients say when you do a good job of supporting the patient experience, you've done something that is improving daily outcomes in their lives. And then if you fail to give a good support experience, that has a major impact in a way that they make very clear -- "this was a poor support experience..." So the the stakes are extremely high, and once you're providing a patient experience, you need to make sure you're doing it right.

Sean: I know we may be cutting to the third mistake, but I just want to follow on what you just said, Kirk. Patient support services has such a huge impact on patients' probability of onboarding, and we've seen that with our own data over and over again. If you're measuring this, which you should be, you need to be asking questions around, "are they ultimately prepared for treatment?" Because that's ultimately what you're trying to
do, right? Trying to get them prepared to onboard onto a new medication and hopefully adhere over time. And Kirk, you've seen the data -- those folks who have had a positive experience
with patient support services in general are way more likely to be be prepared for treatment than those who felt like that experience was less than expected.

Kirk: Yeah, absolutely. We've seen this research with our own independent studies with our own clients of... patients who have a good experience feel more prepared for treatment, and then just adhere better on account of that, and it just makes sense when you think about it. Of course, applying this in the customer experience space, if you have a bad customer experience, that impacts your future customer decisions. When you have a poor patient experience, that is, of course, going to impact how you choose to continue your treatment.

Madeline: Can you guys go into a little more detail about... Sean, you were saying that there are so many similarities between what traditional industries like hospitality -- hotels and restaurants -- do to measure the customer experience. What types of things are they doing that pharma should also be doing when measuring the pharma customer experience?

Sean: Here's the thing. We know how much market research means to pharma. And it yields a lot of great benefits in terms of market landscape segmentation, understanding messages that need to go out to market... But what hospitality and other industries have realized is customer experience management --  which is what we're talking about here -- is different from market research, although it has a lot of similarities. People confuse the two. It still involves asking questions -- usually via surveys to people around certain aspects of their experience. And market research may do that as well, but what's different is it's a continuous measurement of a moment of truth, that if it's poorly executed, that moment of truth -- in terms of the experience, that customer or patient may not exhibit the behavior you want them to. So for the patient, it's they might not onboard... for the customer, it might mean they might not buy your product, or they may churn, or they may tell lots of people about the negative experience. And what is done in experience management is they don't just measure it all the time -- they manage it. So they understand... experience management means, "yeah, we get  aggregate data so we know what percentage of people are satisfied with the experience and what percentage of people may have had a problem with a case manager or whatever, but we're also understanding that Patient A had a poor experience with a case manager... and Patient A then can be followed up with to make that right and that's tracked over time in a way that does adhere to all PII. We can do another one on that, but just think about that -- like it's different. So their people are followed up on. And so the first mistake, which you really led into, is thinking about measurement of patient support services like it's a market research project with a beginning and end versus a continuous management of your patients who are experiencing your services, or those provided by a hub or specialty pharmacy if you have a partner over time. And you're improving both individual experiences as needed, as well as at a high level -- systemically looking at, "what are the pain points overall for your populations," and that's where the similarities to market research comes in. So we still take a look at it in the aggregate, but it's still managed at the individual.

Kirk: Yeah and honestly in my experience dealing with clients,
that's the biggest gap you tend to find in pharma is... people understand market research, they understand this idea of, "my support team, we have a various number of offerings, we do some sort of annual survey to find out: 'Do our offerings meet your needs? What could we do differently?'" And they're used to that market research mindset. However, of course, when you think to hotels, to the customer experience space, it doesn't stop there. Every day,
you need to understand, "How are we delivering?" And we think back to a year ago when COVID hit - the patient experience changed drastically, and if you weren't measuring every day, "How are we delivering this? What do we need to change? What do you
need to adjust?" Then you're not going to know for another year -- or another half year until you do your next market research study -- to find out, "How are we adjusting?" And so that management of the experience is key.

Sean: You know what else, Kirk? As we know, market research studies tend to have a beginning... and the deliverable is a PowerPoint deck or some sort of analysis. The output of a customer experience or experience management program is it's often a software platform that distributes data to the folks who are interacting with the customer -- or patient or HCP in this case -- so they can understand how they're delivering experiences and improve over time. So it's a very different type of offer and value and ultimate deliverable. We still look at data and produce PowerPoint reports off this, but it's different in that the data are available in real time every day and at as granular a level as you want -- down to a case manager, or you could roll up case managers into a supervisor or however you're organized. The data can be there for you in real time.

Kirk: We're not saying that market research isn't important. You want to do both of these. You need to understand your market and your overall deliverables, but separate from that, you need to understand the experience. And it is important because patients remember this experience. I've worked with a number of clients and the thing that really sticks out is when a patient responds to a survey, they remember their experiences with other companies and they will reference that of, you know, "I remember I had such and such
experience when I was on other medication..." And so if
you're not tracking experience, the patient is, and they're aware of it. And if you're not aware of it, then that's a gap.

Sean: So we're now in... what is this... February 2021, right? Pharma companies are literally saving the world, right? We have two vaccines -- one by Moderna, one by Pfizer, with another by J&J that's probably going to be introduced to the US, we have a couple with AstraZeneca in the UK, we have another one in Europe, we probably have more. Pharmaceutical companies are essentially enabling us to go back to our lives, to hug our parents, to catch a ball game, to see a live concert... Yet when you see all of this data around which companies people love, you never see Pfizer or J&J or or AstraZeneca... You see Peloton and Apple and USAA -- even financial organizations you see up there -- and the reason why is those companies find an emotional connection to the customer somehow. And I think this is Pharma's unique opportunity to reconnect and emotionally connect to people around the world in a way that they've never really done before. That's at a very high level, and I think you get that done every day through patient support services. The more that patients understand that they're being offered help and support as they onboard to medications, that's really a positive thing. Now of course, in our own research, we find that sometimes patients don't know who's delivering those support services, so that's another question that's probably for another PeopleMetrics LIVE!, right? We know, Kirk, that there's confusion there. Sometimes they think the HCP is delivering it, other times they don't really know who's delivering it, so that's sort of a branding and messaging issue that we can get into, but overall I just think if pharma changes its mindset... connects emotionally to the customer through listening and managing to their experiences, I think the industry itself has unlimited potential to be the defining force of the next generation, I fully believe it.

Madeline: Yeah, I think that's a great point. No industry is exempt from providing an exceptional experience, because at the end of the day, we're all just people experiencing different brands and products, so why not pharma?

Sean: I mean, I love the great songs on Spotify too, but when I'm able to get this vaccine, whoever delivers that to me, whether that be J&J, Moderna or Pfizer, I'm going to feel an emotional bond to them, right? I'm serious. That just at a high level, but it's always a grind - the experience. So the things that you can control every day... hopefully we're not going to have another worldwide pandemic in the next few years, right? But that doesn't mean that you can't continuously manage the experiences of all your patients that you're providing support services to.

Madeline: I think that actually leads us right into the second misstep that we see when we're helping our clients with this. Sean, you kind of mentioned it before -- the fact that patients aren't sure where services are coming from. So Kirk, do you want to speak a little bit about the patient journey and that mistake that we see where the whole journey isn't necessarily being accounted for when measuring? When actually it should be?

Kirk: Yeah, absolutely. I think commonly what we deal with is patient support groups because that's a very natural point for a pharmaceutical company to collect feedback -- that's a part of the experience that you own. With that said, it is just a small part of the patient's journey -- that's going to start with diagnosis at the clinical offices, then maybe you'll get a card to call the support program, then you're going to be dealing with an insurer, then you're going to be dealing with finding a pharmacy, going to a specialty pharmacy, may have a change in insurance you have to deal with, your employer, what have you... Your patient journey covers a lot of different things, which the support experience is just one portion of it. Now, what we tend to find as a mental roadblock folks get into is, "I don't want to know about it if it's not something I control... If it's the doctors, if it's the pharmacy, if it's the clinical nurse educators, I don't want to deal with it because that's not my role." However, the support experience that you provide -- you're dealing with the context that the patient has come from and the context that they're going into, so if you don't understand that full patient journey, you're really putting on the blinders to their experience and not able to fully meet their needs throughout it.

Madeline: Right, that's a good point -- the point is not trying to manage things you can't control, the point is understanding what all the experiences are so you can use that as context to deliver the best
experience possible for your patient, right? Because regardless of where someone's coming from -- you know, "I've just left the doctor's office," or something, but if I'm calling patient support,
I'm expecting to be supported around that experience even if it's not in your control.

Sean: This is the same thing that B2B and supply chain companies go through when they have a client interacting with a partner, which a partner is the HCP in this context, and they have some experience that ultimately impacts you. And their experience with you... you still have to understand it and react to it. That's what we're talking about here. You just need to understand it.

Kirk: Exactly. And I think that you want to understand how to react to it. That's the core thing, because to the patient, there aren't clear lines of these demarcations that there are to you of who owns this part, who owns this part, who owns this part. The patient -- that's not all clear to them. It's clear that they have to navigate this network, and when they're calling you as the support system, they're expecting some level of support. And so when you speak to someone or you're encountering resources and all it is is a brick wall of, "we don't do that," or "we can't support that," or what have you... If you fail to give your representatives the proper context for how to handle things outside of your scope, then that's a failure.

Madeline: Yeah, I think that's especially true too with with pharma when there's legal roadblocks, where a patient services team might not be able to answer something for legal reasons, like you were saying, Kirk. You still need to have a unified response to how you're going to address those concerns when they inevitably come up. I know, Sean, you've said before that there will always be problems, right? Even if you have a perfect experience, there will always be someone coming with a question or having an issue that you need to be ready to address.

Sean: Nobody has perfect experiences all the time. We've worked with some of the finest brands outside of pharma in the world, and even they will have hiccups. Because you have humans dealing with humans and that's just the way it is. Even technology... So as you know, certain patient support services are highly digital these days --  either through portals or apps or websites, primarily. And people will have hiccups with those experiences too, whether it's technical glitches, whether it's confusing content or workflows that don't make sense... those are things you have to measure and manage also even if you don't have humans dealing with humans. But whenever you have humans dealing with humans, you have to be measuring that consistently because there's ways to improve that. You know, humans are complicated.

Madeline: Looking at the the last thing that we run into a lot with our clients and anyone that's looking to measure the customer experience in pharma revolves around the questions that you're actually asking. So Sean, do you want to say a little more about that?

Sean: Sure, yeah -- and a lot depends on what kind of support services you're offering. Is it a rare disease where you have case managers that you're assigning to patients, and that's how you're delivering the patient support services? Do you have something where it's more of a contact center, where you're having patients call in? Or is it a digital asset like a website or portal? So there's different kinds of questions you'd want to ask for those different scenarios. But I think the key in all of them is to understand the overall experience, right? And don't ask questions that are inappropriate. So everybody loves this Net Promoter Score (NPS) question in customer experience, right? It's probably the most commonly used question that we see across all industries. But it's not relevant, or appropriate, frankly, for patient support services. You cannot recommend, or should not be asked if you would recommend this to someone that you know or a friend or colleague, given it's a unique disease state for you, so that's a good example of something that kind of backfires on people. We recommend more around questions that focus on the experience they had with you, so "how satisfied are you with your most recent experience with, whether it be a case manager, whether it be a call to the contact center, whether it be an interaction with some sort of digital asset..." So I'll start it there. Kirk, you've done a lot of work here -- what else would you say around that that mistake?

Kirk: Yeah, asking questions that get to the impact you're trying to get to is really the key thing, and exactly to your point of "it's easy to trip up," and think "I'm doing an experience survey, I need to thumbs up or thumbs down or what have you, and then at the end I'm going to get some number," but what do you actually intend to do with that number? If all you're left with is some number that doesn't give you guidance as to where you should be moving, it's important that you're asking questions that point you in a direction that you can actually do something with. And so that is commonly around what are the drivers of your experience? It's going to be... if it's a case manager model and the knowledge of those case managers, the relationships you have with those individuals as a patient. Digital tools, that's going to be something different around the effectiveness of those tools, the ease of use of those tools... And so build those questions that are giving you answers that you can do something with.

Sean: So if you're interested in these questions, we've been doing this a while, we have 14-15 questions grouped into key categories so -- and we can do a PeopleMetrics LIVE! on this someday -- but the categories are mainly... There's financial questions you need to ask, in terms of people's comfort, understanding how they're going to pay for this; there's questions around access, like how do I get this medication in my hands -- do I need to go to a specialty pharmacy, is there another place, how do I get it; the third is -- if it's an injectable or something more complicated, how do I administer this, or if I can't administer this myself, where do I get it administered; and then there's questions around just the entire support network -- if I have other questions, where do I go, where do I call, who do I ask -- that's a lot of case manager, contact center questions; and the final group of questions, which we think are the most important, around preparedness and confidence -- like are you confident as a patient after you've done these support services, are you confident that you're going to onboard, and do you feel prepared for treatment? And we have great data on this, as I said earlier, that shows that those who feel like they had a better experience with patient support services are significantly more prepared for treatment than those who didn't. And those who are prepared for treatment are going to onboard and those who aren't prepared for treatment are unlikely to onboard. It's simple. Patient support services has a big impact on patient behavior. It's a huge opportunity.

Kirk: Yeah, and that's really key, and it gets to why we do the work that we do. We measure the experience because it matters and because it impacts the decisions and the livelihood of these patients when it comes to thinking of how well pharma companies do this kind of management. If you don't do any of this kind of experience measurement, that's a big gap and you've clearly got some catching up to do. The next step up from there that we tend to find when I'm talking to new clients is, "we have an IVR survey or something like that, we collect feedback but we don't really do anything with it..." That's kind of this issue where you're not asking the right questions, you're not doing anything with it, and if you really want to manage that experience, you need to ask the right questions and do something with it to get value.

Sean: Right. And IVR is great and email surveys are great and SMS is great -- it's wherever your customer is and it's all great, but it's not great if you don't do anything with it, if you're not managing the experience based on it, if you're not sharing that information in real-time with people who can improve the experiences of patients every day -- that's what experience management is -- that's why it's different than market research. But that's also how you in Pharma are uniquely positioned to develop better and more emotionally connected relationships with patients over time and my strong belief is, that if done right, in five years, we'll see some of these polls kind of be flipped, and you'll start seeing the Pfizers and AstraZenecas and Mercks at the top of these "Most Admired Company" lists and loved companies. And I would personally love to see that myself, because I think the work Pharma does is... it's a miracle, you know? Like it's unbelievable the kind of lives that they change, and I'm sure we all have people who have higher quality of life and saved lives because of Pharma. And if we can impart just a little bit of what we know about customer experience and experience management to help more and more patients achieve those outcomes, then that's worthy work for sure and I'm happy to be part of it.

Madeline: Yeah definitely, I mean just what you both were saying about the fact that your patient satisfaction or any of these metrics aren't just numbers, they really do tie to the outcomes that improve people's lives -- like that's what's so wonderful about CX and experience measurement and management overall. So it looks like we're right about at time, so I wanted to just jump into a couple questions before we close out. The first question that I've got here is: "Have you seen legal teams approve questions on parts of the experience that you don't manage, like clinical experience or pharmacy, etc.?"

Kirk: The short answer is yes -- and I think it's all a matter of you've got to do it right. It's a matter of how you phrase the question in order to get through some of these internal approvals. And also what helps is the more clients we've dealt with, we're seeing what questions get approved of this style of amassing across the patient journey, and when we go to legal teams now, it helps, we're able to say, "this is being asked across multiple different pharmaceutical companies even if they don't own the experience." We're confident that these legal teams are going to approve it.

Sean: Yeah, and just to build on that a little bit, Madeline -- the questions that I mentioned that we've used over the years, they got organized by getting through multiple Pharma legal teams. So we have 15 questions immediately that we deploy when we start a new patient support services experience measurement program, and usually they get approved pretty quickly because they've been approved before. And then we have benchmarks on it too, which is nice.

Madeline: Yeah, I was just going to say, the benchmark part is is great too that you can do those comparisons. So another question that I've got here is just a simple one: "Do patients respond to these surveys?"

Sean: Absolutely. I'll take it, Kirk. Yeah, people are used to providing opinions now on things that you never would believe they would provide opinions on, and social media has a lot to do with it -- where people are sharing a lot more than they ever have. The key though is making the survey as short as possible and as relevant as possible. So it's not taking too much time. Our typical surveys are definitely under five minutes... Some of them are even less. And they'll respond in percentages that are higher than you think. What are some of the percentages that we've been getting lately on these programs, Kirk?

Kirk: I'd say 20 to 30 percent is pretty common for these types of surveys. And just to clarify to that is again, it's not market research. These are not surveys for an honorarium. This is just: "You completing an experience -- will you give feedback on it?" And patients are generally very eager to give feedback on their support experience because it is so important to them.

Madeline: I think it's worth mentioning... you said, Sean, that people are so used to providing feedback... that I think the next step of that is that people are expecting you to improve the experience when they provide feedback as well. So there's that kind of next step of expectations around customer experience management too that comes along with that...

Sean: Right. Because in other industries, Madeline, they are used to getting follow-ups now.

Madeline: Yep.

Sean: Right, so as we talked about... your other experiences, as you pointed out -- that was a great point -- people do not experience Pharma in a vacuum. They have their Apple watch, they have their Peloton, they go out to eat... They may listen to people... There's all these things that they do... They go on Amazon and shop, right? So they understand what a good experience is and they also understand that they're asked about their experience quite often. So this is not a reach at all. In fact, I would say it's a reach if it doesn't happen.

Madeline: Right. We've certainly seen it be a frustration when it doesn't happen at this point. Alright, well last question here is: "Have you had companies prove the value of their support offering using this kind of feedback from surveys like this?"

Kirk: Yeah, I'm happy to take that one. I think that's one that comes up for some of the the folks we deal with on patient support teams is: "How exactly do we show our support team is doing something that is beneficial to our company?"  And definitely survey feedback on the fact that patient feedback is very compelling. They're outlining how important their relationship with their case manager is, how helpful the support system was in getting them through and making their treatment access seamless... It's definitely used for that. It is first and foremost a tool to improve the patient experience, but also you get to show internally, "Look at what we do -- look at how we improve the patient experience," and that's very valuable to our clients as well.

Sean: Yeah, and I would just add to that just making sure you link it to a behavioral type question like preparedness for treatment, and comparing those who had a good experience and a poor experience with patient support services and to see if there's statistical differences, which we often see -- that's a really good kind of ROI type delivery mechanism, and pretty simple  to put in a slide and people get it right away. So that would be the other thing I'd add to that, right? Because the ultimate goal is getting more people into treatment and onboarded efficiently and effectively.

Madeline: Awesome. Well it looks like we are finally at time, so Kirk and Sean, thank you so much for sharing this half hour with us and your expertise as always for this awesome conversation around how to measure the impact of pharma patient support services. 

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Posted on 02-11-2021