Editor’s note: This is the final article in a four-part series by Paul Harney on how biopharma companies can improve patient outcomes.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve written a few articles on the importance of engaging patients throughout the treatment lifecycle. In this series, we explored how patient support programs can improve adherence and drive up revenues; the challenges patients face modifying their behavior following a new diagnosis; and how biopharma companies can measure the impact of patient engagement efforts, which is an often complicated, but critical part of the pharmaceutical business model.

Each of these engagement steps are key to helping patients overcome physical and psychological obstacles to treatment adherence, but each step on its own only addresses part of the problem. To capture the full value of these investments, biopharma companies need to deliver them as an integrated and seamless multichannel offering that links the patient’s history, past engagement experiences and future treatment needs to every touchpoint.

Unfortunately, this is a model that biopharma companies have long struggled with. Many of the patient support strategies, marketing efforts and platforms that companies implement evolve over time — often with their own vendors, management teams and technology. As a result, they all exist as siloed services that lack the ability to connect to each other and share data to drive more meaningful engagement experiences.

This lack of integration creates so much of the frustration and friction that patients, physicians and customers complain about within the healthcare system. Every time someone calls a help desk, speaks to a pharmacist, or engages with a mobile tool, it is as if they are starting from scratch because the data he or she has shared over and over again isn’t linked to a broader system. This lack of connectivity is further reinforced by the fact that biopharma companies treat each of these touchpoints as isolated transactions rather than one of many steps on the patient’s journey toward better health. They measure results in terms of calls completed or hits on a website, which tell them nothing about whether that engagement helped a patient move forward on their care journey.

This not only frustrates the patient, it causes the companies to sacrifice significant value from their engagement investments. In my experience, we’ve seen companies assemble the components for strong patient engagement programs. However, without connecting the data generated from these touchpoints, they only see nominal results.

CRM with a twist

This problem is not isolated to pharma. Companies across many industries have struggled to break down the barriers between data systems to provide a more engaging and informed experience to their customers. For many industries, the solution is a customer relationship management system (CRM). CRMs compile information on customers across multiple touchpoints, collecting all of that data in a single database so that the customer-facing staff and digital sites can all access the same detailed information when engaging with customers.

Such systems allow companies of all kinds to respond with greater agility and adaptability to customers, which leads to greater customer satisfaction and higher revenues — and the same can be true for biopharma companies. A patient relationship management system stores patient information in a single centralized database allowing companies to engage with patients on a personal level regardless of the touchpoint. It could allow call center reps to know instantly when and why a patient called in the past so they can reference their concerns in that conversation; let nurse educators know when patients who have limited access to transportation are late filling their prescription so they can offer targeted support services; and enable companies to create mobile tools that proactively remind patients about appointments or prescription refills.

Integrated proactive support is commonplace in the clinical trial environment simply due to the strict protocols. By taking the same focused approach to patients in the real world through the use of patient relationship management tools, biopharma companies can generate a much stronger rate of engagement and adherence, and thus greater financial return. In fact, we have patients still engaged in one of our programs after five years and nearly 13 years for another program. In the program spanning five years, about 90% of the patients fulfill their initial prescription and more than 90% of those are still on medication after 12 months. The lifetime value of a patient now means a lot more and is worth more clinically and financially.

These tools are already available from a variety of vendors and can often be layered on top of existing systems to bring all of that patient data together in one place. However, the technology is only part of the solution. Companies also need to change the way they think about these engagements — from counting transactions to focusing on results-driven metrics. That means measuring success based on patient outcomes and treatment adherence, not call volume or clicks to a website.

Such tracking does require more effort and sophisticated monitoring tools, but if biopharma companies want to turn first-time patients into long-term customers, they need to help them overcome the obstacles to their own care. Nearly one-third of all patients fail to fill first-time prescriptions, which means pharma sales people are losing one-third of their customers before a single transaction occurs. Implementing a holistic patient support network — that focuses on the patient care journey — can help reduce that number and ensure that the investments biopharma companies make in patient engagement deliver the greatest value to everyone involved.