Therapy Onboarding Optimization: Why the Analytics of Patient Dropoff Requires a Closer Look

From April 2020 to August 2021, the healthcare solutions company Indegene looked at approximately 7.9 million emails sent by prescription drug companies across 15 different email campaigns. The results, reported in April 2022 by Fierce Pharma, highlighted the need for brands to more carefully manage how they engage with healthcare providers in a post-COVID world, where in-person meetings play second fiddle to the convenience of digital communication. [1]

Of course, this finding should come as no surprise to anyone who has given their email address or phone number over to a digital marketing campaign. No one has ever complained about receiving too few marketing emails or text messages. It is easy to lose interest in a new product or get lost in a maze of hyperlinks. Regrettably, at the cost of our own health, this phenomenon extends to prescription drug regimens as well.

The growing percentage of specialty drug users engaging with therapy onboarding through their smartphone presents as a convenient solution for remote digital engagement, but can quickly spiral into a challenge. According to IQVIA data, the prescription abandonment rate had reached 17 percent overall by 2021, and 60 percent for claims with a monthly out-of-pocket cost of $125 or more ― a cost often associated with specialty drugs. This squandered revenue has led manufacturers to increase their focus on patient onboarding, the main point of dropoff before a patient begins a new drug regimen.[2]

The smartphone is the medium through which every business tries to engage consumers. The battle for attention is fierce, constantly eroding our bandwidth. Emails are mistakenly sent to spam folders, never to be opened. Text messages can get sent to landlines. Hyperlinks direct patients and providers to the wrong web page. Tracking the many ways this process can go wrong requires a more granular approach than ever before.

When it comes to specialty drugs, the financial stakes are high. These are typically the most expensive drugs on the market and began to comprise the majority of U.S. manufacturer revenues in 2021, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Simply put, manufacturers can’t afford to lose patients over something so simple as a misplaced call, text or email. There is no excuse for patient dropoff during the onboarding process.[3]

Understanding precisely where and why dropoff occurs gets tricky in a hurry. Any hypothesis must be scientifically tested. A focus group ― the traditional method by which manufacturers solicit patient feedback ― can identify the general problem, but this is like using the naked eye to look for distant stars instead of a telescope. In 2023, more specificity is required for brands to formulate the best solution.

Why? The digital touchpoints of therapy onboarding are fragmented among the prescriber, the hub, the pharmacy, Patient Assistance and copay program administrators. Many opportunities for dropoff exist between patients and these third parties. To understand exactly where and why dropoff occurs, manufacturers require the analytical tools that facilitate a new, necessary process: Therapy Onboarding Optimization.

These tools, designed by digitally native companies who literally speak the language of smartphones, come at a cost. But this cost is miniscule compared to the potential lost revenue when Therapy Onboarding Optimization is ignored. Too often, pharmaceutical brands launch a new specialty drug without these tools ― in effect, starting a business that is designed to fail 27 percent of the time.

The failure rate is understandable. Optimizing the onboarding process in a post-COVID world is simply not a task legacy drug companies were built to undertake. Now, however, losing patients in the digital maze of onboarding is the primary challenge facing every specialty pharmaceutical manufacturer, and among patients’ biggest obstacles to receiving therapy.


[1] Adams B. Pharmas risk losing doctors to digital fatigue in the post-COVID-19 world if they don’t get their email strategy right. Fierce Pharma, Apr 19, 2022 Last accessed on April 10, 2023 [Article]
[2] Shaw G. Rx Abandonment and Other Key Market Trends. Pharmacy Practice News (PPN). October 21, 2022. Last accessed on April 10, 2023 [Article]
[3]Trends in Prescription Drug Spending, 2016-2021. Issue Brief. Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). September 2022. Online. Last accessed on April 10, 2023

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