Patient Education Vol4 No1


By Dr. Dorothy L. Smith

Expert in safe medication use, author of 23 books for consumers on prescription drugs, and President of Consumer Health Information Corporation.

Improving Profits by Informing Patients

Vol. 4 No. 3

peu_smith2Dr. Dorothy L. Smith is an internationally recognized expert in patient education, patient compliance, and behavior modification programs. She has devoted her career to helping people make informed decisions about health care and use of medications. Dr. Smith is the author of 23 books and has appeared on radio and television programs across the country to increase awareness of the important role consumers play in their prescription drug therapy.In 1983, she founded Consumer Health Information Corporation, a company internationally recognized for its innovative patient information programs. The organization has produced a broad range of print and audiovisual programs that have helped millions of people learn to make wise decisions about their health and medications. The company is a teaching site for several schools of pharmacy across the United States and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council on Patient Information and Education.

The consumer will be the final judge of all the patient communication materials you produce for them. If you can develop patient information that is written in language that patients can understand and incorporates behavior modification techniques, you will be able to convince the patient that the information is important to their own personal health. Patients will start taking their medications correctly. The health care system will start working as it should .. and I can guarantee that the product’s ROI will increase because patients will not drop out of therapy and will refill their prescriptions.


The result is that … Fifty percent of all patients being treated for hypertension stop taking their medication within the first year. Of the remaining half who keep taking their medications, only 75% of them take enough to control their blood pressure adequately. The result is that the product never has the chance to reach its full potential and to prevent possible life-threatening complications such as myocardial infarction, stroke, and congestive heart failure.

The point is — once a medication is dispensed to a patient, there is a transfer of power from the health care team to the patient. This is why patients need information they can understand so they can make wise decisions and not stop medications prematurely without the doctor’s knowledge.

The Consumer Will Be the Final Judge


Too often, a product manager or an ad account executive will tell me that the patient education component of a DTC program is just a value-added service that has little impact on the bottom line. My reply is that nothing could be farther from the truth! All the efforts to promote a medication to consumers are useless if patients don’t understand and trust the information they are given.

I shared this concern this month at a Drug Information Association (DIA) meeting in Manhattan. I joined a panel of FDA experts and representatives of a major advertising agency and public relations firm to explore the topic, “New” Ways To Promote … Marketing of Pharmaceuticals: How To Be Aggressive and In Compliance.” In our discussion, I pointed out that the industry has a serious problem. Every day, patients make decisions the impact both a product’s clinical efficacy and its ROI. Consider this:

  • Of every 100 consumers who read a DTC ad, 7 will receive a prescription for the product.
  • Of the 7 who receive the prescription, only 6 will actually get the prescription filled.
  • Of those who get it filled, 50% of the medications will be taken incorrectly.
  • Only 1 person will make it to the fourth or fifth refill.

By the time of the fourth refill, the company has lost more than half of its potential refill market. What if we had convinced all 6 patients who had the initial prescription filled to continue getting their refills. It would increase the product’s sales to 24 by the time of the fourth refill! Even worse, drop-out patients won’t respond fully to the product. Physicians may decide the product doesn’t work.

Companies are just wasting their money if they run DTC ads or distribute information that are medically accurate and meet legal and regulatory requirements — but fail to meet the needs of the person who is going to have to use the product.

Consumer Health Information Corporation’s Expertise in Patient Communications


Developing messages for consumers and patients on medications requires a very specialized blending of medical information, regulatory requirements, marketing techniques, health literacy principles, patient compliance strategies, and behavior modification techniques… then translating everything into language the average consumer can understand… and reinforcing it with an effective “patient-friendly” design.

Even though a DTC campaign or a patient information program has met all the requirements of the company’s clinical, marketing, legal and regulatory teams as well as the FDA regulations, it can NEVER be maximally effective if the consumer does not understand the information.

Consumer Health Information Corporation’s experts in patient compliance and consumer behavior know how to develop “consumer-friendly” materials that motivate patients to take the medication correctly. Only then can the product fulfill its potential.

Click here to see why we’re unique.


Consumer Health Information Corporation is an internationally recognized leader in the development and production of patient education programs for pharmaceutical companies, managed care organizations, and consumers.

Consumer Health Information Corporation

(703) 734-0650 | Fax (703) 734-1459

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