Patient Education Update

Vol 4. No. 1

by Dr. Dorothy L. Smith, President, Consumer Health Information Corporation. Visit our web site at

For 20 years, Consumer Health Information Corporation has specialized in helping product teams integrate patient education into their marketing strategies …. and enhance ROI through patient retention.

The consumer will be the final judge of all the marketing materials you produce for them. Once consumers and patients understand the information being given to them and believe that it is important to their own personal health, the health care system will start working as it should … and I can guarantee that a product’s ROI will increase.


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, ANew 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 Y but fail to meet the needs of the person who is going to have to use the product.


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.

Check here to see why we’re unique:


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.


To request permission to reprint any of this information, click here.

If you have questions or would like more information on how to increase patient compliance with your product, please click here or call (703) 734-0650.

If you want to sign up a colleague to receive this regular briefing, please complete the request form.

Copyright (c) 2001 Consumer Health Information Corporation. All rights reserved.