The story is one that will be familiar to many people working in the digital health sector of pharma: there is an idea for a great new digital tool to help support patients and a tech partner is tasked with its development. The tool is developed and launched to much fanfare, hailed as a significant step toward better patient support and improving long-standing issues such as medication non-adherence.
Then, when budgeting season rolls around the following year, the tool is abruptly dropped because of an unclear return on investment.
Unclear RoI: The Biggest Roadblock for Pharma’s Digital Ambitions
The above scenario, or variations of it, have repeatedly occurred over the years. As a result, innovation in pharma’s digital health sector has been slower than the development of digital technology in almost any other industry. The potential of digital health to tackle issues such as medication non-adherence remains largely unfulfilled.
An unclear return on investment remains the single biggest roadblock pharma faces in advancing it digital capabilities in 2023. This is the view of respondents to our end-of-year Industry Pulse Check survey and the most common viewpoint we head in our discussions with our pharma partners.
However, an unclear return on investment does not equate to an absolute lack of a return on investment; rather, it means that pharma and its partners in the tech industry need to improve at identifying the KPIs that provide evidence of its existence.
In a recent LinkedIn Live event, smartpatient’s Head of Pharma, Ira von Arnim commented: “We’ve seen in the past that solutions and products are implemented and then everyone starts thinking ‘how can you measure this?’ and ‘how can we prove it has a positive RoI?’”
Defining the KPIs Early is Crucial
Rather than implementing a solution first and figuring out how to prove a positive RoI later, the key to the long-term success of a digital tool is to define the appropriate KPIs from the beginning. While this might sound obvious, it is something that still happens too infrequently. In fact, such an approach is often met with resistance, with an “act first” mentality still being a common one we are met with.
However, defining the KPIs from the beginning not only helps prove a positive RoI, but also forces both parties to truly consider the purpose of any given tool and the measurements that can accurately reflect its success. This additional layer of consideration promotes a value-based approach, whereby the focus is placed on the specific elements or features of a program that offer the most value. This measurable value-based approach is typically in the best interest of both pharma and patients, as there is almost always an alignment of what benefits each party.
Adherence is perhaps the best example of this alignment; for pharma, better adherence means increased sales through refills, while for patients it means that their treatment is more likely to be effective. As such, defining adherence as one of the most important KPIs encourages development efforts to focus on how to create a measurable impact, leading to better patient outcomes and generating evidence of a positive RoI for pharma.
This approach towards KPIs has been the driving force behind us improving the reporting we provide for our pharma partners. We have found that some KPIs are relevant to practically every digital initiative we are involved in, which form the basis of our standard reporting. On top of that, we work with partners on a case-by-case basis to define a set of bespoke KPIs that best suit the tool in question.
3 KPIs Underpinning Most Digital Initiatives
In the LinkedIn Live event previously mentioned, Ira was asked which three KPIs are generally the most important across the board. She answered:
KPI #1: User Uptake
However good a digital tool is from a technical perspective, its success is largely based on user adoption and retention. While the specific numbers and timeframes are adjusted based on variables such as the product or therapeutic area the tool is made for, user uptake is generally one of the most important KPIs for any solution.
KPI #2: Impact on Adherence
While not every solution is purely designed to improve medication adherence, we have found that it is a valuable KPI in the vast majority of cases. Using MyTherapy, we can measure adherence based on the percentage of medication intakes confirmed by users within the app.
KPI #3: Patient Satisfaction
Finally, patient satisfaction is an important KPI that can be measured using short surveys that can be pushed to patients through the app, which can be tailored to the individual program.
If you want to learn more about how a combination of standard and bespoke KPIs can help prove a positive RoI for your digital patient support program, don’t hesitate to book a meeting.