Industry Insight

Streamlining patient support programmes: a five-step approach

Emma Bishop at Cognitant Group explores the need for patient support programmes, and how these can be improved
A patient support programme (PSP) is a structured initiative offered by healthcare providers or pharmaceutical companies to help patients and caregivers better manage their health. PSPs are becoming increasingly important in the healthcare industry as they provide a gateway for better patient education, engagement and treatment outcomes. As patients receive information about their conditions in new ways, it is increasingly important to simplify these programmes. This article explores the importance of PSPs and outlines actionable steps that can be taken to develop impactful PSPs in a resource-efficient way.

The importance of PSPs

Patient education and engagement are of utmost importance in healthcare, enabling healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies to support positive health behaviour changes and promote compliance with healthcare professionals’ advice. PSPs are incredibly useful tools for providing such educational support; they have been reported to improve patient satisfaction, confidence, self-efficacy and adherence, which can impact both treatment outcomes and healthcare system efficiencies.1,2,3
A systematic review of 64 PSPs across multiple chronic disease states suggested a positive impact of PSPs on adherence, clinical outcomes and overall experience. Over 60% reported at least one significantly positive clinical outcome. The most frequent clinical outcome impacted was adherence, where 66% reported a positive outcome.4 Furthermore, tailoring PSPs to individual needs and requirements, such as age, comorbidity, cultural backgrounds, technological proficiency, general literacy, health literacy and more, can increase their utility.

The five-step plan

The five-step plan stands as a research-driven methodology grounded in understanding prevalent themes across various therapy areas. This method facilitates the creation of easy-to-understand and useful support materials by exploring the emotional and informational needs of patients and caregivers at different time points of the care pathway. The steps are divided into two separate phases: a research phase and an action phase.

Research phases

1. Conduct an asset audit A comprehensive review of current information is conducted, incorporating thorough editorial and clinical reviews. The goal is to ensure the quality, accuracy and patient-centricity of existing materials to form the foundation of an enhanced PSP. For example, when creating a plan for managing a long-term medical condition, it is important to include visual aids such as diagrams to help people interpret the information.
Making the written information easier to comprehend can result in better overall understanding.
2. Review the current dissemination pathway Assess whether patients and caregivers are receiving the right information at the appropriate time, as timing is critical for the effectiveness of a PSP. Strategies include evaluating information timing, identifying critical decision points, utilising technology for timely delivery and aligning with healthcare-provider interactions.
3. Direct a strategic workshop Hone in on the issues and gather insights from key stakeholders, aligning with previous qualitative research. Stakeholder collaboration is integral to the success of PSPs. Engaging with patients and their caregivers, healthcare providers and advocacy groups ensures that PSP development considers diverse perspectives. Conducting focus group discussions with specialist healthcare professionals, patients and caregivers provides valuable insights into their preferences, challenges and expectations regarding educational materials.

Action phases

4. Deliver a content strategy report Include a spectrum of content ideas stratified by cost and suggested priority and a multichannel delivery pathway. A comprehensive content strategy report also considers how to tailor content to different groups, for example, catering to different language proficiencies or age groups, to ensure materials resonate with a wide range of audiences. For example, easy-to-read print leaflets with large fonts and infographics may benefit patients with visual and/or learning impairments and help to bridge the digital divide.
5. Follow an iterative process to refine the strategy Implement the plan by incorporating feedback obtained throughout the process. This can be achieved through an iterative approach that involves seeking stakeholder input and refining the strategy accordingly. Real-time insights should be used to drive the overall PSP to ensure continuous improvement. For example, if patients encounter challenges with specific content formats, iterating and refining the delivery plan based on this feedback can enhance the overall user experience.

Beyond the five-step model

The proposed plan aims to incorporate successful existing material to improve organisations' strengths. Simultaneously, it identifies potential gaps and provides a strategic framework for introducing new and relevant educational content. This approach ensures that PSPs are both streamlined and tailored to the specific needs of the patient population.
A patient-centric approach involves designing PSPs based on the target audience's unique needs, preferences and perspectives. This ensures that educational materials resonate with patients, promoting better engagement and understanding. Integrating technology, such as mobile apps or interactive platforms, can enhance the delivery of PSPs if showcased to a technologically proficient demographic. Technology allows for real-time updates, interactive content and personalised notifications, creating a more dynamic and engaging educational experience. Collaborating with a diverse range of healthcare professionals, including nurses, pharmacists and psychologists, enriches the content and delivery of PSPs. Each professional brings a unique perspective, contributing to a more comprehensive and holistic patient support experience. For instance, involving mental health professionals in PSP development can address psychological aspects of chronic conditions, enhancing overall patient wellbeing.
Introducing gamification elements, such as quizzes, challenges or rewards, can make PSPs more interactive and enjoyable. Gamification not only captures patient interest but also reinforces key educational messages in a memorable way. For instance, creating a point-based system where patients earn rewards for completing educational modules can incentivise engagement and adherence to treatment plans.

Evaluation, measurement and continuous improvement

Assessing the effectiveness of PSPs and measuring their impact on patient outcomes is essential for developing successful programmes. Different methods can be used to evaluate programme effectiveness, including patient-reported and clinical outcomes. Regular evaluation and data collection help healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions about PSP enhancements. This continuous evaluation process is critical for ensuring PSPs’ ongoing success and effectiveness in supporting patients’ health and wellbeing. By doing so, PSPs contribute to a more equitable and patient-centred approach to healthcare delivery, ensuring that individuals receive the support needed to navigate their health effectively, regardless of their background or circumstances.


Devising an individualised and effective PSP has the potential to deliver tailored, cohesive support to diverse patient and caregiver needs. Crucially, the five-step plan can streamline the user journey, ensuring accessible, high-quality support.
By addressing these key pillars, the plan creates a forward-looking blueprint for PSPs, fostering efficiency, sustainability and patient-centric care. As healthcare delivery modernises, a strategy-devised patient-first plan stands as a beacon for organisations that are committed to elevating patient support in the pharmaceutical sector.
  1. Marzban S, et al. J Patient Exp. 2022;9:1-12
  2. Hawthorne J, et al. Expert Opin Drug Deliv. 2022;19:733-42
  3. Khurana A, et al. Int J Medical, Health, Biomed, Bioeng, and Pharm Eng. 2017;11:148-151
  4. Ganguli A, et al. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2016;10:711-25

Emma Bishop is content director for Cognitant and a medical writer specialising in patient communications. After studying Medical Biochemistry at the University of Manchester, UK, science and medical communications have been at the heart of her work for over a decade. In 2019, she began working for Cognitant, where her years of experience working on digital strategies could be channelled into an innovative medium that has the power to influence and improve patient outcomes.