So Much More Than Live, By Rachel Sexton

Typically, when a prospective client reaches out to us, it’s to talk about the value of “patient programs”. It just makes sense: it’s the most familiar form of patient outreach, it’s literally in our name and – most importantly – it works. But while VPR Patient Outreach Program will manage more than 4,000 live patient-to-patient programs in 2018, traditional programming is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leveraging the “power of peer”.

Our patient advocates would agree; once they have become part of the family and invested their time in our training, they want to share their message in any way that will make a difference.

Let’s take a look at a handful of the other channels we use and how they stack up:

1) Webinars – We all know the downsides of this common platform: accountability (“Eh, I’ll sign up for the next one”), distraction (so many browsers, so little time), and the horror of seeing yourself in webcam lighting. No, webinars are not a perfect substitute for live programming, but they do have their place. For patients in rural areas, those who are homebound or who work long hours, and those desiring anonymity, a webinar may be the only opportunity for true peer-to-peer interaction.

2) Phone Programs – Two patients sharing a branded conversation over the phone? Until a few years ago this seemed as risky as a tightrope act without a net, but with the right training and proper safety measures like an optional warm transfer to an HCP, this is one of the most powerful, organic ways to foster patient dialogue.

3) Patient Thought Leaders – one of our favorite sayings at VPR POP is “the patient is the greatest resource we have in healthcare”. We can learn as much from those who walk-the-walk as their peers can. Internal meetings – town halls or annual sales meetings – are great venues for sharing a patient’s journey. These vocal, passionate advocates also make great market research participants. And, when a new executive joins the team, what better embodiment of patient centricity than a phone call or meeting with those who are at the ultimate end of everything you do?

4) External PR/Marketing – Picture it: you’re watching a beautiful DTC ad, inspired by the powerful voice of the patient on the screen when your eyes are drawn to the little caption in the corner: Not An Actual Patient. You can almost hear the record scratch; the connection is lost. We pride ourselves on providing real people who are making a real difference. These external opportunities are ideal for those who may not meet all patient speaker criteria but are still excellent representatives of those living with the disease.

5) Social Media – On one hand, it’s a no-brainer: we know patients and care partners turn to the Internet to find those who have experienced what they’re going through and as good healthcare stewards, we love being able to provide them with useful, responsible information. On the other hand, we know how challenging it is to go through the internal efforts of message approval to only yield a half-percent engagement response. We’ve learned that content is key to social media success. Making every message count is what helps VPR POP achieve an average engagement rate of more than 10%. It may mean putting the branded message aside to focus on education and advocacy, but it comes with the high reward of increasing the number of people who look to you as a disease state expert and resource.

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