April 23, 2014
How to navigate the changing HCP landscape:
Addressing HCP needs in promotion, education, and information
This evening’s moderator was Kyle Steiger, Primary Care Franchise Vice President at Novartis and the expert panel speaking included Christian Roy, Executive Vice President of Health at Tank, Michèle Gagnon, Director of Education and Strategy at liV and Jean Burgess, National Hospital Sales Director at Sanofi.
The first speaker was Christian Roy and his theme was whether the current industry environment represents “the perfect storm” or the perfect opportunity. He pointed out that commercial organizations are now in “TILT” mode, meaning that they must do more with less people, money and time. The support that existed years ago is no longer there and many pharma jobs have disappeared. Christian also mentioned that the only customer used to be the healthcare professional (HCP), but with the explosion of channels, including e-sales, webcasts, webinars, social media, mobile apps, email, etcetera, the customer base has expanded. As a result, the commercial industry has been left with a lack of resources, an added time-crunch, less money and increased ways to reach the customer, making things complicated.
However, he said that the good news is that marketing is still marketing and the framework hasn’t really changed. The strategy is the same: we need to figure out what our customers want, define targets and segments, develop strategies, determine the tactical mix and key performance indicators, develop content, execute and then evaluate what works. He concluded by saying that the fundamental principles have not really changed.
The next speaker of the night was Michèle Gagnon, who began by saying that in order to meet the needs of HCPs, we need to differentiate their wants from their needs and what they actually do and know and what their desired level of knowledge, skill, etcetera is. In terms of spheres of needs, Michèle felt that it’s about knowledge and skills, attitude, confidence and environment. She also mentioned that it’s our role in education to assess the needs and gaps that exist, develop strategies based on them and build plans and tactics that address them and ultimately enhance patient care and improve the health of the patient.
Jean Burgess was the last to speak and he began by pointing out that our hands are often tied due to the fact that our industry is highly regulated, which “shrinks the sandbox”. He said that it’s very hard to be innovative and creative within these regulations. Jean also mentioned that legal and financial constraints complicate our ability to change sales models. Like Christian, he acknowledged the problem of decreased internal company resources. In order to deal with these issues, he said that market research is needed to determine what we can do and how we can help our sales representatives. He then quoted some HCP market research that showed that HCPs want literature and data, clinical knowledge, their concerns addressed, data presentations, practice dynamics, relevant discussions, prescribing information, competitor knowledge, relevant questions, patient flow, rapport, reimbursement, overall credibility and patient characteristics. Jean said that, given the right weight and priority, addressing these attributes during representative calls with HCPs will increase message retention and impact and call duration. He concluded with an added “tidbit” for agencies who pitch to pharma companies: he said, when pitching new programs and activities, mention how these will service the fieldforce to allow them more “air time” and more access to physicians.
Following the panel presentations, the floor was opened to the audience for questions and discussion. One audience member questioned the panel about what the new paradigm or strategy should be for the industry. Kyle responded by saying that while we see the same model being used and we keep saying that we need to adapt and innovate, but overall the industry is pretty healthy, so there is no impetus to change when profitability is good. Christian agreed, adding that until the industry is paid on patient outcomes, rather than by a dollar amount per pill sold, it’s unlikely to change. Michèle voiced a slightly different opinion, saying she believed that education was an avenue that would allow us to think differently and change behaviour, including business models.
Another audience question was with respect to the new generation of physicians. The audience member pointed out that the younger HCP generation thinks differently and they don’t have the same wants and needs as the older generation, so how will the industry meet their needs? Christian responded by saying that currently only 1% of Canadian physicians are under the age of 30, so he felt that while the healthcare world is changing, it’s happening gradually. Kyle agreed that the sales model would need to evolve and adapt over time in response to the changing needs of the industry and customers. Michèle disagreed, saying that she felt that the needs of HCPs and patients are currently not being addressed. She gave the example of rare diseases, saying that 10-15 years ago we didn’t hear about them, but now we see and hear about many patients who have them. She felt that HCPs are lost in their research with respect to such diseases and there must be something that the industry can do to help them in these areas. Christian countered by saying that there is a lack of incentive to promote medications for such rare diseases, as the return on investment is very low. He said, the pharma industry consists of public companies that exist to make a profit and that’s the bottom line. Kyle then posed the question, “Are the needs of the HCP mutually exclusive to those of the pharma industry?” An audience member responded, “Absolutely not. Pharma is a solution to providing better health.” Christian summed up the discussion by asking, “What are the patient’s needs? The HCP needs? Pharma companies’ needs?” He postulated that there must be a “sweet spot” where all of these needs overlap which can be addressed. That would be the solution we’d all be looking for!