How Digital Innovation Drives Improved Market Access Strategies

By Xcenda

A tech-enabled approach to improving patient access and product success.

Pharmaceutical spending on research and development has grown to record levels, even as pharmaceutical companies face increased pressure to lower drug prices. Developing a new prescription medicine that gains approval to go to market costs an estimated $2.6 billion, with PhRMA member companies reporting a record $71.4 billion investment in R&D in 2017. Those expenditures are worthwhile if new therapies reach the patients who will benefit from them. But getting approval to bring a new therapy to market is only half the battle.

Once R&D is complete, there's still a big job ahead. A company has to prove its product's value to physicians, payers, and other stakeholders; differentiate it from competing products; and find the best way to position it in the market, taking into account the financial need of their specific patient population and the evolving nature of the reimbursement landscape. All of this can involve substantial additional costs, and that's still no guarantee of success.

Fortunately, new digital tools can help these companies meet some of the biggest challenges involved in bringing a product to market, including gathering and analyzing evidence and demonstrating product value to stakeholders.

Here's how manufacturers can leverage digital innovation at four crucial points in the product's market access journey:

1. Illuminating the evidence that sets a new product apart

Today's payers often want to see head-to-head comparisons between therapies for formulary decision-making, but that's not how randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are typically set up. For manufacturers, an alternative is to conduct a systematic literature review (SLR), which can require combing through hundreds of studies, extracting relevant secondary data, and synthesizing it into a report. The process can take months, even up to a year, to complete. And the fact is, most stakeholders will only read the executive summary.

Conducting a traditional SLR can miss an opportunity to capitalize on one of the biggest digital transformations taking place in healthcare: advances in data collection and analysis. Data insights highlight gaps in evidence that a manufacturer may need to address. One way to maximize the value of an SLR is to create a digital repository to house all of this data, adding new research to the database as it becomes available. A modern, interactive database is a far more flexible platform than potentially unwieldy spreadsheets that are typically used in SLRs, and dynamic tools for searching and analyzing SLR data also make it possible to continuously extract new insights. This allows the manufacturer to target different stakeholders and markets rather than produce one static written report.

The most advanced tools are able to generate graphs, tables, and data visualizations that can be easily incorporated into modeling and presentations (or those ever-important executive summaries), further helping to demonstrate the value of a therapy.

2. Collaborating to craft the perfect message

Pharmaceutical spending on marketing has skyrocketed in the last two decades, from $17.7 billion in 1997 to $29.9 billion in 2016. Considering manufacturers' enormous efforts to communicate the value of their products, it's vital to identify the most effective messaging. That's often a collaborative process, from materials review to message development and validation, that requires extensive feedback from a vast set of stakeholders. Rather than eliminate the human touch involved in this process, digital tools can enable manufacturers to more effectively compile and incorporate feedback from different sources, including individuals who are not onsite during a meeting. Sophisticated mechanisms for digital workshops and concept testing enable the collaborative development of payer value proposition materials by teams in different geographies and field locations.

Technology can also allow for work to be done ahead of any live workshops so that in-person time is as productive as possible. Digital tools enable the rapid capture of discussions and decisions so that getting to the end result is as quick and easy as possible. The most advanced tools ensure all relevant stakeholders are included in developing the value proposition, making the entire process more efficient and effective.

Examining data on a tablet
stack of binded papers

3. Optimizing patient assistance programs

It's no secret that patients bear a bigger share of the cost burden for prescription drugs than they ever have.1 As a manufacturer develops services to make a new product more accessible to patients, they must consider such factors as insurance coverage for their target patient population, the impact of copay accumulators, overall patient financial need, and any other assistance programs patients are able to access. Often, manufacturers do extensive modeling to ensure that the resources they develop are ideally suited to their targeted patient population. However, policies, prices, and reimbursement models are constantly evolving, making a one-time market analysis less than optimal for planning.

That's where a digital modeling tool can make a big difference. Manufacturers should consider deploying an interactive technology to continuously evaluate changes in pricing, eligibility requirements, and other variables, allowing them to more precisely target their patient assistance interventions over time and ensure they're having the biggest possible impact.

4. Training staff to break down barriers to access—and product success

Even when a new therapy has a great value proposition, physicians may still encounter barriers to prescribing it and patients may encounter access hurdles. Pharmaceutical companies have to train field associates to understand the obstacles prescribers and patients face and the paths available to overcome those challenges. Traditional training has often meant potentially dry lectures on such topics as billing, reimbursement, and management of providers' practices. But increasingly, companies are turning to digital technologies to teach new concepts in a more engaging way, using the same methods and motivation employed by interactive games.2

Digital solutions that turn learning into a game often prompt players to use problem-solving skills to address challenges in a virtual realm, potentially giving them the confidence to tackle difficult yet realistic scenarios when they're in the field. The benefit of this teaching methodology is improved retention and application.

Looking to the future

Given the complexities of the current healthcare landscape, identifying and communicating the value of a new therapy is crucial to its success in the market. These are just a few of the ways digital tools can help manufacturers analyze evidence and put it to use. By staying abreast of advancements in technology and new digital products in the field, manufacturers can get the most out of their market access investments.

1. Payments for Cost Sharing Increasing Rapidly Over Time. Kaiser Family Foundation. October 2017. Accessed June 2019.
2. The rise of motivational information systems: A review of gamification research. Koivisto, J. International Journal of Information Management. April 2019. Accessed June 2019.

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