Rethink field services: Three myths keeping access barriers in front of your product

By Melissa Mulchahey |

Is it time to reconsider how important field services are to your commercialization strategy?
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As more pharma manufacturers are forced to launch products in a virtual environment, evaluating the services that will be a part of that launch will be essential. One critical extension of the manufacturer's team is the Field Reimbursement and Access Specialist (FRAS). These provider-facing associates play a critical role in reducing patient and prescriber challenges related to accessing your therapy. As such, they're an essential part of the matrixed team needed to facilitate product adoption and expand access.

But as the pharma landscape evolves, field services can be overlooked, often with the misconception that it's too cookie-cutter a solution for today's dynamic specialty products. Add to that the social distancing restrictions of the current COVID-19 pandemic, and field services is an area of opportunity rife with misperceptions. These three are some of the current biggest myths — and the ones that may have the biggest impact on your product should you continue to believe them.

Myth #1: I only need field services for buy-and-bill products.

Truth: Though one size doesn't fit all, field services can break down access barriers for oral products, injectables, and other self-administered drugs.

Many manufacturers believe that field reimbursement and access support isn't necessary for oral products or self-administered specialty drugs. But given the high cost of these products and the measures payers take to control those costs (e.g., prior authorization and step therapy), the access barriers are the same as those that exist for provider-administered drugs. A FRAS who can educate providers on patient assistance programs (PAPs) and help patients navigate affordability is still monumental in removing those obstacles. As well, the FRAS plays a critical role in helping answer provider questions about product access channels, prior authorization requirements, and more.

Myth #2: Field services are only impactful in person.

Truth: The COVID-19 pandemic has made virtual support a valuable part of the FRAS toolkit.

Many providers have successfully adopted telehealth to continue delivering care during the coronavirus pandemic, and field services is no different. In fact, flexibility is a critical success factor for field solutions. Today's FRAS incorporates live, phone, and virtual activities depending on provider needs and abilities, and adapts technology to support virtual engagement. Examples include video support, virtual toolkits and digital provider resources rather than print materials, as well as virtual manager "ridealongs."

Myth #3: Field services aren't designed for small pharma.

Truth: Size doesn't matter.

The notion that only large manufacturers with big budgets or products for massive patient populations need field services is ill-conceived, as is the idea that only niche partners can provide that support. Most outsourced field services companies have a diverse portfolio that spans from “big five" pharma to “first product to market" pharma.

Manufacturers of novel or orphan products often have an even more critical need for field services in their efforts to leave no patient or script behind in a very challenging payer landscape. The FRAS can also help drive awareness of that drug's patient support program and reach providers and patients who might not otherwise know of the availability of those services for the product. At the same time, the outsourced partner delivering field services can offer better support to manufacturers as part of a network of companies that offers patient support services and specialty physician services when that partner is able to access expertise and insights from across the patient journey.

Small and mid-sized pharma has an even more critical need to leverage the experience and synergies inherent to partnering with a trusted outsourced field services organization. The seasoned partner will work with these clients to design a customized program to bring the greatest impact possible.

Separating fact from fiction

Just as no two products are alike, no single model of support works for every product. The right field services partner recognizes that and has the expertise to address your product's specific barriers to access. Just don't let misconceptions about what to expect from field services become the barriers.

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About the Author

Melissa Mulchahey

Vice President, Field Services Client Engagement and Business Development
Xcenda
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