Biopharma engagement with integrated health systems and key accounts has increased in importance and complexity. Community prescribers and small group practices continue to affiliate with large, integrated delivery networks (IDNs), health systems and organized group practices, reducing the influence of the healthcare provider’s prescribing autonomy.

Commercial organizations continue to face a shift in their product portfolios that includes several traditional mass-market products approaching loss of exclusivity and the launch of more complex specialty products, rare disease and cell and gene therapies requiring specialty pharmacy engagement. As a result, healthcare customers are expecting a better understanding of their customer’s business and needs and omnichannel engagement.

At a recent webinar, Steve Madden, GM at MM+M, Haymarket Media, sat down with Chris Lisanti, managing director of Syneos Health Consulting, and Sara Rubin, SVP of market access at Spherico, a division of GSW, to discuss how to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of engagement with IDNs and key accounts.

Approaching engagement

Reaching doctors and patients within different health systems which vary by state, size and complexity “requires different communication, media and omnichannel approaches,” Lisanti explained.

With a reduction in face-to-face interactions since the pandemic, omnichannel has become “more important for our clients to consider and think about when they’re engaging with IDNs,” Rubin added.

When creating a content strategy, consider “how the systems behave, how to segment, what stakeholders you’re talking to,” Lisanti said. “Physicians, HCPs, nurses, quality directors, population health directors, pharmacy directors all have different needs and require different messaging.”

Providing the right information

An omnichannel strategy starts with segmentation “to those it is important to talk to within that IDN, and topics they want to talk about,” explained Rubin.

Brands will need to drill further down into the individual job categories to determine what type of information is relevant. A pharmacy director, for example, will most likely be concerned about budget, making messages about total cost of care more appropriate.

“Not only do we need to segment how they get their information from an omnichannel approach — whether it’s emails or banners or conventions they go to — but also the messages themselves need to be segmented, usually by job title,” she added.

Keep in mind that a pharmacy director gets information from different places than a payer or HCP does. Marketers can look closely at their behaviors to understand how best to reach them. By way of example, Rubin noted that Spherico’s recent payer survey revealed that payers now seek out information on manufacturers’ websites. This means brands “need to make sure that their payer messaging, not just clinical HCP, is on that website,” she said.

Brands also need to ensure their field teams are well-equipped to handle omnichannel execution. In many cases, the field representatives “don’t understand the strategy and are not continuously executing with a regular cadence, so that makes it fragmented,” said Lisanti. As a result, “messages are not getting to their different customer types at the right time.”

With the end of the pandemic and a return to in-person interactions, pharma companies “have to take the field to the next level with better training and better understanding of strategy,” he said.

Having the right tools

What Syneos Health has found is that emerging companies are struggling with omnichannel execution due to financial constraints. As a result, “the smaller manufacturers are being very selective about which channels they spend their money on so they can prioritize their audiences appropriately,” Rubin said.

A health system such as Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Health System or New York University, for example, has “different patient demographics, different patient and provider needs, based upon its surrounding ecosystem in that area,” said Lisanti.

Giving customers and their patients what they need can potentially save the company money. “Instead of having one tactic for all IDNs across the country, you’re segmenting,” Rubin said. For example, a brand will only use one tactic for a particular group in one region “as opposed to blanketing the whole country.”

Syneos Health has one of the largest contract sales or commercial organizations to deploy all types of customer-facing teams, communications units for omnichannel and digital engagement; and a consulting division to handle strategy, tactics and execution for companies of all sizes, Lisanti explained.

The company can help “from a messaging, segmentation and deployment solutions standpoint,” Rubin added. “It’s more seamless for our customers who need multiple areas of our help.”

Today, representatives need to be well-versed in omnichannel, Lisanti explained. With more specialty and rare disease, for example, “they have to have advanced degrees to appropriately sell to nurses, be pharmacists to deliver the complex messaging that’s required and have those medical clinical conversations with customers,” he said.

On the payer side, account managers also “have to understand what customers value and what information they’re looking for from you,” Rubin said.

A strategy is only as good as the team that is implementing it. That’s why it’s so critical to ensure they have the training and capabilities to succeed. “It’s a matter of tools, resources and putting that all together in a cohesive package — so that when account managers are interfacing with the different roles within a health system, they come off professional, seamless and equipped,” Lisanti concluded.