Pharmas are using Blockbuster Era tactics to engage Digital Age payers

Twenty years ago, when Yahoo! was still the biggest fish in the primordial soup of the Internet and the FDA had only just approved the first TV drug ads, the drugs were cheaper and medical reimbursement was simpler. Pharmas promoted their products to physicians, who prescribed the relatively inexpensive drugs of the day - branded PPIs or antidepressants, etc. - and insurers mostly paid.

But since the turn of the millennium, as mass-market blockbuster drugs gave way to pricey specialty drugs and biologics, things got more complicated. A steep decade-long rise in healthcare costs, fed in part by wave after wave of breakthrough therapies, contributed to the urgency around healthcare reform. The resulting legislation, the Affordable Care Act, put pressure on healthcare players to mitigate costs while delivering better quality care. This has shifted the balance of prescribing power from physicians (and patients) to payers, as formularies have become more restrictive – just 16% of U.S. physicians now say they always prescribe their first choice treatment, with the other 84% reporting that they usually or always follow formulary guidelines, per Manhattan Research's Taking the Pulse® 2017 study.

As a result, payers and organized customers have taken their places alongside healthcare professionals and consumers in the pantheon of pharma’s key stakeholders. That’s a pretty monumental shift, comparable to the introduction of consumer advertising 20 years ago, and pharmas deserve credit for making the pivot to a B2B commercial go-to-market model.


Digital-first payers demand a more multichannel approach

The traditional approach to payer engagement, centered on in-person meetings with account managers and paper dossiers – does not match the digital-first behavior and expectations of payers, and seems better suited to the early days of sales details and DTC than to the Age of Big Data.

Poring over the numbers from our just-completed Multichannel Payer Marketing study, for which we surveyed 189 U.S. P&T committee members, what really stands out is how intensely reliant on digital sources of information these formulary decision-makers are. Consider that:

  • 79% of all payers prefer using digital resources to offline resources when making formulary decisions;
  • These decision-makers spend more than three hours per day using digital resources for committee work – more than double the time spent on offline resources, such as colleagues, paper dossiers and other printed materials;
  • 44% of P&T committee members said they would use pharma-sponsored resources for payers online more often if pharma made them easier to find


How can pharma modernize their approach to building relationships with this critical audience?

  • Multichannel payer engagement: Anticipate what types of content payers are looking for from pharma online, and where they're looking for information when making formulary decisions.
  • High-touch account management: Understand what resources payers want pharma account managers to provide them - and what they'd just as soon find online themselves - in order to fine-tune distributed content strategies and optimize account manager engagement.
  • Beyond the pill innovation: Explore white space opportunities to partner with payers around data applications and solutions that improve patient outcomes.


We're currently sharing the study findings and discussing the answers to these questions with clients.


A Look Ahead: Medical Aesthetics Market Recovery in 2021 and Beyond

View Now