The following post is based off a webinar hosted by IQVIA on May 6, 2020. You can register to access the recording of the webinar here. IQVIA experts also published a webinar on June 22 with additional updates to industry responses and market conditions. You can access those updates here.
When COVID-19 lock-down orders were put in place, manufacturers rapidly transitioned to remote engagements, ensuring healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients would continue to receive the information and services they needed despite the inability to meet face-to-face. This dynamic occurred across all deployed resources, including sales representatives, clinical nurse educators, medical science liaisons, field reimbursement managers, and market access resources.
Now, as the country begins to reopen, pharmaceutical companies will need to adapt again to identify and enact safe and flexible engagement strategies for healthcare professionals.
Adapting to evolving needs
As states sporadically re-open, there is an ongoing risk of new case surges and hotspots, so commercial leadership will need a flexible plan that allows them to easily shift their promotional efforts from live to virtual channels according to the needs of the region, healthcare centers, and individual practitioners.
In building such a plan, they will have to make several assumptions about the medical and financial impact on current sales, including
- When/whether existing patients are likely to return
- Whether new patient prescriptions will pick up due to pent-up demand
- How unemployment rates will impact prescription and fill rates
- How unemployment will affect reimbursement and payment methods
- The role that virtual engagement with HCPs will play in long-term economic recovery, and how HCPs can find a balance between remote and face-to-face calls
As healthcare facilities re-open, HCPs will be under tremendous pressure to accommodate patient needs, leaving little time for meetings with field resources. When these engagements do occur, commercial teams and their leaders should take a collaborative approach that accounts for compliance and safety priorities.
Face-to-face visits will require that all deployed resources prepare for social distancing, limited facility access, and use of personal protective equipment. When visits are virtual, they must ensure sufficient electronic bandwidth–nobody wants to deal with a technical challenge in the midst of promoting a new groundbreaking therapy.
Commercial teams also need to keep in mind such regulatory considerations as
- Promotion must be on-label, fair, and balanced
- Product inserts must be provided as part of any detailing, training, education, or other promotional interactions within 24 hours
- Adverse events and product complaints must be reported within 24 hours
- The Medical Information Request Form (MIRF) must be completed and submitted per the approved process
- Virtual meetings must use secure technology and limit information access
A roadmap for re-entry
These changes cannot be implemented ad hoc or by individual sales reps. For the most effective re-entry strategy, companies should create a roadmap to allow for greater continuity in engagement efforts with HCPs.
When building that roadmap, sponsors should consider
- Adhering to local, federal, and CDC guidelines for public gatherings and site visits
- Adapting virtual and face-to-face meeting goals for individual geographies, service offerings, and facilities that are likely to open next
- Leveraging data to monitor outbreaks, hotspots, or community infection rates that might lead to sudden closing of sites and require a return to virtual engagement
- Customizing their messaging around COVID-19 issues, including televisits, reimbursement concerns, pent-up demand, and technology training
Sponsors should also consider what new tools and training commercial teams need as they embrace virtual technologies as a larger part of their engagement strategy and integrate these into their re-entry roadmap.
Engagement strategies may include
- Training on remote engagement best practices to increase effectiveness of these calls
- Defining an adaptable multi-channel engagement approach to accommodate customers' evolving preferences and timing
- Using analytics to adapt the commercial strategy in real time
- Focusing engagements on identifying how the HCP's needs have changed as a result of COVID-19, then providing approved solutions in response
- Using their CRM platform to track office specs at every engagement
Until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, we will likely continue to see a combination of virtual and face-to-face detailing. The best approach is to remain agile and vigilant to the needs of customers, and to look for innovative ways to engage to help them meet the needs of their patients.
Check out our webinar series to learn more.
- Jaime Thompson, VP and GM, Contract Sales and Medical Solutions
- Bill McClellan, COE Leader, U.S. Launch Center of Excellence
- Julie Buren, Associate Director, Strategy & Offer Development – HCP Engagement
- Charles Garrett, Director, Commercial Training