Sales Management: Cleaning House

A well-maintained database is the key to maximum doctor outreach
Jun 01, 2007

Jack Schember
Unlike a bottle of wine, a physician database does not improve with age. In fact, valuable medical information deteriorates at a rate of nearly 18 percent each year. Let's put this in terms of dollars. If you have the names and addresses of 100,000 physicians, and your database has not been updated in two years, then approximately 36,000 of those contact records are likely to be spoiled. If you mail a promotional piece that cost $3 each for printing and postage, you've just wasted $108,000 of your precious marketing budget.

Bad data costs enterprises more than $6 billion a year, according to The Data Warehouse Institute. On the other hand, companies that implement data-quality initiatives add millions to their bottom line from increased sales, lower distribution costs, and better adherence to compliance regulations.

For the pharmaceutical industry, the need for clean data is more critical than ever. With fewer feet on the street following recently announced downsizing, pharmaceutical sales reps and managers need to work smarter, and that means working with information that is accurate and up to date. Understanding not just physicians but which medical groups they are part of, where they practice, what they practice, and who is among their support team, helps sales forces operate more effectively.

A Process for Validation

The process for data cleansing and augmentation can be described in four steps. First, match your database against an accurate data source to validate what you have and append missing marketing information or additional contacts. Appends may include phone, fax, e-mail, job titles, specialties, prescribing history, group affiliations, and other targeting intelligence. Next, match the data against a database of closed medical practices, inactive doctors, or doctors not likely present at a valid site. Third, get updated addresses through a change-of-address service provider. Finally, resolve troublesome records through phone verification, Web research, or provider directories.

Number of US Physician Offices by Size of Practice
When the data is refreshed you have a more complete view of your market and thus can increase your opportunities for success. Here's what a verified and augmented database enables you to accomplish:

Understand the business environment in which physicians work Physicians delegate to other prescribers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants. They rely heavily on support personnel like office managers and practice administrators. These are the gatekeepers who can facilitate appointments and product-detailing efforts. All of these contacts must be accurately maintained.

Expand marketing to the group level A sales rep's most important contacts are at the group practice level. It's not enough to see just one physician, but have the ability to link physicians to their group practice site or sites. This is where some of the biggest and best opportunities can be uncovered. A database should reflect the full view of the practice. Can you link physicians to their sites, link multiple sites to a group headquarters, and identify the executives for the group practice? Can you link physicians and groups to hospital affiliations, independent physician associations, or health systems? A database that ties all these important entities together is an ideal asset.

Reach physicians where they make business decisions Accurate business address, phone, and fax is the critical foundation for effective sales-call activity. Delivering your message to the business address also means you are more likely to influence a practitioner, and not an academic or researcher. Targeting prescribers is of little value if all you have is their home address.

Adhere to governance and regulations State license numbers, DEA numbers, UPINs and, coming soon, the National Provider Identifier, are necessary identifiers that must correlate accurately to the proper physicians to satisfy corporate and government compliance, billing, and insurance.

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