Specialty Service Programs: Gearing up for Next Generation Technologies

Mar 01, 2013

The word from IBM: Innovation in hub hot line program design for patient scrip data and clinical support services can lead to increased market share in the hotly contested specialty medicine space.

Photo: Thinkstock
What's the common thread that binds most successful specialty product launches? The answer is a well-designed information and services hub—both the model and its integrated component programs. Get your hub offering, platform, and execution strategies right, and you'll have put a strong favorable wind into the sails of your product's marketing, sales, and distribution plans.

Why? Because thoughtful hub designs connect patients and physicians with easy to navigate tools that facilitate access, coverage, and information support for your specialty product. In short, they bridge the gap between patients needing your product and patients being able to obtain your product—quickly, safely, and easily, for the first time, and every time during a course of therapy that can often last the rest of their lives.

In new and interesting ways, making the most of this common thread is becoming a key driver of competitive differentiation for top-tier biopharma providers. The good news is that companies can expect more from the advancing technologies that underlie hub services while paying less for superior performance against the status quo.

Changing tides

Hub services, or hot-lines as they are often called, aren't new to the specialty landscape. Pioneering biopharma companies like Amgen, Genentech, and Genzyme recognized the importance of "minding the gap" and built early models to provide support services along the patient journey for rare diseases with expensive treatments. They experimented with models using in-house teams, external vendors, and evolving technology platforms for the specific and unique challenges each new product launch presented to the dedicated patient base.

That biopharma-driven evolution and experimentation is alive today, but it continues to face some confusing cross-currents as specialty distributors, health plans, and PBMs seek to craft their own approaches to connecting patients to specialty products. In recent years, these industry players have aggressively acquired and consolidated hub service providers to secure greater control of prescription volume, a trend that has yielded mixed results for biopharma companies, patients, and physicians in clinical practice.

The moves are motivated by the ever-growing wave of new specialty therapies coming to market, as R&D dollars shift their focus to biologic drugs and other complex therapies geared to distinctive sub-sets of the patient population. The surge in new medicines is encouraging vendors who are less experienced in building traditional hub services or are entirely new to the space, as well as existing providers which are facing more sensitivity to the high-dollar price points of the latest specialty drugs. They in particular must confront the need to reconsider a well-worn operating model relying heavily on large-scale and off-site reimbursement staff operating at the speed of paper faxes and manual consent capture.

As a result, biopharma professionals are asking a series of important questions, the answers to which are reshaping hub modeling and design. The questions are designed to elicit better innovative solutions from service providers that are appropriate to the changing product mix and higher expectations of patients and payers.

The most pertinent questions include: Do I need a "lean" hub or a "full service" hub? How do I obtain better transparency and performance from my hub program? Are there models that give me better command and control of all the offerings integrated with the hub? How can my service offerings more efficiently connect with patients and physicians? Can I gain access to meaningful and customized product data in real time? How do I better support the surge in e-prescribing? What are the best designs and platforms to improve compliance for these key services while meeting tougher regulatory scrutiny? How do we best live up to the expectations that programs always put the patient first?

Many, if not all, of these questions boil down to one fundamental premise: that biopharma sponsors expect more, and deserve to pay less, for hub services in this new era of specialty products requiring more support services than the old world organized around small molecule primary care. Sponsors are more aware today that paying less for more is possible through the power of design-based innovation.

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