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Accelerating Market Access with Data-Driven Payer Engagement


Using data visualizations to improve access to payers.

Shawn W. Bates

Shawn W. Bates

Christian Pichardo

Christian Pichardo

With the switch to more digital environments, ever increasing budgetary constraints, and emphasis on value-based healthcare, payers are more challenging to access than ever before. Adapting to this new reality has required implementing more tailored and data-driven digital payer engagement strategies. New tools must be user friendly and enable visualization of much more complex data, models, and economic arguments to communicate a product’s value effectively and secure market access to individual payers and their local patient populations. While the concept of tailored and data-driven payer engagement is not new, it is a process that has been made significantly more difficult by the aforementioned obstacles. The secret to success frequently lies in creating impactful yet straightforward data visualizations that clearly convey clinical and health economic data in a highly tailored and localized manner.

Traditional Approaches

Historically, pharmaceutical companies’ payer interactions were predominantly face-to-face. Pharmaceutical marketing was also conducted in person and in print. It was not digital at all. Medical meetings did not transition to iPads until about 10 years ago. But pharmaceutical companies’ investment in digital marketing is now increasing worldwide.1 While their digital spend has been focused primarily on direct to healthcare practitioner (HCP) marketing to date, pharmaceutical companies are in an exploratory phase with respect to using digital approaches for payer engagement.

Refining Payer Engagement

The payers who focus on market access tend to be the most senior and most experienced staff members. Achieving digital engagement with those elite payers is challenging both because that type of interaction is still not the norm, and the opportunity to meet with them may arise only once or twice a year. However, those are two important reasons for making that transition.

Traditionally, when presenting the business case to be approved for reimbursement, making a high-impact presentation requires simultaneously retrieving data from multiple Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, and PowerPoint slide decks. This takes enormous concentration and tremendous skills to navigate complex information that supports key messages within a limited time with a payer. Digital engagement adds technological barriers to those challenges.

That type of interaction underscores the need for a digital platform that can manage multiple layers of complex data, allowing the presenter to deliver a value story quickly that is highly customized and tailored to meet the payer’s specific market requirements. However, as digital marketing has traditionally been focused on brand communication to HCPs rather than payers, it is currently only the more progressive pharmaceutical companies that are budgeting for that outreach. Differences across payer archetypes also demand a flexible, yet clear value communication.

The top 10 pharma companies have also recognized that they can use a web portal to remotely engage this payer base, which most of their competitors are not engaging at all. This approach allows them to gain payer insights, which can be used to refine their remote engagement tools, so they can address the payer’s specific needs and issues, whether local, regional, or national.

Pharmaceutical companies’ payer engagement is no longer reliant on face-to-face field interactions and is not limited by the number of boots they have on the ground.

Pandemic Impact

COVID-19 has accelerated the move towards remote engagement. At the start of the pandemic, commercial teams were not taking advantage of the digital tools at their disposal.2

However, the pandemic has required everyone to adopt new technologies quickly so they can keep in touch with colleagues, family, and friends. As a result, field commercial teams’ familiarity and comfort level with a variety of digital platforms has grown rapidly.

Pharmaceutical executives are also seeing the value in employing a communications platform that can integrate with CRMs, analytics, and workflows, plus manage the tailored complex data required for effective payer presentations.

In addition to mastering the requisite technical capabilities, field commercial staff are learning how to create new types of direct and indirect customer interactions.

As the number of in-person commercial meetings has decreased, so too have the opportunities for field staff to read customers’ body language and confirm which messages are resonating. To compensate for that change and allow them to communicate successfully in a digital setting, they need to be able to pull more relevant, targeted data into their presentation in real-time, so they can deliver effective, tailored messages and results for the payer they are addressing.

Local Market Adaptation

Pharmaceutical companies typically develop new communications materials at their global headquarters and then distribute them to the regions and on to the countries. At each step, the materials need to be adapted to the local environment. Parts of that process are often outsourced in the regions and countries, resulting in rather heterogeneous solutions.

If the original materials are not flexible enough to be modified and incorporated directly into digital tools, the country teams may have to reprogram the tools to incorporate the latest information for their audience. That can be a lengthy process and may lead to strategic misalignment if points that the global marketing team considered valuable from a strategic perspective are lost during the regional and country-level adaptations. The inherent duplication of effort can also double or triple the cost to roll out new messaging and affect the timely communication of value messages.

Furthermore, this approach can result in the development of multiple versions of the tools, which may prevent the marketing team at an operational level from cascading new messaging throughout the organization. It may also result in teams not having access to the latest version of the materials.

Having inflexible tools makes it harder for field commercial staff to create customized presentations for their customers. A platform is needed to empower the creation of tools for a HCP or payer audience and then add dynamic objects, interactive storyboards, and complex data simulations to provide the requisite context to create a presentation that will resonate with them effectively that only modern technology can create. Creating apps and digital tools without requiring any coding can produce tools and content five to ten times faster than normal outsourced app development and can customize communications according to the account, country, and stakeholder audience.

As these new apps and tools can be developed in large quantity to engage multiple customer segments with various needs, they also help to build new technical and omnichannel communications capabilities within the team.

Global, national, and regional data, and specific provider and account data can be uploaded into the platform via structure query language or Excel spreadsheets. The platform can also pull complex health economics, patient outcomes, real-world and claims data into the models it generates. As the presenter makes selections, the platform pulls data into the models or pushes data out to create a story that is specific to that audience. In addition, it can be hooked to an application programming interface and feed live data into the presentation from outside web sources. That allows it to pull clinical data into interactive charts and tables, producing detailed responses to customer questions in near real-time.

This versatility is especially important because of the diverse patient populations managed by different payers. For example, if the original presentation uses U.S. or global data that are not specific to that payer’s patient population, the cost savings or budget impact estimates shown will be inaccurate, and any discussion about share-shift models or "what if?" scenarios, in which one product is exchanged for or added on to another, may not apply to them.

Remote Digital Engagement

Field commercial staff are now starting to interact with their payer customers remotely. This approach is allowing payers to gain access to valuable analysis tools while commercial staff gain valuable insights into their customers’ needs, which can strengthen their relationships and provide further enhancement and efficiency to hybrid and face-to-face interactions.

Pharmaceutical companies are using platform technology to design interactive tools and content to include in payer customer portals. Within a portal, they might have five different personalized workspaces, each one designed for a different customer type, such as a regional, local, or medical payer.

Once customers, or potential customers, fill out the registration form embedded in the pharmaceutical company’s website, they are directed automatically to the portal workspace that best fits their role. Within that workspace, they have access to diverse types of content. For example, they can run "what if?" scenarios on contract simulators, BIMs, and CEMs, or peruse value dossiers and interact with the data. The platform notes all the customer’s interactions and can aggregate those data.

The payer marketing team or field commercial team responsible for that relationship can then determine which data caught the customer’s attention and what information they included in simulations. The platform can also collect direct customer feedback and insights through surveys or objection handlers built into the tools themselves.

This approach contrasts markedly with the use of traditional websites, which can report only how long payers spend reading specific web pages or whether they download a PDF. There is not much knowledge to be gained from those interactions.

Asynchronous Communication

A face-to-face meeting, or a regular digital interaction, emulates a medical visit or an interview with a payer. But with the right tools, a field commercial account manager can employ asynchronous communication, which continues after the meeting has ended, and then track the impact of that exchange. For example, the account manager can provide additional data that allows the payer to do a deep dive into the numbers and conduct a comparative product analysis or evaluate real-world data and health outcomes, at a time that is convenient for them.

Digital engagement cannot replace face-to-face field interactions. However, it is possible to design intuitive tools that can really hone messages and enhance follow-on engagements. They can establish a feedback loop between the pharmaceutical company and payer, which facilitates deeper collaboration and communication. They can help the field team focus on specific payer needs more accurately, more succinctly, and faster, but they will never fully replace complex data driven face-to-face interactions. They may also allow the team to reach new customers, especially local or regional payers, which the commercial team may not have engaged due to budget or staff limitations.

These tools allow commercial staff to provide their existing customers with richer content and to reach new customers in an innovative and engaging way.


Early adopters of this tailored approach to digital engagement have seen a significant return on investment from enhancing the quality of their product value communications and initiating remote customer engagement with the resulting in-depth analytics. They have also been able to replace the development costs for multiple individual apps with a single platform. Some companies have already generated hundreds of tools with the platform.

Establishing this type of two-way communication with payor customers helps field sales staff to achieve listings and reimbursement, secure tenders, increase market share through differentiation, and accelerate product uptake.3


  1. McKinsey & Company. How COVID-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point—and transformed business forever. October 5, 2020.
  2. McKinsey & Company. Consumer sentiment and behavior continue to reflect the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis. October 26, 2020.
  3. BaseCase data and case studies.

Shawn W. Bates,LSSMBB,is Vice President, Global Portfolio Leader, Head of Commercial - BaseCase, and Christian Pichardo, MSc, is Senior Health Economics Consultant at Certara.

Certara accelerates medicines using proprietary biosimulation software, technology, and services to transform traditional drug discovery and development. Its clients include more than 2,000 biopharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, and regulatory agencies across 62 countries. Visit us at www.certara.com.

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