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Unified payer research planning is of top import.
Historically, many companies have had ill-defined processes for planning market research activities across their product portfolio. Market research, especially payer research, typically was planned product by product amongst the various brand teams without internal alignment efforts. This siloed planning often creates misaligned market research efforts across the company's product portfolio.
The current issues with planning market access research are two-fold. First, payer research planning is often a rushed initiative after the summer budget planning process. During budget planning, employees tend to spend much of their efforts securing the necessary budget for each asset and less time strategically considering the most appropriate types of payer research. Second, there are overlaps and inconsistencies in the types and timing of payer market research commissioned across a portfolio.
Companies often have similar market access research requests within the same treatment setting across different assets. Ideally, the key learnings would be translated to similar assets. Pharmaceutical companies have been attempting to standardize market research throughout the product lifecycle and across their entire portfolio, and as such there is a growing need to develop a 'market access roadmap.
Over the past several years, market access has become an increasingly important topic. Given the tough economic situation, especially in a number of European markets, the national and local healthcare budgets in many countries have been cut significantly. Many countries have overhauled their pricing rules and introduced strict market access policies. With the introduction of cost-saving measures in various countries, market access has become a bottleneck to the successful launch of new products. Further compounding this situation is the loss of exclusivity of many key products and the drying of pharmaceutical pipelines, which has also caused a decrease in the budgets available for market research projects. This is especially the case for payer research, which is difficult and often costly to conduct due to the limited number of stakeholders able to participate.
The increased focus on market access results in an increased need for payer research and employees with in-depth market access experience to help execute this research. However, given that market access is a niche knowledge area; pharmaceutical companies are struggling to find experienced professionals. The lack of employees with in-depth market access knowledge has also contributed to inconsistencies in the market access research conducted throughout the company. Additionally, the economy and the changing healthcare environment have forced many large pharmaceutical companies to cut team sizes—leaving the same amount of work, if not more, to be done by fewer employees.
As a result, many companies are looking for streamlined methods to share market access best practices. In order to effectively share best practices across their entire product portfolio and reduce overall costs, companies have begun developing a unified roadmap for payer market research. The goal of this process is to work more efficiently given the limited resources available to prevent the unnecessary duplication of research, look for potential research synergies, and ensure the execution of only the most critical research efforts throughout an asset's lifecycle.
Developing a unified roadmap allows for knowledge sharing by highlighting the value of market research planning and defining the necessary payer research initiatives and activities throughout the lifecycle of an asset (figure). A standardized roadmap necessitates internal alignment across therapeutic areas, brands, and global markets. It can also be used as a training tool for employees who are unfamiliar with market access planning; it allows employees to quickly understand the market access environment and the relevant stakeholders in different countries across various therapeutic areas. With this tool, employees are challenged to take a high-level perspective on a company's product portfolio, to identify assets with similar indications, and/or development milestones and to assess the key research needs within the asset's lifecycle.
The roadmap provides a standardized structure and centralized storage place for market access information. Since the roadmap outlines items like key project objectives and appropriate research sample, it allows companies to efficiently generate requests for proposals for market research studies, ensuring that only the most critical research is executed at each product phase. Additionally, the roadmap can function as a tool for budget planning and ensuring all the important payer research milestones for each product are reached.
Market Acces Research Roadmap Across the Product Lifecycle
However, implementing the standardization process and developing the roadmap is not an easy undertaking, since it requires buy-in from stakeholders throughout the company; often a significant challenge given the current organizational structure of many pharmaceutical companies. As mentioned, market access research and decisions are typically siloed by disease areas, by the brand team, or as a separate group all together. This structure can result in each team or unit having its own "best practices" for market access and payer research. Therefore, obtaining agreement on one process for payer market research requires buy-in from colleagues with potentially conflicting research methodologies. To facilitate this buy-in process, companies must articulate the need for this new uniform process.
With the implementation of this roadmap, budgetary conflicts can arise with the current organizational structure. For example, if research synergies between different assets are discovered, there is the potential for conflicts regarding who is the budget holder for the research among the asset teams. Furthermore, research topic priorities could also become a point of contention with such an overlap. Additionally, the internal structure of the company can lead to uncertainty in who is responsible for guiding the roadmap's development, and more importantly, who is responsible for paying for the initial development of the roadmap itself. In order to avoid this conflict, some companies have developed teams within the organization solely responsible for organizing market access activities.
In order to ensure successful implementation of the payer market research roadmap, the developed tool must be specific to the organizational needs and processes. The roadmap should also be integrated with existing tools for other processes, such as physician/patient market research and/or annual budget planning. Most importantly, the roadmap should be simple and straightforward. However, it is critical to keep in mind that the roadmap is only a tool; it is meant to arm employees with a standardized thought process of payer market research, not to be a one-size-fits-all solution.
Throughout the development of the tool, it should be tested by internal stakeholders and potentially even be pressure checked during a planning cycle. The ultimate goal should be to develop a roadmap that is user friendly and intuitive; otherwise, employees will be hesitant to adopt it.
As a final step to ensuring successful implementation of a payer market research roadmap, a detailed roll-out program needs to be developed. The goal of this training is for employees not only to learn how to use the tool, but also to understand the key objectives for developing the roadmap and how it fits into the overall organizational goals. To complement the roadmap, a wider training to build a common baseline knowledge among employees on the critical pricing and market access research methods throughout the product lifecycle can also be of value.
Standardizing and centralizing payer research across product lifecycle helps develop an overall vision for pricing and market access research across products and disease areas. This unified roadmap approach ensures a consistent high-level research strategy while capturing product and market specific intricacies. Furthermore, implementing such a roadmap will enable employees to develop a common understanding of various pricing and market access environments and increase their strategic thinking across an asset's lifecycle.
Allison Capone is a Consultant at Simon Kucher & Partners. She can bea reached at Allison.Capone@simon-kucher.com.
Marsha Pelletier is a Senior Consultant at Simon Kucher & Partners. She can be reached at Marsha.Pelletier@simon-kucher.com.