NHS engagement is about combining thorough market intelligence with a robust targeting plan.
The imminent authorisation of the first wave of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) promises to provide Key Account Managers with yet more information on which they can base their call strategies. By November, 35 CCGs will hope to have successfully navigated the comprehensive authorisation process and be approved to take on their new commissioning duties from April 2013. A further 177 prospective CCGs will be reviewed across the final three authorisation waves, with decisions on all the new local organisations expected by the end of January 2013. The dawn of a new era for commissioning is almost upon us. And as the reform rhetoric turns into reality, a new customer landscape for UK pharma will have emerged.
The four-wave authorisation process will place into the public domain a wide range of important documentation that was required not only to support individual CCG applications but, more importantly, to provide strategic blueprints for the long-term development of these embryonic local health organisations. Key documents include Joint Strategic Needs Assessments, Commissioning Intentions, Integrated Plans, Joint Health & Wellbeing Strategies, Organisational Structure Plans and draft Joint Commissioning Agreements. In some of the more proactive local organisations, such information is already available.
Elsewhere, it remains in late-stage development. Either way, the data and plans set out in these documents will undoubtedly provide crucial insights for KAMs targeting existing, new and emerging decision-makers and influencers at the local level.
And therein lies the problem. Identifying the most important and influential stakeholders in a changing NHS remains one of UK pharma’s biggest challenges. Earlier this year, the NHS Alliance’s Chief Officer, Mike Sobanja, said that the industry was about to embark on a game of ‘Spot the Commissioner’. He was not wrong. But to win, medical sales professionals tasked with the responsibility for identifying and developing key customer accounts must take the gaming metaphor a stage further and set about playing a conventional game of ‘Guess Who?’ Unfortunately, winning won’t be child’s play – it will require an insightful and educated approach.
But guess who, indeed. The current reorganisation of the NHS is bringing an increasing number of players to the table. Alongside CCGs, the Department of Health has recently published further details on the establishment of 27 Local Area Teams (LATs). Ten of these will be specialist commissioning hubs; the remainder will be afforded a variety of commissioning responsibilities. In addition, commissioning will be supported by 12 Clinical Senates, whose full remit is, as yet, unclear. Beyond this, the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) – which itself will exert major influence over local commissioning plans – has more recently rebranded commissioning support services as Commissioning Support Units (CSUs). The NHS CB is currently conducting an authorisation process that will determine which organisations will provide ‘scale services’ to support CCGs – and has approved 23 to date. Critics claim the new CSUs look suspiciously like PCTs.
Regardless, it’s clear that in the very near future, pharma will find some of its key customers are housed in a CSU. They will also reside in fledgling Health & Wellbeing Boards. Undoubtedly, the new commissioning landscape will present a complex customer matrix for the industry.
Such is the speed and scale of the reforms that targeting customers in an environment that appears to be changing on a daily basis could easily be reduced to a guessing game. But pharma’s approach needs to be much more sophisticated than that. KAMs know that the old-school ‘noise-based’ approach to customer engagement will no longer work. Call plans must be targeted and efficient. But how?
The challenge really is like playing a giant NHS-themed game of Guess Who? Figuratively, every KAM has their own game board. The characters on it will differ, in terms of remit and influence, from one local health economy to another. And they will also be dependent upon disease area. A fully comprehensive board will comprise a mixture of clinicians and payers, as well as, potentially, influencers from social care and local authorities. Crucially, the game is as much about ruling out irrelevant customers as it is about identifying key targets. The former will determine the latter. The most adept sales professionals will be those who command sufficient market knowledge to be able to discern between an important stakeholder and a non-starter. They will then be able to use this information to form an efficient call strategy. Market data will clearly inform these targeting decisions. And there is a lot of it out there.
The imminent arrival of strategic documentation emanating from the CCG authorisation process will be just the latest in a deep mine of useful NHS data available to the industry. From QOF data to QIPP plans, HES data to CQUIN frameworks, the modern NHS is generating performance data, indicators and metrics at a rapid rate of knots. Used properly, it can be gold dust.
Local health organisations are being measured on their ability to eliminate variation in care, reduce hospital admissions and improve health outcomes. And they are increasingly required to report on how they are faring against these objectives. Proactive KAMs can use this data to develop messages that target commissioners of care and demonstrate how their drugs can impact service delivery in line with known priorities.
But data is only part of the answer. On its own, information is not enough. Success will only come from having an understanding of what it means, and establishing how it can be targeted in the right direction. A KAM can have all the data in the world, but if they are not able to translate it into an offering that demonstrates a meaningful gain for a customer, it is worthless.
The key account management game of Guess Who? will ultimately be led by the messaging you have developed, which, in turn, will have been driven by local circumstances and those customer needs identified within relevant market data. If you have a health economic message, certain clinical customers can be ruled out. If your value proposition can make a difference to a QOF target, once again, it will dictate a more precise customer group and eliminate others.
The rapidly expanding availability of NHS information promises great national and local insights for KAMs – and the Department of Health’s recently published Information Strategy indicates that a growing emphasis is being placed on the need to capitalise on the promise of data to drive improvements in patient care. But medical sales professionals must not lose sight of the fact that once they have reviewed all the available data and determined their product messaging, they still need to identify the key customers with whom those messages will most resonate. And they must then tackle the industry’s other long-standing challenge: gaining access to them. Having something to offer that can help customers meet their own objectives provides the best possible chance to achieve this.
So it’s clear that, faced with an evolving NHS bedeviled by rising demand, reduced resources and major reorganisation, productive industry engagement will only come through the development of a market access strategy that marries environmental intelligence with accurate customer targeting. This all links back to the need to establish a robust CRM strategy that integrates all aspects of customer data into a single platform, and communicates them effectively and efficiently across the commercial organisation. This approach will prevent KAMs going off in different directions and developing flawed strategies based on poorly-interpreted information.
In a dynamic, fast-changing market, only meaningful engagement that communicates the right message to the right customers will make any discernible difference. Anything else will be pure guesswork.
David Round is General Manager, UK at Cegedim Relationship Management.