Advice for pharma in payer marketing? Ramp up digital, study finds

Businessman video-chats with doctor on laptop
Pharma companies should work to build digital capabilities to create better connections with decision-makers insider payer companies.

It’s time for pharma to get digital in payer marketing. The most important audience in that field—the people making decisions about formulary placement—are digital-savvy researchers who prefer to find and receive information online, new research has found.

That’s according to DRG Digital’s Manhattan Research, whose study also showed that drugmakers are still mostly focused on reaching payers through traditional, in-person account manager relationships.

Among the pharmacy and therapeutics (P&T) committee members DRG surveyed, 44% would use pharma digital resources more frequently if companies made it easier to find content dedicated to formulary decision-makers. P&T committees at hospitals, government organizations and insurers decide which drugs will make their formulary lists.

Traditionally, pharma companies have marketed drugs and treatments to those influential people in face-to-face meetings handled by account managers, with medical science liaisons or KOLs sometimes pitching in. The move toward digital tools has been slow. In fact, in its research, DRG could only find six pharma-backed websites specifically set up for formulary decision-makers.

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“There has been tremendous focus on this one channel—the account manager. But what we found is there are many, many touchpoints,” said Matthew Arnold, DRG Digital principal analyst. “These professionals are not just sitting around waiting for pharma to come tell them about their products. They’re going to websites for HCPs, online journals, white papers and other channels and resources. Pharmas need to have a presence with payers on those channels.”

Heather Figlar, DRG’s lead analyst on the study, said that the top three things P&T members are most interested in obtaining from pharma are access to real-world evidence after drugs launch (52%), trend reports for disease areas (51%) and the ability to reach experts digitally (46%).

Another digital move pharma can make to boost its prospects with formulary decision-makers is to put digital resources into account managers’ hands during in-person meetings. Tablet presentations and interactive content can be effective, said Figlar. In fact, 52% of P&T committee members in the study agreed that interactive content makes meetings with pharma account managers more valuable.

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Another finding from the study is that payers are interested in beyond-the-pill pharma solutions, but only if those solutions come with data and outcomes evidence that show they're effective. P&T committee members also said they’d be willing to partner with pharma on those kinds of solutions.

“The good news for pharma is there is a lot of white space there. There is a real potential for a competitive advantage for brands that are thinking about what kind of content do P&T committee members need and are looking for,” Arnold said.