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All things Pharma

Embracing technology

In the rapidly changing NHS Richard Gray, Commercial Director, Cegedim Dendrite UK, explains how technology should be used as an essential component to successful Customer Relationship Management.

For pharmaceutical companies, the ability to share local knowledge and best practice in a timely and effective way will be key to long term success in the new NHS. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has always been viewed as the solution, but may not have always delivered on its promise under the old pharma selling model. However, as pharmaceutical companies embrace market access and the need to truly share information across different areas of the business, CRM will be key to tracking interactions across every part of the organisation and managing the complexities of stakeholders’ relationships.
The vast majority of pharmaceutical companies may have made the shift to a Key Account Management (KAM) structure in order to respond to the needs of a payer-led health service; but just what support is in place to ensure that a KAM model is effective?
Over the next 12 to 18 months, the NHS is set to experience massive structural change, from the disbanding of Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) to the creation of GP commissioning bodies. Keeping pace with this change, the new stakeholders, and the way in which the pharmaceutical company is interacting with these individuals – and their network of contacts and opinion leaders – will be essential.
These new bodies will be under huge pressure to drive down costs and deliver efficiencies, all within a totally new way of working, offering pharmaceutical companies clear opportunities to share best practice, shape service provision and build strong, supportive relationships.
It is therefore essential to have an effective mechanism for sharing information across the pharmaceutical company, to leverage insight gleaned during interactions to ensure the specific needs are understood and met according to the overall strategy.

Enabling key account management
But for today’s new generation of KAMs just how is this complex market access requirement to be delivered? How can a KAM ensure activities, from providing health service stakeholders with information within a defined timescale to implementing a strategic messaging campaign, are carried out on time and to the required standard? Does a KAM know that a key target has contacted the call centre for information? Can a KAM track not only which key stakeholders have received a direct marketing email, but which have responded and whether there is any overlap between these individuals – from committee membership to the use of shared GP commissioning services?
In this increasingly complex health service, pharmaceutical companies should not be concerned simply with one to one relationships but also with the extended relationships. Interactions with a stakeholder’s colleague or co-member of a committee can be extremely relevant to the overall pharmaceutical messaging.
So, can CRM solutions really support market access strategies? Can they reach across organisational boundaries to provide access to information across the business from sales reps to medical liaison, call centre to research and development? And, can they really support the needs of the new pharmaceutical KAM?

The extended CRM model
The CRM model for pharmaceutical companies is very different to the way the majority of organisations use this technology. At the most basic level, most non-pharma or fast moving consumer goods companies will use CRM to track interactions from initial customer introduction through to sale. The performance metrics are clear and easily understood.
For pharmaceutical companies however, the complex networks of influences and the multiple ways the organisation will engage with the extended network of stakeholders make such simple performance calculations impossible. Whilst in the past, under the traditional rep/detailing approach, traditional coverage and frequency of visit metrics would have sufficed; with the move to KAM and focused market access strategies that encompass diverse elements of the company, the needs have changed.
Today, pharmaceutical companies require a very different set of metrics that include the quality of the interaction, whether activities are part of a coordinated strategy and the timeliness of information provision. In addition, to the ability to support these diverse metrics intuitively, the CRM system needs also to reflect the unique nature of pharmaceutical data.
Whilst most organisations in other industries will populate their own CRM databases with information from customers and prospective interactions, pharmaceutical companies have a far more complex network of stakeholder contacts to track and understand. Therefore, the role of a CRM vendor changes in this arena; and an ability to provide up-to-date, accurate information that reflects the fast changing nature of the NHS, the new stakeholders in medicines management and GP commissioning groups, as well as pharmaceutical relevant CRM software, is essential.

Customer insight
It is only with this depth of information and the ability to support pharmaceutical specific metrics that a company can put in place a CRM strategy that supports effective market access. Key to achieving this model is the decision from day one to ensure every relevant department and individual has access to the system and, more importantly, also believes and values the benefits the good use that CRM brings – from sales and contact centre to medical affairs. Just providing KAMs with access is not going to suffice; if the customer is to be truly at the heart of the organisation, every part of the business must have access to all interactions.
Of course with this depth of complex, overlapping information, it is essential to ensure each individual understands the data, both how it relates to a specific role or function and its relevance to the overall market access campaign.  CRM systems must be able to display the information intuitively, providing a 360 degree customer view with simple links to relevant interactions such as meetings, face-to-face calls, emails, direct mail and call centre requests.
Within this framework, the KAM can build up virtual organisations and key accounts; which could be a person, a health centre or other NHS body, or just a virtual organisation built from a number of different stakeholders. Providing a KAM with the ability to create the key account, with an action plan and SWOT analysis, is key to supporting this huge transition and achieving really effective relationship management.
Add in real-time mobile access and everyone now has access to all requirements exactly when they need them. KAMs can track project plans, chase up actions and measure performance within a single, trusted, cross-organisational system.
A good CRM system cannot turn a rep into a successful KAM overnight. But without the ability to track the quality of interactions, the timeliness of actions and the relevance of the extended relationship, KAMs will have little chance of implementing successful market access strategies or delivering the local knowledge required to build strong relationships across the new NHS.


Richard Gray is the Commercial Director of Cegedim Dendrite UK.  Founded in 1969, Cegedim is a global technology and services company specialising in the healthcare field.  Further details are found online at www.cegedimdendrite.com. Mr Gray is a regular contributor for Pf; his last article was published in the August issue.

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