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All things Pharma

Online appointment booking:

time to embrace change

With more than 10% of appointment-making practices having closed their doors permanently to the industry’s representatives since the new GP contract took effect in April 2004, more representatives are calling on fewer practices, placing greater demands on their resources. Analysts suggest that the current selling model must change, but the NHS and the industry are actually both slow to change. So what is the answer? Pf talks to mediary.

Undoubtedly, pharma companies will continue to deploy sales forces to call on prescribers and influencers. GPs will remain an important part of that audience, underscored by the advent of Practice Based Commissioning (PBC). However, PBC and a reduction in PCTs mean new targets for non-pharma medical sales people who work in primary care. Sales professionals selling items such as disposables, IT, and financial services now all approach primary care practices in the same way as pharmaceutical representatives. There is the risk of further ‘rep congestion’.
UK pharmaceutical sales forces cost in excess of £1billion. They drive a distance equivalent to the moon and back every day. With so few customer contacts per day the efficiency of this model is under scrutiny. Additional costs carried by marketing departments are largely dependent on the effectiveness of the sales force. Detail aids, leave pieces, and meetings sponsorship add up to another sum of many millions, much of which is wasted when reps can’t get to see their targets.
Representatives who enjoy their jobs are not keen to admit to how difficult it is. As a few have said: ‘voting for change in the field processes is like turkeys voting for Christmas’. But what choice do they have? Resist change and fall behind? Follow change, because that might be less risky? Or take the lead in responding to customers’ changing needs?
So why are the minority in certain field forces surprised when practices say it makes simple sense to make appointments and meetings available online? Change resistance. All sorts of reactions emerge: ‘it must be against the Code of Practice’ or ‘that means I’m blocked out’ or ‘I can’t access the internet! ’ But the list of ‘protestations’ all have simple real world answers:

Is the mediary service contravening the ABPI code of practice?
mediary is designed to comply, and we’ve had no complaints in two and a half years.

Is it ‘paying for appointments’?
No, no more than paying the telephone company for calls that get appointments. The mediary model is paying for ‘line time’, regardless of what is obtained online.

I’m blocked out because the practice wants me to get my appointments online.
No-one is ‘blocked out’ unless the individual practice decides to block someone out, and they can do that without recourse to online diaries. Furthermore, the majority of practices still grant appointments to those who resist going online.

‘My company will not let me use online appointment making’.
It seems unfortunate that primary care practice wishes are ignored. Invariably because someone senior does not understand how online appointments work. When they have the facts and realise that this is what the customer wants, they usually go ahead.

Will mediary make my appointments for reps or companies?
No, mediary is a communication system, just like the ‘phone but online. You collect appointments and meetings put there for you by practices. mediary has no ‘ownership’ of any appointments.

If the pharma industry is your only customer, and they can only purchase line time to get appointments, isn’t that the same as the industry ‘buying appointments’?
There are two reason why this ‘esoteric’ theory does not hold: first, Pharma is not alone in using this system, many non-pharma medical representatives can use it, and this is increasingly the case with PBC; and second, it is not just ‘appointments’ that are available online, other information and services are accessed in the same way.

But this is an additional cost on Pharma budgets isn’t it?
No, the 8.3 pence per day to use the service online replaces hundreds of pounds worth of miles driven, and human resources saved or re-deployed to call on additional targets. The ‘ROI’ is profoundly positive.

Some reps think that making appointments in the traditional way is part of their job, so this service is a threat to their way of working.
Representatives are primarily employed to communicate with healthcare professionals, not to spend vast proportions of the day chasing appointments. Removing some of the logistical burden increases the opportunity for the rep to be in front of customers.

What do practices say when a rep tells them they cannot use the online facility?
They either grant an appointment in the traditional way, or they say, ‘use it, or lose it’. Some practices have even written to pharma management saying this is the preferred way to collect appointments. We have a substantial file of practice management testimonials, available upon request.

So when will every practice use mediary?
Never in my lifetime! We project an adoption of the service over a five-year plan, at the end of which probably 65% of the 6,000 practices that provide appointments will use mediary, or a similar system, to some extent. Electronic medical record and administration system supplier ‘EMIS’ was awarded the ‘Most Innovative E-Health Initiative’ in 2005 for providing online appointments booking for patients. This will take possibly ten years before half the patients use it, whereas online booking of almost anything else is growing at a remarkable rate. EMIS customers represent about 55% of practices and, at regional level, between 10% and 40% of patients used it within six months. EMIS claims savings of around £15 million to the NHS this year.

I observe you have some ‘heavyweight’ independent advisors.
Yes, including former Minister of Health, Gerald Malone; former permanent secretary at the DH, Sir Christopher Kelly; and Ann Hacker, Drummond Paris and Kevin James, all former industry CEOs. They scrutinised the mediary service rigorously, particularly around the PMCPA-ABPI Code of Practice, and continue to oversee what it does.

“Why are the minority in certain field forces surprised when practices say it makes simple sense to make appointments and meetings available online?”

 

Since then another Advisory Board has emerged to help the NHS Primary Care Practice mediary User Group. This board is chaired by Dr. James Kingsland, current chair of the NAPC, and has board members including Val Hempsey, the current ‘Practice Manager of The Year’.

Currently a ‘Medical Representatives Advisory Board’ is forming. This will represent medical representative users and will independently ensure that the mediary processes suit them. If you are interested in being considered for this advisory board, seek permission from your company and send your company name, division, length of time you have been a representative and the area of the UK you cover to: info@mediary.co.uk

15 meetings for representatives have been held in the key mediary using areas. These have allowed representatives to learn about mediary and to clear up misconceptions. Practice Managers have also attended these meetings and have noted that the companies that appear to have the most issues don’t bother coming to the meetings. To find out when the next meeting is in your area, contact: info@mediary.co.uk

Whichever way the mediary service is considered, it can’t be denied that it saves an immense amount of travel, releases representatives to pursue additional targets, and alleviates the congestion in practices and on their telephones.

time to embrace change

With more than 10% of appointment-making practices having closed their doors permanently to the industry’s representatives since the new GP contract took effect in April 2004, more representatives are calling on fewer practices, placing greater demands on their resources. Analysts suggest that the current selling model must change, but the NHS and the industry are actually both slow to change. So what is the answer? Pf talks to mediary.

Undoubtedly, pharma companies will continue to deploy sales forces to call on prescribers and influencers. GPs will remain an important part of that audience, underscored by the advent of Practice Based Commissioning (PBC). However, PBC and a reduction in PCTs mean new targets for non-pharma medical sales people who work in primary care. Sales professionals selling items such as disposables, IT, and financial services now all approach primary care practices in the same way as pharmaceutical representatives. There is the risk of further ‘rep congestion’.
UK pharmaceutical sales forces cost in excess of £1billion. They drive a distance equivalent to the moon and back every day. With so few customer contacts per day the efficiency of this model is under scrutiny. Additional costs carried by marketing departments are largely dependent on the effectiveness of the sales force. Detail aids, leave pieces, and meetings sponsorship add up to another sum of many millions, much of which is wasted when reps can’t get to see their targets.
Representatives who enjoy their jobs are not keen to admit to how difficult it is. As a few have said: ‘voting for change in the field processes is like turkeys voting for Christmas’. But what choice do they have? Resist change and fall behind? Follow change, because that might be less risky? Or take the lead in responding to customers’ changing needs?
So why are the minority in certain field forces surprised when practices say it makes simple sense to make appointments and meetings available online? Change resistance. All sorts of reactions emerge: ‘it must be against the Code of Practice’ or ‘that means I’m blocked out’ or ‘I can’t access the internet! ’ But the list of ‘protestations’ all have simple real world answers:

Is the mediary service contravening the ABPI code of practice?
mediary is designed to comply, and we’ve had no complaints in two and a half years.

Is it ‘paying for appointments’?
No, no more than paying the telephone company for calls that get appointments. The mediary model is paying for ‘line time’, regardless of what is obtained online.

I’m blocked out because the practice wants me to get my appointments online.
No-one is ‘blocked out’ unless the individual practice decides to block someone out, and they can do that without recourse to online diaries. Furthermore, the majority of practices still grant appointments to those who resist going online.

‘My company will not let me use online appointment making’.
It seems unfortunate that primary care practice wishes are ignored. Invariably because someone senior does not understand how online appointments work. When they have the facts and realise that this is what the customer wants, they usually go ahead.

Will mediary make my appointments for reps or companies?
No, mediary is a communication system, just like the ‘phone but online. You collect appointments and meetings put there for you by practices. mediary has no ‘ownership’ of any appointments.

If the pharma industry is your only customer, and they can only purchase line time to get appointments, isn’t that the same as the industry ‘buying appointments’?
There are two reason why this ‘esoteric’ theory does not hold: first, Pharma is not alone in using this system, many non-pharma medical representatives can use it, and this is increasingly the case with PBC; and second, it is not just ‘appointments’ that are available online, other information and services are accessed in the same way.

But this is an additional cost on Pharma budgets isn’t it?
No, the 8.3 pence per day to use the service online replaces hundreds of pounds worth of miles driven, and human resources saved or re-deployed to call on additional targets. The ‘ROI’ is profoundly positive.

Some reps think that making appointments in the traditional way is part of their job, so this service is a threat to their way of working.
Representatives are primarily employed to communicate with healthcare professionals, not to spend vast proportions of the day chasing appointments. Removing some of the logistical burden increases the opportunity for the rep to be in front of customers.

What do practices say when a rep tells them they cannot use the online facility?
They either grant an appointment in the traditional way, or they say, ‘use it, or lose it’. Some practices have even written to pharma management saying this is the preferred way to collect appointments. We have a substantial file of practice management testimonials, available upon request.

So when will every practice use mediary?
Never in my lifetime! We project an adoption of the service over a five-year plan, at the end of which probably 65% of the 6,000 practices that provide appointments will use mediary, or a similar system, to some extent. Electronic medical record and administration system supplier ‘EMIS’ was awarded the ‘Most Innovative E-Health Initiative’ in 2005 for providing online appointments booking for patients. This will take possibly ten years before half the patients use it, whereas online booking of almost anything else is growing at a remarkable rate. EMIS customers represent about 55% of practices and, at regional level, between 10% and 40% of patients used it within six months. EMIS claims savings of around £15 million to the NHS this year.

I observe you have some ‘heavyweight’ independent advisors.
Yes, including former Minister of Health, Gerald Malone; former permanent secretary at the DH, Sir Christopher Kelly; and Ann Hacker, Drummond Paris and Kevin James, all former industry CEOs. They scrutinised the mediary service rigorously, particularly around the PMCPA-ABPI Code of Practice, and continue to oversee what it does.

“Why are the minority in certain field forces surprised when practices say it makes simple sense to make appointments and meetings available online?”

 

Since then another Advisory Board has emerged to help the NHS Primary Care Practice mediary User Group. This board is chaired by Dr. James Kingsland, current chair of the NAPC, and has board members including Val Hempsey, the current ‘Practice Manager of The Year’.

Currently a ‘Medical Representatives Advisory Board’ is forming. This will represent medical representative users and will independently ensure that the mediary processes suit them. If you are interested in being considered for this advisory board, seek permission from your company and send your company name, division, length of time you have been a representative and the area of the UK you cover to: info@mediary.co.uk

15 meetings for representatives have been held in the key mediary using areas. These have allowed representatives to learn about mediary and to clear up misconceptions. Practice Managers have also attended these meetings and have noted that the companies that appear to have the most issues don’t bother coming to the meetings. To find out when the next meeting is in your area, contact: info@mediary.co.uk

Whichever way the mediary service is considered, it can’t be denied that it saves an immense amount of travel, releases representatives to pursue additional targets, and alleviates the congestion in practices and on their telephones.

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