During a takeout dinner one night a few months ago, one of our employees cracked open a half-stale fortune cookie and pulled out the familiar slip inside. We all know that these “fortunes” are often laughably vague. But occasionally, these randomly printed tidbits of commercialized wisdom can encourage you to stop and think. In this case, the message was just six, simple words:
“Impossible standards just make life difficult.”
How often might you be subjecting yourself to an impossible standard? We can’t speak to every aspect of your life and your work, but we see far too many pharma marketers subject themselves to an impossible standard as they launch a new product launch. Here’s how that happens, and how you can take steps to prevent it.
Basically, the biggest mistake we see marketers and those who support them inside their company make is that they try to navigate pre-launch planning related to the way their product will appear in health IT tools (think EHRs and similar tools), without the knowledge or experience to do this. Or, at a close second in the contest for creating impossible standards, they do no planning at all and just hope for the best, trusting that the busy people who work at drug compendia publishers (the databases that populate almost all of health IT with information) will make the same decisions about the marketer’s new product in the few moments that they have to think about the product, that the brand team and its advisers would suggest after weeks or months of careful thinking, comparisons with other products in the industry, and experience-driven planning.
In either situation, the marketer is creating an environment in which they are trying to compete with the “competitive deck” already stacked against them.
Most brand teams still don’t recognize the far-reaching implications of improper or sub-optimal planning when it comes to the effect that digital systems (e.g., EHRs) can have on a product launch. Sadly, many still aren’t aware that in the digital age of medicine in which we now live, if a prescriber can’t easily find, understand, and differentiate your product in their EHR within seconds, they’re not going to spend time trying to figure it out. And because that happens often, all those millions of dollars and countless hours spent to generate product interest and get the prescriber to the point that they’re willing to try a product on an appropriate patient disappear in an instant, simply because the prescriber gives up and just selects the product they’ve been writing for that patient.
This happens over and over in our industry, simply because no one bothered to plan for the way the product should appear in EHRs, pharmacy systems, and payer reimbursement systems. It’s an impossible standard that the marketer has created for themselves because it’s their job to educate and persuade the prescriber to try the product on an appropriate patient. They do that, but then the proof of their success disappears because they didn’t properly plan for what the busy, overbooked prescriber needs to see to be able to differentiate the product on a crowded EHR screen, in the seconds that prescriber will take to attempt to find and prescribe the new product.
The thing is, understanding compendia and health IT systems just isn’t something most pharma companies are equipped to do. We have several “top twenty” pharma customers who don’t even try to do this on their own, because they know that even the company’s experts in this area are likely dealing with fewer than five or six product launches in a busy year. So, it’s not really their job to be the authority on the plethora of complex considerations necessary to ensure proper digital translation within those systems, when they can work with the niche companies that do this work every day, across many different products and therapeutic areas (and yes, we’re one of those companies). If you are a pharma marketer, expecting yourself, or your internal teams, to possess the skills and experience necessary to navigate this area alone is what creates the impossible standard. It’s not your responsibility to know how to navigate that planning process, but it is your responsibility – and in your own best interest – to make sure that someone is doing that planning for your team.
We can’t speak for every company that offers these “compendia planning” services, but our team has spent years learning the ins-and-outs of this rather specialized area, and at any given time we have many different products in a wide variety of therapeutic areas at various stages of pre-launch planning, within our shop. The unique skills and knowledge necessary to assist a product launch team with navigating the processes required to ensure accurate, easy-to-understand product listings in tools like EHRs is an everyday task for the people who work in this area, which is a sharp contrast to working on five or six, much less one, new product each year. We’ve helped countless brands achieve better launch results by assisting with their digital appearance strategy ahead of time, instead of coming in after the fact and trying to clean up the pieces, which is both expensive and less effective than good planning.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to make your life unnecessarily difficult by attempting to meet standards you’re simply not equipped to meet. Instead, focus on what you’re great at: Educating and persuading prescribers to select your product for an appropriate patient. That’s the core job of a marketer, and a standard they can meet and exceed. But ensuring that the planning for accurate, easily understood and easily differentiated products in health IT systems isn’t what you or your team are equipped to do. If you’d like to avoid impossible standards and create a launch environment in which you can find success, we’d love to have a chat about how we can help you with that.