First, if you prefer video as a learning style, feel free to watch this video, which covers much of the same information found in this article: https://vimeo.com/thinkpatients/review/407274314/3bfb4b8a09
But if you’re a fan of the written word, read on!
You might not have heard of an “electronic product identity,” but your product – and every “version” of your product – has one. If you’re not planning for what that identity is likely to be, shaping it where and when you can, and taking actions to influence and monitor it, then it might not be what you want it to be. That can have a negative effect on your product’s market share and sales, cause frustration for your customers and sales force, and ultimately jeopardize your success as someone who is charged with leading or supporting a brand on a commercial, clinical, or market access team. So, what is an electronic product identity, or as we often call it, an “e-PI”?
Simply put, an e-PI is the collection of information that comes together – across several different data sources - to form the way a product appears to anyone using an electronic healthcare tool, such as an EHR. That sounds simple, but the way this actually plays out across the many electronic tools used in healthcare can make the information about a product crystal clear in one tool, but completely confusing in another, depending on how information about the product is prepared and communicated from a variety of sources, including the product’s manufacturer.
A product’s e-PI includes a significant amount of information that is necessary for prescribing, dispensing, administering, and reimbursing that product. Examples include the non-proprietary (or generic) name, brand name, dosage forms, and routes of administration of the product, but these are sometimes abbreviated or written in a sort of “short-hand” within the e-PI that is published in various electronic tools. And, while the manufacturer may use a certain description for a product, or even if a certain term is used in the product’s approved product label, that doesn’t mean those same terms and descriptions will be used in the description created for the product by each of the leading curators and publishers of this information, which are generally referred to as compendia publishers. In fact, each compendium has its own rules and editorial policies that guide how they list products, so a product’s e-PI can differ a bit based on the particular compendium to which a prescriber, payer, pharmacy, or other compendia customer subscribes.
Unfortunately, compendia publishers don’t all communicate with each other, and sometimes they interpret information in unexpected ways, or publish it in ways that the manufacturer might even find surprising, confusing, or undesirable. These publishers are staffed by intelligent, well-intentioned, well-trained professionals, but those professionals are interpreting information – often very quickly and under a deadline to publish – and that can lead to outcomes that manufacturers don’t desire unless the manufacturer does their part to help eliminate this confusion through the information they supply to these compendia publishers. Frankly, it’s a problem that occurred much less often in the “good old days” when everyone just looked things up “on paper”, because humans are really good at figuring things out based on limited or partial information (we’re hardwired to see patterns). In contrast, computers are terrible at those types of tasks! So, the process of trying to translate information that a human can easily understand, into the “structured data” language that computers (electronic tools) understand, can lead to things turning out in ways the manufacturer doesn’t desire, unless they take the time and effort to plan for that “translation” in each of the major compendia. Minor ambiguities can be magnified, and lead to big problems, when a prescriber, payer, or pharmacist is using electronic tools to prescribe, reimburse, or dispense a product, and the information they see is confusing or unclear.
Some manufacturer employees who work with specialty products have commented that none of this applies to them, because their product isn’t typically e-prescribed. Unfortunately, they’re wrong about that. A product’s e-PI also includes categorizations and classifications that can makes the product appear more “like” some products and “unlike” others—and that can affect important things like coverage and reimbursement. So, the e-PI can be just as important for specialty products as it is for products dispensed through a retail pharmacy.
Now, if you’ve read this far and still feel a little bit confused, don’t feel bad. This is a rather complex area that frankly very few people in the industry fully understand. It’s admittedly a niche area of knowledge, but a rather important niche, nonetheless. We often hear manufacturer employees ask, “Doesn’t someone in our company have responsibility for this?” Frankly, in most companies, there really isn’t any one person or group who can coordinate all the activities necessary to manage a product’s e-PI as it approaches approval and launch, because it’s not something development teams, regulatory groups, trade groups, or access partners need to worry about every day. In most cases, it just doesn’t make good business sense to employ a person or group to focus on this, and a significant level of focus is required to maintain the necessary level of knowledge. We’ve found that most teams may subscribe to a particular compendium and have some contacts there, but their knowledge of each publisher’s editorial policies and practices is, well, generally somewhere between thin and nonexistent. Frankly, it’s why many leading manufacturers use our e-PI ManagerSM solution. Some have even worked with us to customize their own version of it, white-labelling it within their company so that it meets the precise needs of their brand teams and internal policies.
So, if you’ve heard about a product appearing in a confusing way within an EHR, or being hard to find, or having any of a host of problems that made it unnecessarily difficult for that product to be found, prescribed, reimbursed, or dispensed, there’s a good chance it can be traced back to the product’s e-PI. And frankly, there’s at least a decent chance that the manufacturer might have prevented the problem by paying more attention to the product’s electronic product identity, well before the product was approved or launched. If you want to learn more or discuss this with us, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.