January 18, 2017

Does Your Brand.com Meet the Payer’s Needs?

Image of blurry people

Pharmaceutical brand websites usually focus content on professional or patient audiences. However, health plan and hospital personnel are increasingly relevant to the decisions involved in prescribing. This POV explains ways that marketers can ensure that their brands’ websites include information for these increasingly powerful decision makers.

Websites for pharmaceutical brands are a mainstay of marketing and communications efforts. The reach of the “brand.com” goes well beyond patients and prescribers, though. Payers — including managers of health plans or hospital systems, or pharmacy benefit managers — also visit. In addition to the core clinical information which already resides on the site, payers seek information regarding health economics and outcomes research, quality measures, and patient education materials.

It’s clear that payers are becoming increasingly powerful decision makers in healthcare. As their decisions evolve to focus more on outcomes and they make more specific and stringent choices about treatment availability, the need for pharma to provide more information and prove greater value becomes more complicated and more important. Brand strategies are evolving to provide greater context around value and formulary decision makers are visiting brand sites to find meaningful information, so brands must think bigger. Rx brands should consider moving beyond the traditional dichotomy of consumer content and professional content and also examine their websites from a payer point of view.

The lines are blurring between healthcare providers (HCPs); payers; and new types of groups like integrated delivery networks (systems that offer local customers health insurance and an array of healthcare services) and accountable care organizations (providers, hospitals and insurance companies that choose to work together). Their systems, goals, measurements and information needs may be different than those of traditional HCPs.

All types of payers, however, are becoming increasingly engaged with pharma content. According to Manhattan Research’s “Taking the Pulse: Formulary Decision Makers 2014” report:

  • Formulary decision makers (FDMs) agree that pharma websites and apps are essential for their committee member responsibilities (69% of hospital FDMs; 53% of pharmacy benefit manager [PBM] FDMs; 43% of managed care organization [MCO] FDMs).
  • More than 70% of payers and FDMs are interested in receiving email newsletters or alerts from pharmas relevant to formulary review.
  • FDMs are visiting pharma websites once a week or more for their committee responsibilities (58% of hospital FDMs; 32% of PBM FDMs; 68% of MCO FDMs).

Manhattan Research analyst Sonu Kori said, “Payers, like physicians, are very brand-oriented and rely heavily on search in seeking information. So pharmas have to invest in brand.com payer resources and have content for those visitors there.”

What type of content could be included in a “brand.com/payer” section of a pharma brand’s online presence — integrated in the existing brand.com site, as its own area of content (dividing the site among patient, professional and payer sections), or as a separate site built for payers?
  • Data and context on the economic and clinical burden of the disease that the brand treats
  • Data on clinical outcomes and health economics. This can include what’s called “FDAMA 114” information, which is often off-label. This FDA regulation permits pharma companies to provide economic information to payers, who are directly involved in formulary decision making. Often this type of information requires that the user attest to their role as a formulary decision maker
  • Educational materials and tools for HCPs and patients that payers can offer to all customers
  • Information on beyond-the-pill features that the brand provides, such as patient support programs, physician training, free apps, and co-pay offsets or other cost-savings programs
  • Best practices from the industry regarding quality measures and reimbursement models

In addition to these unique informational needs, differences also emerge in the way information should be presented. Payers often react poorly to overstylized designs. Also, if imagery represents only clinical settings, payers may perceive that the information is not designed for them and its impact may be diminished.

Additionally, the data-centric nature of their role calls for the inclusion of interactive tools that can bring data to life in unique and compelling ways.

Providing payers with content and tools like those discussed above can advance the goals of the brand, in addition to offering utility for payers and to the patients and caregivers that are customers of both. It builds the value of the brand in the eyes of all involved, reinforcing relationships, as well as overall corporate commitment and customer-centricity.

The “Triple Aim” is a concept developed by the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which states that healthcare must be designed to simultaneously do three things: improve the patient care experience, improve the health of populations, and reduce costs. When brands offer information that can help payers make better-informed decisions, they can advance the Triple Aim as seen by all involved.

And certainly, a brand that explains its utility and benefits can see improved market access and competitive tier positioning — if the results back that up and if the drug is bolstered with useful tools, like patient-adherence programs and favorable contracting terms.

It’s possible to envision a future in which today’s “brand.com/payer” content could evolve to be not simply a website, but a full hub of patient care — connecting multichannel resources and perhaps even engaging and connecting with prescribers and payers.

In the shorter term, online content could be connected to an email customer relationship management strategy to provide updated content to interested payers. And even with nothing but online content, data analysis can help brands understand more about payers and their needs and interests.

Any payer content, no matter where it’s found, will require thoughtful collaboration between marketing teams and account managers. The potential benefits, however, to payers, providers and patients — as well as to brands — are significant.

For more about connecting payers with brand teams, check out coauthor Peter Weissberg’s recent article for Medical Marketing & Media, “Marketing for Our Modern World.”