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The biggest Market Access problems for Pharma, according to Pharma

And more importantly, how to address them.

At Clarity, we know our clients and partners at times must fight through a multitude of issues just to get projects off the ground – never mind trying to keep shareholders and superiors happy!

We’re here to help our clients achieve success, but in order to do that, we needed to know what the real issues and barriers are on the ground affecting their sales and account teams. So, we commissioned a study, in the form of a survey, and invited our clients to take part.

The results contain extremely interesting responses, some surprising, some not so much, but all enlightening when it comes to developing key areas for resolution of issues and development within the Market Access environment.


The Survey

We wanted to keep it simple.
Overcomplicating a survey in order to get solid, actionable results for the sake of granularity just didn’t seem worth it. You can convolute the process from both perspectives by doing so. The survey respondent may not be able to answer the survey accurately, or honestly, and you may have a hard time distinguishing what the more important data should be telling you.

We developed 7 relevant and important questions to ask. We wanted to cover topics such as the account environment, challenges, market alignment and some self-assessment orientated questions. Each question was multiple choice, with an option for other where the respondent could add additional comments. We hoped we would receive honest, accurate answers as a result.


The 7 questions were:

  1. How would you describe the overall environment your market access customers are operating in?
  2. What is the biggest challenge facing your market access customers?
  3. How is the environment your Market Access customers operate in changing how they view working with you?
  4. How well does your company align with its Market Access customers compared to the competition, in your opinion?
  5. In what specific ways does your company need to improve its standing with Market Access customers?
  6. In what area would further development, education, tools and resources benefit you in working with Market Access customers?
  7. Which of the following categories of account activity would you most benefit from having additional development in as it relates to effectively engaging your Market Access customers?

We will begin by breaking down each question, the multiple choice answers, and the average of the results we received.


The results

Question 1

100%(!) of our clients that responded to the survey agreed that the overall environment is becoming more complex. Of course, this issue is arguably deserving of a survey / study all by itself. For us, this confirmed some things we already knew.

Firstly, it tells us that our customers, and as such we assume pharma as a whole, are not prepared for the fluidity of the market access environment as it is today. It tells us that more due diligence must be performed and that more research on how to access those customers and assess their needs should be done.

Secondly, it tells us that more than likely pharma does not have the resources or expertise (for the most part) to educate their teams on how to effectively administer and cater for their market access customers. Are they not engaging effectively? Are they unsure of the problems their Market Access customers are facing? As a result, are they not sure of the solutions they can provide? Do they know who they really need to speak to within each account, and finally, do their teams possess the skills and competencies required?


Question 2

As expected, cost is a big one here – however not just the cost of the medication provided. A huge 44% said the pressure to reduce the cost of managing the patient population was the biggest challenge. Of course, the other associated costs feed into this.

Nearly 12% did respond with ‘other’. While most of those answers were more-or-less variations on the multiple choices offered, some did respond with ‘all of the above’.

So what does this tell us? The complexities of managing the patient population itself dominate the discussion in the payer and market access community. As much as the focus always seems to be around pricing, the adherent behavior of patients (or lack thereof), has a bigger impact on the bottom line.

It also shows us that maybe there needs to be some management of expectation. Most importantly, it shows us that pharma now NEEDS to have extra value added propositions ready for their market access customers. What’s the biggest value added proposition of the last few years? Strategic relationship building. Or to put it another way, Key Account Management; including ways KAM organizations can partner with Market Access customers on the challenge of managing the patient population. We all knew it was coming, but once again we see a lack of real preparation or consideration when it comes to applying this market changing strategy.


Question 3

From 24%~ to 39%~ was the spread of these 3 answers. Quite obviously each is having a significant impact on the relationship pharma is having with their market access customers. The results here tell us that once again, pharma needs to educate and adapt to a new way of selling.

Those 3 words again, Key Account Management. A successful implementation of Key Account Management will endeavour to solve all 3 issues above – though arguably the 3rd response is a double edge sword – you need to offer more, but as a result, there is more to be gained.


Question 4

Interestingly, only 0.5% of respondents were willing to state that they thought they were market leaders. A lack of confidence in their own expertise maybe? In fact, over 63% of respondents stated they were in a losing position when compared to their competitors – certainly not the position any company wants to find itself in.
Whatever the reasons for this, be it financial or strategic, there seems to be something ingrained in their mindset holding them back.

But how true is it? This is certainly one question where deeper analysis is necessary. Could this analysis start with education? Do they need to understand the environment / landscape better to more accurately define their position within the marketplace and redefine the value they represent to market access customers? Is it a simple case of needing to sell more? Once again, moving to a more strategic account management model can only serve to help.

However, this may be more evidence to suggest that some companies are just not yet in a position to transition to a new account approach.


Question 5

Overwhelmingly, companies now know that they need to be more strategic in their management of their relationships with their customers. This was also echoed in the ‘other’ replies.

So if they already know what they need to do, why are they not doing it? Internally, the vast majority of the companies we work with do not have the resources or the tools they need to prepare for moving to a strategic account management model. They may not have the internal resources to manage change on such a large level.

So we now know that pharma understands the need for change, but they cannot accurately articulate the ‘case for change’, and there is a reluctance for change in the first place.

There now finally appears to be a realization that they may need to employ external resources to assess their position, educate their teams, and transition to strategic account management. They know it’s what their customers want, but are unsure how to realize it.


Question 6

Companies need more education in their account environment (27.2%) and they need to conduct more research on their customers. The business drivers and triggers for Market Access decision makers have shifted significantly in the last few years resulting in new challenges, needs and topics; risk stratification, RWE, indication-based reimbursement to name a few.

A significant 41.8% indicated that they need additional tools and resources, so, therefore, are not in a position themselves to educate their sales force, or conduct the research required on their customers.

This echoes the consensus of previous questions / answers in this survey. Companies need help. They need help identifying the needs of their customers, identifying exactly who it is they need to enter into conversations with, what conversations to have, and they need to acquire or employ the resources required in order to conduct the research and training for all of the above.

Question 7

We did not expect the responses seen here. Merely 1.2% of respondents stated they needed further development in the area of Discovery & Validation. This seems at odds with the responses received for previous questions in this survey.

However, a huge proportion (61.8%) of respondents stated they need help to develop their Solution Alignment & Commitment stages. Companies and their sales teams seem to be unaware of the needs of their customers. Because of this, they do not know what solutions they may already have for their problems. In essence, they don’t know, what they don’t know!

Ironically, more effort in the Discovery & Validation zone could very well help with these issues. This is the very zone they feel they don’t need any further development in. For help with this, we have provided an essential Discovery & Validation Checklist to download.

If account teams are too focused on throwing solutions at the problem and don’t take the time to do proper “discovery” and “validation” of the real issue Market Access customers are facing, there’s a good chance they’ll be out of alignment with their key accounts.

The results also show a lack of understanding when it comes to benchmarking their own capabilities and self-assessment.

Once again, this comes back to education. Education of the landscape, education of the tools & resources required and how to employ them. Education in the key skills and competencies required to engage with the right stakeholders. Engaging those stakeholder on the right topics.


Can we draw any useful conclusions from this?

Of course, we can. It appears that the problems companies are facing when trying to construct successful relationships with their market access customers are complex.

As the influence of the payer community continues to increase, the old market access strategies and tactics have fallen short and pharma left wondering where and how they can bring value. It shouldn’t be that difficult but some of the responses in this survey indicate that companies are struggling to make the shift.

Pharma organizations need help in the areas of change management, benchmarking & self-assessment, in landscape education, and following on from all of that, they need help with training, strategic planning and coaching.

Until companies begin to realize that there are a whole host of changes required to engage effectively with their market access customers in this new environment, they will continue to face these issues.


For more insights, check out our other blog posts.

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