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Specialty Medications, Specialty Challenges: Selecting a Services Partner & Creating a Model to Optimize Patient Outcomes

Thursday, March 31, 2022

When it comes to experience with specialty medication support models within the industry, a few know a lot, some know more, most only know what they know, and no one knows everything.

The landscape for services partner selection has grown dramatically over the last decade. Partner selection considerations for brand and patient service owners may include current and past experience, provider reputation, provider niche, and the use of consultants. Additionally, internal team and department dynamics come into play – it’s not uncommon for RFP scorecards to be used with large internal teams. This creates a huge amount of reference points for decision markers – some could be based on direct experience, others may be by word-of-mouth.

Considerations for Services

When evaluating a potential services partner, it is critical to consider the product profile while keeping in mind the relevant points above. Take into account and carefully consider the prescribing specialty, payer type, patient demographics, benefit type, route of administration, frequency of administration, and more. For example, a self-injectable medication like a weekly or bi-weekly biologic will require patient training and support, as well as adherence reminders. An infused product will require appointment coordination and reminders for the required frequency, e.g. monthly, quarterly, or only twice a year.

In addition to how a service provider’s capabilities fit your product and patient, you will need to evaluate how their capabilities fit your desired model.  Will services be fully outsourced, fully internal, or will it be a hybrid of manufacturer and service provider technology and employees? These pieces will all factor into how well-positioned a services provider is for your unique product.

Further dynamics compounding selection of a specialty services model may include the following options:

  • Product/Program Status:  New product launch or program transition
  • Fully Outsourced Model: One-stop-shop or integration of best-in-breed service providers
  • Hybrid: Technology considerations – HUB vs pharma CRM, both systems working together, third party technologies, balancing front-end and back-end FTEs
  • Field Services: FRM, FRS, CNE, PAS, PAM, NN, etc.

Each of these model considerations have pros and cons – all of these require a budget, stakeholder alignment, operational know-how, technology (internal/external), and, most importantly, time to implement (as well as ongoing design iterations, system and FTE support post-program launch).

Regarding hybrid and internal models, there have been pushes to bring services in-house and launch systems using third-party IT resources – typically within mature programs. The implementation often takes longer than expected for the first launch and consecutive brands. The struggle with this approach is that “I don’t control the IT team – I have to get in line for an IT change and it’s going to take months.” Another consideration: most manufacturers prefer a SalesForce platform as their IT leaders are most familiar with the SFDC system.  What matters the most is not SFDC or another CRM platform, it’s the people who are building it. Do they have the know-how and understanding of your program and operational needs?

Key Takeaways for Service Provider Selection

Every owner of a HUB has aspirations for program objectives and service delivery.  RFPs are deployed to solicit recommendations and information from service providers to identify a good match for services and fit the client with a given model in mind.

What is important to gain in the RFP process? Is it therapy experience, is it the number of programs, is it the people running the program, is it the technology, is it reporting, is it scale, is it one-stop-shop, is it budget, is it speed?

Hub ownership is not an easy job. It takes extensive knowledge and interpersonal skills to navigate internal and external stakeholders. But the effort to implement a HUB is worth it. It enables patients to get on therapy and their lives are changed.

When it comes to experience with specialty medication service models within the industry, ultimately, you only know what you have been exposed to when it comes to service models – each program may offer a different level of service to meet the needs of the unique patient and prescriber audience involved. The stakeholder experience drives the value of the program and that is what makes services unique between providers.

At UBC, we put Patients First in every aspect of our Patient Access Services, from consulting and design to execution and operations. Our subject matter experts and operations team are highly experienced with traditional and unique models to drive value for your program and maximize patient outcomes.

UBC is leaning forward by combing high-touch with high-tech, automating enrollment and approvals to help patients start therapy quicker, and using a digital assistant to customize touchpoints tailored to the patient type and individual patient preference. To talk shop and learn more, go here.

About the Author

Ed Vegso is a Senior Director, Business Development at UBC. He is an industry leader with more than 25 years of sales, marketing, access, business development, and design experience launching and operationalizing services for specialty medications.