Every year, roughly from mid-March through April-May, the managed care conference season provides drug manufacturers and payers the opportunity to engage in a mix of educational and partnership endeavors. These meetings play a critical role in drug access as payers begin to frame formulary designs and intentions for the coming benefit year. But not this year. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire spring conference season was cancelled.

Recognizing an urgent need for drug manufacturers to disseminate information and initiate virtual engagements with payers, PRECISIONvalue looked toward its diverse team of past payer decision makers and industry experts for insights into this issue. To that end, 15 members of the Access Experience Team (AET) responded to a virtual engagement survey focused on understanding payer preferences for obtaining information and interacting with drug manufacturers during these times of social distancing.

Regarding topics of interests that were most likely to prompt payers to respond to virtual meeting requests, drug launches and contract proposals rated the highest. Other topics, including landscape and pipeline updates, health economics and outcomes research, real-world evidence, and guideline updates showed meaningful interest.  Insights from these results illustrated that lower-interest topics could be elevated when combined with higher-interest topics.

Teleconference and video conferencing are 2 widely used and effective means for virtual meetings and information sharing; however, there are other means to communicate updates and new data. The AET members were asked to rate their preferences for obtaining virtual information that was sourced by a drug manufacturer. Managed care websites and health publications were noted as the primary resources payers looked to for finding drug information. Furthermore, hosting information on drug manufacturer websites, microsites, and broad-based payer webinars were also noted as effective channels for information sharing. Moreover, payers almost universally agreed that they would be more likely to visit these external resources when specifically directed by a pharmaceutical account executive.

The survey also revealed that some mechanisms were less likely to result in virtual engagements. Two examples included the use of social media and advertisement links; both of these are still significant, as they demonstrated some levels of interest. Social media, specifically, is a growing channel and more than half of the respondents were at least moderately likely to use social media as a means of obtaining news and information.

In summary, successful virtual engagements between payers and drug manufacturers will require a multipronged approach that should include 3 key components:

  • Multiple channels of communication
  • Diversity of content with varied means of dissemination
  • Personalized follow-up

Drug manufacturer account executives are critical for creating successful virtual engagements. Their relationships with payers are essential for understanding communication preferences and topics that support access decision making.

In closing, I will refrain from stating that social distancing is the new normal, but for now, it’s the current normal; and in the current normal, we’ll all need to become experts in virtual payer engagements.

Andrew Cournoyer, RPh, MBA
Vice President, Director, Access Experience Team