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Assessing the evolving landscape of digital engagement between healthcare decision makers and biopharma companies

By AmerisourceBergen

Healthcare worker clicking on digital screen

Understanding the rise of digital communication with HCDMs

Healthcare worker clicking on digital screen

In recent years, there has been a notable rise in the exchange of scientific information between healthcare decision makers (HCDMs) and biopharma companies through digital channels. Although the trend grew during the COVID-19 pandemic because of limited in-person interactions, the growing desire for digital communication existed before the pandemic.

Moreover, there is a growing demand for pre-approval information, and this trend shows no sign of abating. Biopharma companies have to pinpoint the optimal timing for delivering relevant information to HCDMs to inform their formulary and coverage decisions, ensuring that patient access remains unhindered. 

Healthcare worker clicking on digital screen
HCDMs emphasize the indispensability of digital resources in shaping decisions for pharmacy and therapeutics (P&T) committees, with 80 percent expressing a preference for accessing information digitally. Previous market research has revealed that HCDMs dedicate more than 3 hours daily to perusing digital resources.1,2 

Understanding HCDM use of digital channels

Cencora developed a survey to better understand how HCDMs use digital communication tools in their formulary decision-making process. 

The web-based, double-blind, 25-question survey went out to HCDM users of FormularyDecisions® Network and Cencora's Managed Care Network from June 23, 2023 to July 5, 2023. Survey takers were part of health plans, integrated delivery networks, and pharmacy benefit management.

The survey results showed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a shift from mostly in-person (56 percent pre-pandemic) to a hybrid/remote work environment (100 percent post-pandemic).3 Because of COVID-19, HCDMs shared that their use of digital resources had either stayed the same (70 percent) or increased (30 percent) but did not decrease.3 However, even if the work environment and COVID-19's influences are not considered, HCDMs reported dedicating more than twice the amount of time reviewing digital resources as opposed to non-digital resources (2.3 hours per day versus 0.7 hours per day, respectively).

Knowing the materials HCDMs are most interested in when preparing for formulary evaluations can provide biopharma companies with the insight they need as to how to best engage HCDMs. Based on the results of the survey conducted, the top three resources that HCDMs reported obtaining scientific and medical-related information from were: 

  • Package inserts 
  • Manufacturer websites 
  • Drug reference sources 

The most common that HCDMs reviewed for both pre-approval and FDA-approved products were treatment guidelines, clinical trial data, pricing information, and peer-reviewed publications. There were some differences noted between materials reviewed for pre-approval and FDA-approved products. HCDMs indicated reviewing approval timing and economic models in pre-approval versus reviewing product information and approved product dossiers in FDA-approved products. 



Use of approved product dossiers 

HCDMs frequently used FDA-approved product dossiers to review approved products, the most popular of which, per Cencora’s survey, was the clinical evidence section. The total time HCDMs spent on an approved product dossier depended on the drug approval category. For example, drugs with a new active ingredient took more than 5 hours to review, while drugs with a change in dosage form, strength, or route of administration took less than 2 hours to review.

The Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) provides guidance on how to structure dossiers for approved and pre-approval products. Based on the Cencora survey, the top changes HCDMs would like to make to AMCP structured dossiers were: 

  • More real-world evidence 
  • More interactive dossiers with multimedia design 
  • Shorter dossiers 

Interest in pre-approval

HCDMs continued to show an interest in seeing pre-approval materials, with Cencora’s market research survey indicating that 56 percent believe it was somewhat or very important. The main product characteristics that influenced HCDMs' desire to see pre-approval materials were: 

  • High cost 
  • Rare disease 
  • First-in-class 
  • Orphan drug designation 
  • Highly efficacious top-line data from early clinical trial phases 
  • Timing with the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) date3 

More than half (56 percent) of the HCDMs explained that their organization reviewed pre-approval materials 3 to 12 months prior to the PDUFA date, and 24 percent reviewed materials up to 3 months prior to the PDUFA date.


Use of approved product dossiers 

Since COVID-19, the change to remote working has increased the amount of time HCDMs spend on digital materials. The survey showed that understanding which types of materials interest HCDMs could help biopharma companies create better digital engagement strategies that offer guidance for formulary evaluations. 

The survey also revealed the importance of the dossier for HCDMs making formulary evaluations. Biopharma companies have an opportunity to create more interactive and multimedia dossiers to engage with HCDMs. 

Moreover, the desire to access pre-approval information remains strong, so providing information a year ahead of expected approval will help HCDMs make more informed formulary and coverage decisions. 

Biopharma companies should consider using solutions that will make digital communication easier with HCDMs. FormularyDecisions® is a secure, online platform that helps biopharma companies safely exchange information with HCDMs. From pre-approval to post-launch, FormularyDecisions® provides insight into what HCDMs think of a product through feedback that better informs market access strategies.


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Explore what FormularyDecisions® has to offer healthcare decision makers. Check out our solution center, and connect with an expert to learn more.

1. Certara. How pharmaceutical companies can engage payers digitally. July 29, 2022. 

2. Asselin R. Integrating payers into your digital communication plan. April 4, 2021. 

3. Ng J, Knight J, Hydery T, et al. Assessing the evolving landscape of digital engagement between healthcare decision makers and biopharma companies. October 16, 2023.