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How to forge stronger working relationships with payers

By Warren Dunn

4 tips to help emerging biopharma companies understand and reach this crucial audience
Close-up of two business women shaking hands
5 minute read
Close-up of two business women shaking hands
Payers have a distinctive and definitive role in shaping today’s healthcare landscape. While some parties are quick to assume payers’ attitudes that aren’t necessarily collaborative, the opposite is true.

We’ve created this reference to help emerging biopharma companies forge stronger working relationships with payers.  
Close-up of two business women shaking hands

1. Remember, payers are people, too 

We set out to learn more about the elusive payer. Who are these individuals when they’re not making formulary decisions? How do they spend their time? Do they have lives outside of reviewing dossiers?  

The answers lead to the philosophy payers are people, too.  

Yes, during working hours payers look at their worlds through a distinctive lens. One where product efficacy, safety, and costs rule. But when they’re off the clock, payers are people. They carpool their kids. They have hobbies and interests like travel, gardening, and cooking. They go to the gym. They consume social media. In short, they’re just like us.  

So, what does an emerging biopharma company do with this information? When it comes to messaging payers through non-personal promotion, if you’re only trying to reach them through industry trade magazines and sites, then you’re only marketing to half a person. What about their other half – the off-the-clock half that also consumes media? A more robust media campaign designed to reach payers when they’re working and when they’re off-the-clock could be of interest.  

2. They truly care about population health matters 

It can be maddening. You have a product that has the potential to simplify patients’ lives and increase adherence. Who would want to take a pill a day when one injection could last a month? However, if there is an alternative on the market that is both efficacious and cost-effective, naturally, this is where most payers will lean. 

But when you understand payers’ roles a little more deeply, you will understand their charge is looking at population health through a macro lens. What is going to make the greatest health impact while considering the lowest utilization? It is our job as marketers to think more deeply about the product value proposition to distill more meaningful evidence that shows an unmet need being met in a new way.  

This is an opportunity for HEOR and brand teams to work more closely together to identify the need for specific studies to uncover evidence that may require digging a little deeper.  

Let your agency of record take a look at your current product value proposition to identify evidence gaps, and if needed, connect you with contract health economic outcomes researchers to conduct the studies that will lead to product distinction.  

3. Payers do not want to be told what to think 

This is perhaps one of the most confusing aspects to contend with when communicating with payers.   

So, what do you do? You let your evidence speak for itself. Yes, you can have a powerful headline or intriguing message. But most importantly, payers prefer to examine and evaluate the evidence provided. They will come to their own conclusions on how to think. 

4. Payers want to share their insights in a variety of ways 

Despite our new hybrid work force, payers still enjoy face-to-face encounters with account managers. However, these treasured visits are often no longer than 30 minutes and only happen a few times per year. To help augment emerging biopharma companies gleaning essential insights from payers cost-effectively and efficiently, there are number of options to pursue:  

  • Advisory boards. Whether live or virtual, a go-to-market partner can recruit and assemble advisory boards in as little as a few days to nimble biopharma companies can remain agile in conducting key research.  
  • Bulletin boards. This quick, compliant vehicle offers biopharma companies the opportunity to post a question and payers provide insights for consideration.  
  • Working groups.A go-to-market partner can assemble a “go-to” group of dedicated payers to provide insights on the fly and through pre-designated meetings. Having one consistent group of formulary decision makers who understands your product and evidence can prove to be most helpful in optimizing strategy.  
  • Compliant online formulary information sharing. A 24/7, online resource represents the largest group of US payers who have the ability to access your product evidence prior to launch. Biopharma companies have the ability to pose questions and gather insights, creating an invaluable feedback loop. 
  • Outsourced managed care account executives. Given the limited bandwidth and resources facing some biopharma companies, the ability to conduct payer meetings by outsourcing the account executive role is an attractive choiceThese former payers, pharma and sales executives are also often health policy specialists and skilled in professional trade relations. Internal analysis of outsourcing work to seasoned managed care account executives conducted by AmerisourceBergen concluded that such actions had the potential to decrease time-to onboard and-contribute significantly without adding to organizational headcount.  

You could also increase speed to:

  • Target account identification and prioritization  
  • Conduct top-line medical content discussions with appropriate payer customers
  • Negotiate for optimal coverage policies based on approved rules of engagement 

Remember, payers are more than resources for essential guidance in designing your go-to-market strategies. Payers are people, too! If you’re an emerging biopharma interested in learning more on understanding and building successful collaborations with payers, consider the value in having one point of contact guide you through payer relationships. 


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About The Author

Warren Dunn
Vice President Payer Agency Services
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