Pharma in the field: Ashley's story
Patient service motivates Ashley to get up at 5 a.m. every day, cover her south Florida territory, and work with physicians' offices to help their patients start and stay on lifesaving cancer therapies.
“I'm always thinking about the patient and how to help them get access to their medication," says Ashley, a field reimbursement and access specialist (FRAS) at Xcenda. “That's the one thing that really drives me to do what I do."
And what does she do, exactly? Think of her as an advocate for patients. Working directly with prescribers on behalf of manufacturers, Ashley educates physician offices about product access, affordability, and reimbursement for specialty oral and infusion drugs.
Navigating the challenges of affordability and access
Heading out for her daily appointments, Ashley educates medical office staff on how to troubleshoot issues related to billing and coding, claims, appeals, patient assistance programs, and more. The support she gives often ranges from proactive (such as education on the steps required to submit a prior authorization) to reactive (such as education on the process for appealing a denied claim).
“Affordability is a big priority for the oncology programs I support," Ashley says. “With that first bill, patients confront coverage gaps mixed with the catastrophe of cancer. So they have high out-of-pocket costs and it's on us to help the offices understand how to navigate those challenges and the available resources so that their patients can access the therapy."
When her programs involve the launch of a novel therapy, Ashley's task list grows even longer.
“There's a lot of education around payer updates," she says. “We always want to educate our offices on those payers who have added the new product to their formulary or other aspects that are relevant to support access and affordability for the therapy. Depending on the program, that may also involve education around portal usage and how to submit benefit investigations through the patient assistance program."
Sometimes, that access education takes place alongside clinical education—if both Ashley and the sales rep arrive at the same time. But, she stresses, she's not a sales rep. Similar though the roles may seem, they are just two halves of one whole, and ultimately, better together.
“We do collaborate, but we'll always go our separate ways after we both get there," she says. “I'll speak with the access staff, while the sales rep speaks with the clinical staff."
A lifelong passion for patient support
These days, many of Ashley's appointments take place over video conference or phone rather than in person, but that hasn't changed her focus. No matter the tactics, she has one goal: to expand access and affordability for patients in need.
It's a familiar role to a reimbursement expert who has made it her life's work to help patients afford specialty therapies. Before joining Xcenda nearly three years ago, Ashley worked with a community oncology clinic as a financial counselor. There, she worked directly with patients to sort through the complexities of insurance coverage and patient support programs.
When she heard about the field services opportunity at Xcenda, she jumped at it and hasn't looked back. Though Ashley is no longer working with patients directly, she says her motivation hasn't changed: It's still the patients, and it always will be.
“In previous roles, I've always had those relationships with patients, and that was one thing that really helped me get in the right mindset," she says. “In this role, I'm still able to do that, but it's kind of more behind-the-scenes. But if I'm ever in need of motivation, I just think about the patients."
And yet, that doesn't mean her relationship-building muscles have gone soft. Quite the contrary, she adds:
“I'm always meeting new people and that's honestly my favorite part of my job," Ashley says. “I so enjoy developing new relationships with prescriber offices so that they feel comfortable and confident enough to call on me and ask me questions."