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Doctors Aren’t Making the Decisions Anymore: How to Address Hospital Systems

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The individual physician is losing autonomy. And the hospital system is increasingly calling the shots.

One in four U.S. physician practices are now hospital-owned, and the majority of those hospitals are now part of a hospital system. Increasingly, hospital systems, not HCPs, are the ones making decisions about prescriptions, pharma rep access, treatment protocols and more.

Pharma’s traditional business model has been upended. But this not a disaster. Rather, it’s a golden opportunity to reach a vital new audience.

Historically, brand teams did their work with HCPs, and market-access teams did their work with organized customers, “and never the twain did meet.” Or rarely, anyway. But this is changing. Hospital systems represent the nexus of these two work streams, and we need to shift focus here to be effective for our brands.

Because of the consolidation of ownership, many hospital systems are now handling new types of care. Hospitals aren’t overseeing only emergency and inpatient care. They’re managing businesses across the entire continuum of care and dedicating more resources specifically to managing their pharmacy departments. This makes sense, as optimized medication management can improve quality of care, reduce readmission rates and, in the end, bring better value to their bottom lines and the communities they serve.

But it means hospitals need help. They’re seeking ways to collaborate and streamline, in order to succeed in this new business model. This is where the opportunity lies for smart pharma brands.

Healthcare marketing, market access and hospital systems are each complex, and so is the interplay between them. Offering a hospital system a “pre-fab” HCP tool that doesn’t integrate with their workflow — or talking to them as if their management structure is the same as a health plan’s — can torpedo what could have been a constructive relationship.

When a pharma brand can prove that it understands the unique needs of a hospital system, it can begin to build trust and a mutually beneficial partnership.

Developing a hospital strategy is increasingly vital to brand success, and increasingly well-received when done correctly. If you create a good hospital strategy, you can make new connections between existing functions in your organization. But most of pharma hasn’t caught up to this sea change. Some organizations have hospital teams; but mature, fully integrated hospital sales and marketing teams are still extremely rare. Until that changes, brand managers have the opportunity to save the day.

Developing a hospital strategy is increasingly vital to brand success, and increasingly well-received when done correctly. 

Recently, a client preparing to launch a new outpatient drug recognized that they needed to understand how hospital systems handled their disease category. Hospital systems had a marked influence on their target HCPs, and surgery was one of the treatment options against which they’d be competing. Leveraging our knowledge of how hospital systems function in this category, and our understanding of hospitals’ technology use to streamline care delivery and interact with patients, Intouch identified the key barriers and unmet needs the brand would be facing, and the opportunities for specific win-win initiatives. As a result, the brand was able to optimize its efforts — from pre-launch plans, to field-sales territory planning, to outcomes-research investments — and prepare for launch as effectively as possible.

How is your brand performance affecting your audience?

The stakes are getting higher, and hospital systems are holding many of the cards. Do you know how this audience is affecting your brand performance? If you’re interested in learning the answers and in working with a partner experienced in evolving insights into solutions, reach out to your account lead or send an inquiry to getintouch@intouchsol.com .

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