A small pharmaceutical company was preparing to bring its first drug product to market and found itself in a familiar predicament:
It needed to rapidly generate pre-market product awareness among clinicians who would likely prescribe its product but lacked the budget and staff to engage clinical and patient stakeholders across multiple segments and geographic regions.
Unlike a larger pharma company with an established product portfolio, this company was new to the market. It didn’t have a sizable team of medical science liaisons who could enter the field and begin seeding relationships that a forthcoming salesforce could continue to engage once the product was on the market.
With many connections to make, but few resources to facilitate them, the company looked for ways to leverage its small, localized medical affairs team and tight budget to engage clinical stakeholders at scale before product launch.
As ExtendMed’s Amy Ravi explains below, this challenge is nothing new to smaller pharma companies, but one that’s become increasingly difficult to overcome without technology that enables small teams with small budgets to engage stakeholders at the level of a larger, more resourced organization.
“Companies invest enormous financial and human capital during R&D. And during that last year to year and a half before launch, there are specific challenges that companies face where they can make use of a system and process to expand work with stakeholders at scale.
Going from phase three clinical trials to setting up for investigator-initiated research requires building relationships with those investigators and other medical affairs stakeholders. In addition, these companies need to start reaching out to patients to understand their challenges so they can develop an informed commercial strategy and precise messaging for launch.
When so many stakeholders need to be engaged, but a company can only devote a handful of resources to make those connections, the right virtual engagement platform can enable that small team to scale its engagement programs like a larger company at a fraction of the cost.
Thousands of small or mid-sized pharma and device companies find themselves needing to generate awareness of their product with extreme resource and budget constraints. This is where a system like ExtendMed is such an excellent fit since companies can leverage a platform to engage more people more frequently and conveniently—without a giant team and budget.”
— Amy Ravi, CEO, ExtendMed
Given this was the company’s first time launching a product, it had minimal field resources, both on the medical affairs and commercial side.
- Without a large team of medical science liaisons, the company could not achieve the widespread coverage it needed to engage clinical contacts and attend strategic congresses.
- On top of this, there was virtually no existing sales team available to build clinician relationships and engage key opinion leaders face-to-face in the field.
Realizing how much its resource constraints threatened a smooth market entrance, the company started exploring whether virtual engagement tools offered a solution.
The central question boiled down to this: "Can we leverage virtual interaction to connect our small, local medical affairs and commercial team with many more stakeholders located in regions near and far?"
- “Are there gaps in our clinical research, and if so, where?”
- “What should our investigator-initiated studies look like as we move forward?”
- “What are the challenges clinicians and patients are facing in the markets we’ll be selling into—especially when it comes to diagnosing a particular disease and managing treatment in our patient populations?”
Leveraging the virtual engagement tools in the ExtendMed platform, the company worked with critical community practitioners early on, enabling them to quickly and cost-effectively understand their challenges and where their hesitations lie.
For example, the team quickly solicited answers to questions like:
- If part of the clinical guideline requires patients to order a diagnostic test on a monthly basis, is that covered by insurance?
- Is prior authorization required by insurers?
- Do insurers have appropriate evidence to support the new guideline?
With a virtual engagement platform that dramatically streamlined the process of gathering answers to questions like these, the company quickly made necessary adjustments or larger-scale pivots in their planning process—ultimately refining and de-risking their launch strategy.
The company’s small team of medical science liaisons helped identify the right target audiences for important segmented discussions—all from the company's headquarters. They did this in part by:
- Referencing lists of clinicians who presented at relevant conferences
- Identifying investigators who had worked on their earlier trials
- Working with an agency to identify other providers who fit their target needs for different groups and communities they wanted to engage for insights
Once these target stakeholders were identified, the team determined that to build genuine, fruitful relationships in line with their product timeline, they’d have to engage with thought leaders regularly—not once or twice a year.
The team established quarterly engagement contracts with each group. These contracts took full advantage of ExtendMed’s suite of engagement tools and included a mix of two to four synchronous, “in-person” virtual meetings each year, as well as asynchronous, ongoing engagement via discussion boards users could engage with on their time.
“With ExtendMed facilitating these engagements virtually, our client hosted synchronous discussions which delivered a rich, in-person experience and allowed them to get to know the clinicians better—and also let the clinicians get to know their peers better.
These groups did a really nice job interacting with one another on camera, using part of the time to connect as people with shared values before having a more pointed discussion guided by the program goals.”
— Amy Ravi, CEO, ExtendMed
The client team realized early on that having a tool like ExtendMed enabled them to put the principle of patient centricity into practice and work with patients much earlier in the process than would have been expected years ago.
With the ability to engage more and more diverse stakeholder groups, the team gathered patient insights much earlier than would have been possible—even while the drug was still being developed.
Very early on, the company identified patients through patient advocacy networks who had been diagnosed with a particular disease and were willing to share their perspectives in a way that could have a tangible impact on both the medical and commercial strategies.
While the results are hard to quantify given that the company didn’t have previous product launches to benchmark from, company leaders were confident that even with limited staff and budget, ExtendMed enabled them to generate two to three times the engagement across all stakeholder segments than would have been possible without a virtual discussion platform.
- Company leadership expressed that this capability directly impacted the quality and speed of the stakeholder insights that influenced product launch decisions.
- Leaders also expressed that their insights from these engagements greatly influenced their strategy for seeking coverage from insurers and establishing product guidelines.
In short, ExtendMed enabled the company to understand and proactively address the obstacles that stood before them at every stage of the product lifecycle—particularly those preceding launch.
“If we look at the impact on insurance, for example, there’s no avoiding the fact that one way or another, a company bringing a new drug to market needs to understand the hurdles to getting it covered so they can work with their market access teams as early as possible.
Time and time again, we’ve seen how having more knowledge earlier enables teams to make more compelling cases to insurers because they can start building those cases very early on. These insights become extremely practical and valuable when they end up avoiding resistance once the product hits the market.”
— Amy Ravi, CEO, ExtendMed
The insights gathered through ExtendMed also afforded the company a significant market advantage over competitors. In this case, the client team had no less than a six-month lead time over its competitors coming to market with similar products.
The company beat competitors to stakeholders with better engagement tools—winning access, building trust, and developing relationships with individuals whose time and attention were limited.
“Establishing a caring and consultative relationship with these stakeholders earlier on leads to stickiness in terms of product awareness, access, and usage.
In this case, the client team understood—as they launched a product and educated a wider audience—which thought leaders could help them make informed decisions at each step.
Knowing who would be best utilized in certain roles gave the team an enormous leg up in being prepared to leverage these relationships to advance their product and scale up product awareness early on.”
— Amy Ravi, CEO, ExtendMed
Ready for better, more frequent stakeholder engagement at a fraction of the cost? Let’s start the conversation.
Our goal is to help you have richer and more frequent engagements with each of your stakeholders at a lower cost.
Visit pages.extendmed.com/solutions for a quick look at our solutions and how we empower teams to have richer engagements with each of their stakeholders. Want to get in touch with questions or schedule a free platform demo? Contact us.