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Is There an Amazon.com in the Future for Healthcare Professionals?

Virtually all of us have seen the analyses of sales rep coverage and call plan activity. Depending on your company, therapeutic area or brand, there is usually a matrix presenting some mix of optimally called on, sub-optimally called on, and not called/vacant/not accessible healthcare professionals (HCPs) within a given territory. The latter two groups are often viewed as opportunities, given that they are receiving fewer than their “third party defined” optimal number of calls. The difference between optimal and actual is often referred to as the sales or call plan gap.

While non-personal promotions (NPP) serve to complement call plan activity, in many instances they can also help to “fill the gap.” When done properly, targeted messaging can generate attractive ROIs with dramatic Rx lift and penetration. At its basic level, however, NPP is simply a traditional marketing push tactic. Conversely, one might attempt to “pull” the HCP into a value proposition, and this is where Rep Networks have jumped in to serve as a one-stop shop for HCPs.

On the surface, a Rep Network makes sense as an “Amazon.com” for HCPs. It is somewhat intuitive to think that a physician would want to go to one location for Rx samples, product information, copay cards and patient education materials. It is this logic that compels the “network owners” to believe they have a unique value proposition. Déjà vu kicks in, however, as this concept bears a strong similarity to the many “portal” attempts made by pharma over the past decade — expensive initiatives that may best be described as well intentioned efforts to own the HCP relationship, and in most instances didn’t really deliver.

Before jumping on the Rep Network bandwagon, pharma needs to realize that outsourcing social and customer service relationships limits access to critical behavioral and first-party data. This is the wrong direction to take, particularly when owning, managing and enabling big data will be critical to building stronger relationships with HCPs — particularly since many of them have already built their own unique mix of channels and media to meet their needs. Professionals (physicians included) do not rely on one source for all of their information, and it is highly unlikely that they will place all of their eggs in one basket. That being said, the best any given Rep Network can likely hope for is to be a stop in the physician’s daily journey, not the destination.

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