Doing Quality Work

By Malcolm Fleschner

Did some diabolical supervillain intent on making the already difficult job of pharmaceutical sales even tougher dream up the concept of managed healthcare? Probably not, much as it may sometimes seem that way. No matter its origin, managed care is here to stay and reps working in the healthcare field need to adapt to the new selling environment, says Philip Gerbino, president of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and Tom McWhinnie, deputy director of the Center for Education and Development for the V.A. Puget Sound Healthcare System in Seattle, in their recent article in Pharmaceutical Representative Magazine.

One key area where Gerbino and McWhinnie say reps can have an impact is on healthcare organizations’ newfound focus on quality. Here are their four new strategies.

1. Reach for the bar. Employer groups are increasingly working with managed care organizations to authenticate and verify that they’re meeting quality standards. By developing greater expertise in issues such as statistical analyses relating to clinical outcomes, economic expenditures, patient satisfaction and other key quality indicators, pharmaceutical reps can offer problem-solving strategies and services that help customers meet these requirements.

2. Develop disease-management knowledge. Drug reps can greatly help quality-conscious customers by furnishing data that shows how the use of certain medications can contribute to a cost-effective approach to disease management. To do so reps need to be able to identify, measure and compare the costs, risks and benefits of therapies in real-world conditions. The overall emphasis should be on long-range value, not just short-term cost.

3. Get techno savvy. Which technology-based programs can be used to provide healthcare organizations with disease-management data and clinical research outcomes? While such information can minimize medical errors and improve service quality, reps often are responsible for taking advantage of technology themselves. By learning about their company’s available electronic information systems and the Internet sites frequented by physicians, reps can improve their chances for developing more in-depth customer relationships.

4. Offer service with a smile. Moving away from the traditional detailing sales call model, many pharmaceutical sales organizations are training reps to focus more on offering improved customer service. Some possible approaches include:

  • Empowering reps to implement problem-solving solutions immediately, rather than simply passing on requests to other departments
  • Promoting products as genuine advancements in care rather than just another drug in a certain therapeutic class
  • Responding to today’s better-educated and involved patients by keeping managed care organizations informed about how the latest generation of products improves patients’ quality of life and providing patient teaching materials.