For emerging and mid-sized biopharma, this webinar offers the ultimate guide for how any size company can deliver a personalized omnichannel experience for HCP outreach using AI-driven insights.
Hear Sal Paolozza, Senior Director of Sales Operation at Antares Pharma, Doug Caldwell, VP, Commercial Strategy at Veeva and Matthew Van Wingerden, VP of Product Management at Aktana, discuss:
Why it’s more imperative than ever for emerging and mid-sized biopharma—especially those competing in niche markets—to deploy AI-driven omnichannel tactics
Why personalization is non-negotiable for commercial excellence today
How to configure your tech stack to make customer-centricity at scale possible
First-hand guidance for implementing an AI-driven solution, including data readiness and change management, from Antares Pharma
Hello and welcome to another pharmaphorum webinar today in association with Aktana, and we will be discussing Using AI to Make a Big Impact for Emerging and Mid-sized Biopharma. Thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Catherine Longworth and I’m the web editor at pharmaphorum. Today, our speakers will be talking about how AI, human insight, and other advanced technologies are helping life sciences teams optimize, personalized omni-channel engagement with healthcare providers, and how and why healthcare professionals respond to specific tactics and strategies. Now shortly, I’ll be putting us all on camera and introduce you to the panel. I want to say a big thank you to everyone for joining us.
Hello everyone. Today, we have Matthew Van Wingerden. Matthew is the general manager of Aktana’s advanced services, which focuses on leading customers through the adoption of AI technology. He has a PhD in chemistry from Caltech and years of management consulting experience from McKinsey and Co. Next, we’ll be hearing from Sal Paolazza. There you are Sal. Sal is the senior director of sales operations at Antares Pharma, and he has over 25 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Now prior to joining Antares Pharma, he held various consulting and sales roles with IMS Health, which is now IQVIA in the area of information management and business intelligence.
Thank you for joining us Sal and lastly, we have Douglas Caldwell. He was vice president of commercial strategy at Veeva Systems. Doug again has over 20 years experience in the life sciences industry, specializing in commercial capabilities and technology enablement. He also has expertise in the areas of end-to-end information management, business insight and multi-channel marketing. Welcome to all the panel. I’ll shortly be handing over to Matthew, but before that, just a few little housekeeping points. A reminder that all of our audience can send questions via the question box, and we’ll have time at the end of the webinar for a Q and A discussion, so please do send in your questions. We look forward hearing from them.
Also, today we will be tweeting along with the webinar, so you can follow along at the pharmaphorum Twitter account @pharmaphorum. Lastly, the webinar will be on demand after the live event. If you enjoyed today’s discussion, please make sure that you check that out and share with any colleagues that you think that they might find any value. Now, I will hand it over to our first speaker, Matthew.
Matthew Van Wingerden
Thanks Catherine. Before we dive into a discussion about technology and artificial intelligence, I think it’s worth taking a step back and just reminding ourselves of what we’re trying to accomplish. The way I always describe it is what we’re trying to accomplish is the experience we could give each of our HCP customers if we had a full time sales rep and a full-time marketer dedicated to every single target customer. Actually in the case that you’re going to hear from Sal, it’s not just that, it’s also a full-time data analyst. Now of course, we don’t have the ability to do that.
Instead, what we need to do is find a different way to go from what you’re seeing on the left hand side, which is we are communicating with our HCPs in a lot of different ways and we’re using a lot of different mechanisms and channels to do it, but it’s not really an engaging experience and it’s not driving them along the HCP experience adoption to something that you see on the right hand side, which is we’re creating a very seamless and impactful experience, where one channel is handing off to the other channel in a very seamless way. We’re being very responsive from one channel to another, and we’re being timely with our follow-ups when our HCP’s engage with us.
In order to achieve this, what we clearly need is some technology that connects all of our channels together, and some sort of artificial intelligence that actually helps us decide at scale, how do we keep things in a very personalized way. If we dig into a little bit, I think we all are aligned that that is what we want to achieve. As we’re going to hear from Sal later on, the technology exists, vendors like Aktana and Veeva have provided the ability to do exactly what we’re talking about. Why aren’t we all there? What is it that’s holding us back? If you look at it, there’s three areas that we’ve seen in our experience at Aktana that our customers struggle with.
The first one is the custom-built solutions, and I think it makes sense if you’re trying to build something from scratch, it’s going to take you a lot longer. It’s going to be a lot more expensive and quite frankly, for some of our more emerging and midsize customers, they just don’t have the ability to do that. They don’t have the in-house teams to make that happen, but really, I don’t think everybody starts out thinking that they’re going to build their custom-built solutions. This can be a sneaky one, where first you build out some sort of advanced capabilities to store more data, and then you add a little bit of custom analytics to it. Then you add a little bit more logic, and then you connect another channel.
We find a lot of our customers have wandered into this area of custom built solutions, where before they realize that they’re maintaining a very expensive legacy tech stack, and they haven’t done the from scratch thinking that says what do I actually need to accomplish my goals, and what’s the right vendor or partnership of vendors to help me achieve it. The second thing that holds people back is scattered channel focus, and I actually think this is more about if you’re focusing on the channels, not the customer, then you’re doing it wrong. That’s of course a very unfair, very lofty thing to say because we do need to focus on the channels for some parts. We do need to focus on what channels are most effective.
We need to budget for them. We need to develop content that fits each channel. Obviously, there needs to be a planning that is focused on the channel. However, there needs to be a bit of a disconnect between our annual planning cycles which really focus on just what’s the right channel to spend money on, and how much am I going to focus on that, and how am I going to resource against it with the execution, where then it doesn’t really matter that we’ve built up separate teams and separate budgets for each of these channels. The only thing that matters is making sure the customer gets the right information at the right time. The third piece here is that some people have built in some sort of analytics or machine learning or AI, but it lacks context.
We’ve heard from a lot of customers that they have this really great, powerful analytical model and maybe once a month, they update it and it tells them what’s the right sequence of touchpoints, or what’s the right sequence of messages to use to engage with the customers. I think one of the things you’re going to hear from Sal a little bit later in our presentation is that doesn’t work. It has to be day-by-day. Information, the reality on the ground for a lot of our brands changes based on which patients come in the door, which access challenges we’re having, who interacted with them last. Maybe we have an alliance partner who’s also co-promoting our product, and we need to know when is the last time they had somebody in the door, or in the virtual door if you will.
Having that context that is every single day understanding what are all the different touchpoints we’ve had with that HCP, what’s the sales data, what’s the access challenges that they have, that needs to be kept fresh basically because without that, again it’s just without context and I’ll let you read the quotes on the page here, but we really do need this to happen in real time. If we take one more click down and we think about again, our smaller customers, right? Not the giants of the world, what are the challenges and what are the opportunities that they face, and it is different. The first part here that you see on the left hand side, I think hopefully all of you feel emotionally connected to.
You’ve got a very specific market niche, and you’ve got a very specific strategy that you need to follow to win. Traditional, just get a whole bunch of reps out there, get a whole bunch of marketing efforts out there, do a bunch of do DDC, that doesn’t work for you. First of all, we don’t all have that kind of resourcing, so we can’t be just blanketing the market with promotional activity. Second of all, quite often, the products that you’re promoting are very specific. We talked with people in rare disease, where this of course doesn’t work at all, but even things that aren’t rare disease, quite often had just very competitive situations that they need to win.
The second piece of that complexity is the data and again, Sal give an example of this, but we’ve seen lots of this where traditional TRx, NRx, that’s great, but it doesn’t work for all situations, and it doesn’t support the win strategy that you need to follow. While some of us maybe a little bit smaller, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have very specific needs. It doesn’t mean that we can just take some sort of standard approach. The second part I’ve already touched on a little bit is the cost-conscious budgeting, and I’m sure everybody will say, “Well, I’ve got a cost-sensitive budget,” and that’s true for everybody, I get it, but if you’re growing biopharma company, that I think we all know it’s a little bit different.
You just don’t have the same depth of in-house resources or support systems in place or processes. This really drives something that’s very important which is you don’t have the ability to absorb unplanned work because A, you don’t have that people to just throw at the problem when you find something halfway through the project and B, you don’t have the budget to pay a vendor to do it either. You do need an easy button approach where you can just say, “Look, this is what I want to achieve here are, here’s my commercial strategy, my technical requirements,” and then you need to have an all-in cost that allows you to do say, “Okay, with this amount of investment, I’m going to get out what I need, and I can rely on that.”
The last piece here is more of an opportunity I think than really a challenge, although it’s a bit of both. Because a lot of our smaller customers who are new to market, maybe they’re launching their first or second product, that they haven’t built up as much of the legacy silos that we all talked about in the pharmaceutical industry that can sometimes slow us down. We’ve seen some real innovation from those types of customers. We’ve had customers come to us and say, “Hey, you know what, we’re not going to build the traditional sales and marketing organization like you think. We wanted to be all-digital centric. Everybody from the sales rep to the marketer, they’re going to start digital,” which is great.
They’re able to pull it off a little bit because they have smaller more, nimble teams and they’re able to just approach this from a first principle’s point of view that says, “Hey, I want to do what’s right and we’ll figure out how to get there.” I’ll hand it over to Doug who’s going to talk a little bit more about the technology backbone that Veeva provided in this particular situation. Take it away Doug.
Hey, thank you Matthew and thanks for having me on the webinar today. Wanted to spend just a couple of minutes and just talk about the evolution of customer engagement in the industry. I think pre-pandemic, pre-COVID pandemic, we saw a ton of face-to-face with a little bit of digital mixed in. I think through the pandemic, we have seen a ton of digital interactions with a little less on the face-to-face side. I think as I talk to customers and I’m out with different customers and having those conversations, I think now as we start to think about post pandemic, I think we’re starting to talk about balance, right? I think about as field reps as MSLs, as market access people to start to get back out into the market place.
We’re really looking at balance and how do you have the correct balance for every customer. Again, to come back to Matthew’s point about if you have one sales rep and one marketer for every customer, you’re thinking about that balance. I think through the pandemic. We have seen existing processes within life sciences, marketing, and sales very, very stressed, right? Whether that’s around content management, right? A lot of people will think about a content strategy. In the course of the closer you get to and the further you move towards digital interaction, it’s not necessarily about a content strategy, it’s about a content refresh strategy. How can you leverage analytics? How can you understand what’s happening in the marketplace?
How can you increase the speed by which you are responding to market events through that content, right? Things like preference and things like consent have been a bit of a challenge in places, right? How do you calculate preference? How do you leverage analytics? As we’ll talk about, has been a challenge, right? I think you have seen customers move further and further towards a platform approach, right? How do you develop a platform that efficiently and effectively handles data, turns data into information, turns information into actionable insights, so that you can drive the right messages into the marketplace at a customer level.
I think probably the last thing that I would talk about as far as customer engagement is across pharma, large emerging, mid-size, all sizes, everybody’s thinking about their new go-to-market models, right? In a world where you’re trying to balance face-to-face and digital, in a world where some companies to Matthew’s earlier point are going all digital, think about the fact that geography is no longer a rate limiting factor, right? Companies are fundamentally thinking about how do I structure my Salesforce, how do I go to market, how do I better understand all the interactions across all the interaction points, so that I can more effectively understand what’s effective to that customer.
With that said, I mean and Matthew said this earlier, customer centricity ultimately is the goal. I think as an industry, we have been very, very focused on brand centricity, right? It’s about the brand giving a message, it’s about the brand telling the industry what they want to tell it, right? The shift is now to customer centricity, right? Right message, right time, right channel to the right HCP. Companies are hyper focused on how do I get that customer in the middle of it, and then what are all those interactions points that I’m going to have with that customer. As I said, that could be face-to-face, that could be through email, that could be through remote meetings, very similar to what we’re doing today, could be through events, right?
Those events could be completely virtual as we’re doing today. They could be hybrid events. They could be face-to-face events, right? Those are things that we think about in the context of the field, but then on the flip side, you also have the headquarters corporate also engaging with those folks, right? Whether that’s mass-marketing coming out of a marketing automation, whether that’s a call center, whether that’s inside sales team, whether that’s the interactions that you’re driving through the web, right? There is a surround sound now that’s going completely around that customer. It’s the analytics, right? It’s the analytics, it’s the collection of that information.
It’s then the analytics that then help drive the message back to the customer. With that all being said, let me hand it off to Sal. Sal, you can walk us through a bit of the Antares story.
Sure. Thank you. Thank you everybody. First of all, thank you for joining my portion of the session. I hope everybody’s staying safe and healthy during this pandemic. It is definitely trying times. I want to start first by introducing you to Antares Pharma and who we are, right? We consider ourselves a hybrid company. Half of our business is around product development and manufacturing of self-injector, auto-injector, right? What we like to say about our product is that our products makes medicines feel better and why is that? Because they’re easy to use, it’s self-administered. What we like to say is that our injectors are actually virtually pain-free, right?
We actually can say this, the FDA has actually allowed us to say we’re 99.4% virtually pain-free. If you can imagine somebody that has to inject themselves every week, having a device that they can use that is virtually pain-free is very important. I actually work on the commercial side of the organization, which we actually commercialize our own products being XYOSTED, Oxtrexup, and Nocdurna, which use the injector. Let’s get into the Antares story as it pertains to AI, right? Our story really started about three years ago when we launched our latest product called XYOSTED, and we were launching a testosterone replacement therapy using our auto-injector in a highly generic market.
Our marketing team did everything right, did an awesome job, creating all the patient support programs, creating all the material, developing a strategy, doing all the research that they needed to do, and we really felt that we had a good plan in place to launch our product XYOSTED. In addition, our payer access team also did a fabulous job with the payers making sure they were aware that the product was coming out, leave the benefits of the product to the patient. We really felt that we had a great product to launch back in November 2018, except the launch was a little slow. We weren’t getting the uptake on the products that we were expecting. It was a little sluggish.
We weren’t getting the amount of patients on our product and when we pulled our sales force and our physicians, the message was really well received, the programs were good, but for some reasons, they were having a lot of difficulties filling the prescriptions at the pharmacy. By the time the reps got themselves involved, it was weeks, right? What we ended up doing is we got together with our data vendors, our program partners, our technology partners and we said, “Well, how can we solve this? How can we integrate our sales force it into the solution, so that we can help our patients get access to our product and really help them feel better, right?”
After looking at all the different information, looking at our technology, talking with our partners, okay, we came up with a solution through Veeva to send out suggestions. Basically, our copay card vendor was sending us information within 24 hours. Within 24 hours, if a prescription was stalled, if there was any issues getting it covered at the pharmacy, we would know pretty much 12 hours later. Thanks to Veeva and the technology that we had already implemented, we were able to actually put out just a pretty simple next best action within 24 hours of receiving a reject, a reversal information from our copay card vendor. Once we did that, we quickly saw a different uptake.
Our customers were very happy because their patients were getting access to the medication. Our reps were being notified when there was issues. They were helping the practices in the back office, making sure that all the paperwork was proper, that the PAs were in and so forth. I mean to us, that was the key, right? The key was how do we bring in our sales force into the solution. We saw an immediate success, but our story doesn’t end there, right? I mean obviously, our reps really love that the suggestions that they were getting. Their customers were receiving value from the suggestions.
Quickly by the end of 2019, we started doing AI enhance suggestions, putting a little bit more intelligence into our suggestions, where incorporating some of their activities and making sure that we weren’t just spamming our reps with all kinds of suggestions, right? We wanted to get that intelligence, again using the technology that we had in place, and that of course worked very well as you can see on our chart on the left hand side. Of course, early 2020, COVID hit, right? Now, we had again different challenges and once again, we were able to evolve our AI to now include multiple channels, emails, virtual webinars, digital webinars. This way, our reps now could better manage their activity.
If you think of before COVID, it was basically was a one-to-one interaction. Now all of a sudden, it’s a multi-channel interaction with their patient. What we were doing is helping them organize their day and choose the proper channel to engage with their reps. Pleased to announce that in a very challenging year, we actually finished the year 2020 on budget, so that was awesome. Now of course, we’re at another different stage of our life. We just launched a new product during COVID and obviously, we’re getting back into the field, but now we’re facing access issues, right? Which accounts are open? What is their preference? That’s where now we’re engaged with both at Aktana and Veeva to solve that challenge.
I mean the moral of this story is for this to really have worked is we did not want to use a different technology. We wanted to use a technology that our reps were already used to, and we wanted to incorporate it into their daily life. Although we went through probably four or five different evolution of the solution, from a rep respective, it was very seamless, right? That mean the technology was the same, it was suggestions through Veeva, but the content in the suggestions kept getting richer. Every iteration of our journey was providing them with more richer content in their suggestions to really help them with that next best action. I just wanted to finish off my story, the Antares story with a couple lessons learned.
I think one of the reasons why this worked very well for our organization is because we involved all the business stakeholders in our organization, plus our data and technology partners. We got everybody together. We said this is what our issue is, how do we solve it without introducing anything new and working together between the copay card vendors, our data vendors, our specialty supplier vendors, our sample distribution vendors. We all work together to come up with the solution, and I think the other thing that works very well for us is that we’re getting our own data within 24 hours of any transaction happening. Imagine that we know exactly what’s happening out in the field within 24 hours.
We have a lot of leading indicators of if there’s any changes that need to take place. Something that’s very important and we learned that very, very quickly is develop actionable suggestions with clear next best actions. I mean we have to go through many iterations to get to the right solutions, right? It was important that the message was clear. There was no duplication. There was no ambiguity between the message, that it was a clear message that the reps could actually act on. Provide training on the solution with a focus on business value. All the training we did, I mean I would say was 20/80.
Twenty percent was so this is how the technology works, so this is where you go, this is how you dismiss it, this is how you act on it, but 80% of the training was really around okay, you’re getting this suggestion, so what action you take, right? It was around the business value of the suggestion how to help your final customers and as you can see, I mean we’ve gone through about five iterations. You got to keep the suggestions fresh, right? I mean if they’re stale, they’re not going to be actionable, not going to be of any value to our rep. We try to build all our suggestions. I mean our suggestions go out daily. They’re refreshed daily.
They’re relevant to what’s happening in the rep’s situation within a couple of days, and measure and communicate adoption. I think it was very important, right? Every time we had an opportunity, any time we did a sales meeting, we always had some of our reps come up and say, “Hey, how are the suggestions working for you? What is the impact to your business? How do you use them?” Really to make sure that the sales reps really take advantage of them and know the value of the suggestions. That’s the Antares story. I think it was very successful for us, and I’m very confident that if any company chooses to go down this path, it’s going to be a great value to them as well. Catherine, I’m going to pass it back over to you now.
Thank you so much Sal. It was great to hear and we’ll soon have a chance for a discussion between the panel, but before we get into that, I just wanted to remind everyone that you can send questions, please do. We’ll have time for a Q and A after the discussion and also, we are tweeting the whole webinar at our pharmaphorum account @pharmaphorum. The hashtag is #ppwebinar, so feel free to follow along there as well. Now, I’ll put us on camera and we’ll begin the discussion over to you Matthew.
Matthew Van Wingerden
Great, and thanks Sal for sharing your experience from the frontline if you will. It’s always so much more helpful to hear from somebody who’s gone through it all and figured out how to make it work. One of the things that impressed me is you’ve talked a lot about what worked. Can you tell us a little bit more maybe about what didn’t work, or what some of the key challenges were? Look, you went through a lot of modernization there. There must have been some challenges that you ran into.
Yeah. I mean what doesn’t work is when you tell a rep you haven’t made a call. I mean that’s basically what doesn’t work, and reps don’t like. What we found is that all the suggestions that do work are the suggestions that are driving their business, right? Giving them value and because of the type of drugs that we have and because of the market that we are in, reps have to do a lot of back office support for the practice staff. The suggestions that we give out is really to help them quickly identify if there is any one of their customers back office that’s requires some additional support, and those kind of suggestions work and they’re very effective.
It actually helped our reps gain better access into the accounts, because now they’re not just going there to talk about the product. They’re actually going to add value to the practice by helping their patients gain access to the medication.
Matthew, I think I would also chime in Matthew that I think people need to think holistically about the problem that they’re trying to solve, right? It’s a bit of a dance between the marketing strategy and the sales execution, right? It’s a constant balance between what are the marketers trying to accomplish, what data do I have to answer that question, or to drive that and then be able to put that out into the field as an insight, right? Those are some things that I think many customers are thinking about, and you have to handle all of them step by step. I think one last thing I would throw out there and Sal said it quite eloquently, start small, start with a simple scenario, a simple use case, get everybody used to how it works, and then you can layer in more complexity and more involvement as time goes.
I think sometimes people try to start too far ahead, but starting small to me is a great way to get into this game.
Matthew Van Wingerden
Yeah, it’s an interesting point too because I think we’ve always found that having a bit of that balance between the vision and then the tactical practical day one reality is it’s a delicate thing as well, because you need to know where you’re going. You need to be able to have defining experience that you want your field, or your marketing teams to have, but then just realize, “Hey, we don’t have all of our systems in place, we’re getting content for this one still put in, whatever.” There’s always some reason that you’re not ready for everything, so just taking it step by step which is actually a good I think lead into another topic I’m curious about and Sal you touched on it a little bit, but just the change management.
I think from the perspective of Aktana, we approach it as a tech company of course. We see a lot of the ways that we try and find ways for technology to make it easier for people to adopt it. I think some of it, it blends a little bit right between the artificial intelligence of the change management, because the more relevant the suggestion, the more timely the data. Some of that just has value by itself, right? Some of it is, a good next best action recommendation is a value to itself, and it doesn’t require that much explanation, but of course, it’s not that simple. I’d love to hear just a little bit more about how you manage that sort of the human side.
Well, yeah… I mean there’s two types of change management, right? There’s the technology change management, right? How do we handle that because from a technology perspective, because we had a good foundation when we first launched XYOSTED, we also did an infrastructure upgrade, where we actually adopted the Veeva Nitro data warehouse, and part of our strategy was to bring all our data into the Nitro data where it’s right. For us, we eliminated any change management because we created a very strong foundation, right? From a sales rep change management perspective, we leveraged existing technology, which is the Veeva CRM, and we wanted to make sure that they didn’t have to go to a different application.
They didn’t have to learn a different solution. It was all part of their current business process and for the past three years, they’re so used to going into the suggestion module and going through all the different suggestions for their daily activities, right? As we were evolving our AI, as we were evolving our process, the reps were only learning the new content, right? That was part of their sales training, that was part of their… which marketing is part of it as well. Every time we did training, we make sure that we touched upon what’s in the suggestions, how is it benefiting your day-to-day activity, right? From our sales reps perspective, as long as we were keeping it in their sales process, the change management was quite low.
Matthew Van Wingerden
I love the analogy of you don’t want to make your sales rep go run around and look for too many different places for data, and then also on the technology side, you don’t want your technology running around looking into many different places for your data, which it seems like you’ve done as well.
Doug, I know obviously, our respective organizations have done a lot of work to make sure that the Aktana AI technology can link seamlessly both with the Veeva iRep front end and make sure it gets into the workflow that Sal was talking about, but also the data on the back end from Nitro. I’ve also heard you talk a lot about that from the technology point of view of having an integrated cloud. Have you seen other examples of how that’s really helped change management just by making it more of an integrated technological experience?
Well, I mean I think it’s the platform that enables the process. Being able to seamlessly integrate that information in nitro as Sal talked about from all of these different channels, and being able to do it with speed, right? With speed, you can bring that data together and then from an Aktana perspective, you guys turn the crank that come up with that next best action. Yeah, and I think I’m not sure that’s a change management thing. I think that’s a change management thing behind the scenes, right? We’re from a change management of technology and making sure how that works. I think Matthew, there’s one thing that I might add to your comments there is around… there’s a lot of focus on the rep, right?
I would say that there are opportunities to leverage next best actions and to leverage suggestions with MSLs as well, right? Then I think we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact of from a district sales manager perspective, right? A DSM can start to watch and see, “Okay, well if this rep is following the suggestions or this rep is declining a lot of the suggestions, I think there’s also change management aspects that goes into it from a DSM perspective to help them understand how do I manage my field team, so that they’re effectively leveraging and utilizing these insights when they’re out in the field.
Matthew Van Wingerden
Yeah, that’s a very interesting point and I don’t know if it’s just coincidence with a lot of things happened in 2020, but in 2020, we had two pilots start, one was with MSLs and one was with district managers actually get to exactly your point. I think the district manager one is a really interesting one because we talk a lot about providing intelligence to the field. If you think about the traditional way that we reinforce training our field teams, it is all with the district manager as a key part of the story. We do the training for six months to get everybody together or virtually and we do training, but then we make sure that the district managers can reinforce that throughout the year, and that’s a really important point I think too if we’re going to provide intelligence day by day.
Clearly, we’re not running that all through the district managers first, but we at least need to bring them into the game, and make sure that they have access to the same information and can help coach on following up, not just on a high level strategy, but on a day-to-day execution. Just one other question I think Sal I had in my mind would love to talk about is you’ve talked a lot about your marketing team did well, your market access team did well, sales team was happy with the results at the end of the day. Who could’ve took point? You had some marketing strategy and you had some sales team that needed to get things done. How did that work it? Was there one person who was responsible for that, or did everybody just collaborate and make sure you had all the right information? Tell us a little bit more.
Well, I think with any project, I mean you need a champion that would obviously pull everybody together. I mean at Antares, we have a very tight commercial team. We meet regularly, and we’re integrated in all our processes, which is key, right? Any time there’s a new marketing program, they pull everybody in to make sure that everybody is aware of it and say, “Hey, are we missing anything?” With that said, any time there’s a new marketing program, there’s always a data component, right? If they have a new partner, we’re asking for data back. If we have a new specialty supplier, we’re asking for back end. I think in this case, I have been the champion. I mean I think a lot of organizations see this as technology.
Yes, it’s technology, but it’s really not technology. It’s a marketing and it’s a sales enablement tool, right? It integrates into your selling strategy, right? You don’t need your reps going to hundreds of different… not hundreds, but at least 10, I would say up to 10. When I first joined Antares, my reps were going to 10 different portals to get information. Today, they go to one application which is Veeva. Everything is in Veeva. Their sales information is in Veeva. Their marketing information is in Veeva. Their strategy is in Veeva and obviously, now with the Aktana’s suggestions and next best action, that’s in Veeva. It’s allowed the reps to be a lot more focused, right? They understand the marketing message.
They understand the sales strategy, and they know all the different tasks that they need to do in order to be successful. The reps that have really embraced that have been extremely successful.
To answer your question, I mean I think this was a collaborative approach at Antares between all the different stakeholders, but typically, I would see the marketing team lead something like this.
Yeah, Matthew, if I could maybe add one other thing to that too, right? I mean so there’s collaboration obviously between this as Sal pointed out, I should say obviously right between marketing and sales, but I think as you start to think about other disease states and other therapeutic classes, if you start to think about specialty, rare, or ultra-rare, a big piece of the rare and ultra-rare story or problem, business problem is finding patients, right? There are a lot of ways to bring, whether it might be claims data or lab data, or whatever the case may be into that analytical platform, so that then you can turn the crank and start to have the opportunity to identify where are patients, right?
You can do things like look at referral networks. There’s a lot of leading indicators that will tell a rare or ultra-rare disease company where are the patients. Once you know where that patient is and that patient, you want to get the medication, you want to make that patient whole, but each one of those patients has a high value to the company, right? There are ultra-rare companies that have… Amazon called the other day with the company that there’s only 250 patients in the entire United States, right? It’s critically important to find that patient. You can do that from some of these leading indicators from that analytics engine that you guys provide to be able to then say, “Not only hey tell the rep or tell them… I need you to go into this office and it’s not so much about the message.
It’s about I know there’s a patient in that office and you need to get in there to give that white glove treatment to that physician and ultimately that patient.” It’s just another use case of how the platform can be leveraged.
Yeah. I just want to share… I mean we actually do that at Antares. We do use lab data. Our engine is actually very sophisticated. It’s not just copy cards or specialty supplier data. I mean we have a good partnership with all our data vendors, and our lab data vendor is pushing us data, but within less than seven days old. We know when somebody went and got themselves tested for low testosterone, and we know which ones of our customers. We build the next best action based on that, so our reps know when they can have even a better discussion and even make a recommendation that they do have a patient that would benefit from this product. Yeah, there’s a lot of use cases and as you mature using technology, you can see all the different use cases.
I mean we do use cases around sample utilization. We do use cases around the use of mail order. I mean whatever the strategy is, we try to build a use case around it, so that we’re developing a next best action for our reps to help them, right? I mean we’re a small organization. We’re 79 reps. We’re in three large markets. In order to make sure that our reps are really maximizing their time selling, but now they’re also asked to support the practices, so they need to have that information handy in order to support the practices. They can do both roles efficiently and successfully.
Great. Well, thank you all for the discussion, and now we do have a question to the audience. Shortly, we’ll be starting a poll and we want to hear from you. Let me just initiate the poll, but the question that we have today we want to hear from the audience is after watching this webinar, which project phase do you see yourself in? A, the planning phase; B, the design phase, or C, the execution phase. We’re going to have a couple of minutes for everyone to share their vote. Another reminder that after this, we’ll be moving on to the Q and A. Any final questions you would like to send in for the panel, please do by the question box, and a reminder again that this webinar, it will be archived and available after it’s live.
Yes, please share your votes on the poll. Give you all your moments. Great, we’ve got some votes coming in and once again the question is, after watching this webinar, which project phase do you see yourself in? A planning, B design, or C execution. Just the last few minutes to vote, and then we’ll move on to the questions. All right. We’ll be ending the poll shortly, and it looks like you can see that a lot of the audience are in the planning phase. Sixty percent of people who responded said that they are in planning phase, 20% said that they’re in the design phase, and 20% in the execution phase. Thank you so much for sharing those votes, and now we’ll move on to the Q and A.
I’ll put everyone back on camera. Welcome again to the panel. Yeah, we had a lot of questions coming in now and yeah, where should we begin? I’ve got one here and it says, “Did COVID or other market impacts factor into your reasons for this project?” Sal, a question for you there.
We started on this project well before COVID impact, but definitely once COVID impact, we had to modify our suggestion and incorporate more of the omni-channel types of suggestions, because now our reps were no longer just doing face-to-face, but they were also making phone calls, texting, engaged meetings and so forth. Yes, we had to evolve what we were doing to accommodate COVID as well.
Absolutely. Another question here about success criteria. What was your success criteria for enabling the AI engine? That one for you Matthew.
Matthew Van Wingerden
No problem. I’ll take a crack at that one, but maybe I’ll go first.
Matthew Van Wingerden
I think of it very simply when we have these types of programs with any of our customers. There’s three levels of success. One, does the technology work? Again, it’s not about technology, but it does have to work, so that’s level one. Level two is are we getting the right engagement and level three, are we getting the commercial results? The first one is very quick. You can see these things happening. As Sal was saying, there were specific outcomes they were looking to have. You can actually see that within a day or two, or the end users whoever they are could be sales reps, to Doug’s point could be marketing systems. Are they getting the suggestions or the triggers, depending on which type of output and are they saying the things that we want them to say?
Are they giving the messaging that we roughly expect? It’s always a little bit of the AI will process the data and come up with its own answer, but we should know roughly what to see coming up. That’s fine, you can test that pretty quickly. The second part about engagement is an interesting one because when you have a bit of a unique thing about the pharmaceutical industry, where we have such a strong sales team presence, like a sales team driving these, even if it is omni-channel, quite often, there is a sales rep involved. It could be engagement either with our end customer, the HCP, right? Are they opening the emails? Are they accepting the virtual calls, but it could also be with the reps themselves.
Does it make enough sense to them? Are we providing them enough information that they’re accepting suggestions and following up on the things we’re recommending to them? Then usually, you can see not right away, it takes a little bit for people to get used to it, but within a month or two, you can get a really good sense of that. Then the third one, commercial success. Look, things only work if they help us with our sales, right? They either stem some decline, or they help us grow faster, and that obviously takes a little bit longer. I know people spend a lot of time on this, but you can measure that. That’s one of the things with using technology like this. You can do A/B testing.
You can do other types of analysis where you look at sales reps who follow the suggestions more, versus those who followed it less and see who grew more differentially. There are ways of testing that, and I think usually we see that after about six months. I’m sure Doug and Sal will have their own take on it, but in my mind it’s pretty simple, right? You check the things fast that you can check fast, and the things that matter take a little longer. That’s fine, you get there eventually.
Yeah, I just like to add. I mean we’ve been doing this project for three years and we’re a small organization. I have to tell you my budget has never been cut for technology because obviously, we demonstrated that the technology worked. I think I actually did two different tests. One was to prove that it was working. One was I measured the amount of engagement after a suggestion happened, and that was to tell me were the sales reps following the next best action, versus just clicking and moving on, right? One thing that we were able to measure is that yes, there was an increase in activity post a suggestion, so that was one of it. The other thing was when we first launched this program was really to reduce the amount of reject and reversals of our prescription, which was more of a direct test. Yes, it did reduce.
We saw a higher uptake or less… I mean because we were getting all the data, we were able to measure how many prescriptions were rejected, and that they get filled shortly after, and the answer was yes to that as well. Because of those two tests, I was able to demonstrate to our organization that yeah, the technology works and it did do a positive impact to our business.
I think the only… and this couldn’t sound completely silly, do you have happy reps, right? I mean at the end of the day…. Yeah, I mean so I completely agree with everything you said Matthew, completely agree with everything you said Sal, but at the end of the day, you’re trying to show what’s in it for the rep. If you can have happy reps that are following the plan and are executing and get the value of the suggestion, I know it sounds really, really simple, but happy reps equals success in the field. I think that can be a very, very simple measure of success.
Yeah, and we do have happy reps. I mean when there’s a glitch in the technology, I get a phone call, “What’s going on? Why don’t I get any suggestions, or why am I not getting suggestions?” Yes, they’re happy reps, and you’re absolutely right Doug.
Great. Moving on, we have another question here which is, what is your process around identifying the use cases? Who is in charge? How frequently and who comes up with the solution?
I mean we have commercial meetings on a regular basis. I mean actually maybe too frequently, every two weeks. Every two weeks, we look at our data and say, “Hey, what are the challenges? What is the field saying?” Based on the feedback we’re getting from the field, based on the outcomes, that’s when we determine do we need another suggestion. I mean we recently put together another program to help uninsured patients, and part of the AI is now identifying patients that don’t have the proper coverage, so that we can let the practices know that there’s an option for these patients as well, right? That was a simple use case we were able to turn that around. Actually, we’re able to turn that around in about three, four days. That’s how fast it was.
Matthew Van Wingerden
It’s an interesting question I think from another angle too because Sal, you’re obviously in the long-term maintenance where you’ve got buy-in and people are really seeing the value. When you get started, I think it’s a little bit of a different process, and you probably had a lot of expertise that helped. It’s one of the things that we think about a lot too because we have our own implementation services arm of our company that helps implement our technology, and it’s funny because you have to basically take a piece of technology that is highly configurable, but it is one piece of technology, and you have strategies which we just talked about strategies and data, which are very variable, highly variable from one customer to the next.
One thing we’ve just had to do is when you get started, that initial get going, how do you standardize that and how do you make a science out of taking a completely different shaped peg over here, and making it fit into the configuration options that we have over here? Won’t go into a lot of detail on it, but it’s just interesting the way our services teams have worked that out, “Just tell me a little bit about your strategy.” “Okay, well that sounds a little bit like what I’ve heard before because I’ve run into different situations like that,” and then it’s just doing that meshing process up.
Yeah, I guess the point I was trying to make there is it can be done, and it really helps if you have somebody who is on the technology side who has experience with a lot of different situations, who knows they can see these things as a pattern, like say like, “Okay, I haven’t seen your exact strategy, but it fits in over here, and you’ve got a business team that is willing to play ball a little bit,” and say like, “Hey, I’m just going to describe my problem to you, let’s brainstorm together how we solve it with technology.”
Let me just add, when I first brought the solution to the marketing and the payer, I mean the blank looks on their face, you expect our reps to follow suggestions. I mean that’s what I got. If you keep it simple, okay, and the content and the suggestions are really valuable, okay, you’ll get buy-in right away. Once I showed them the value of that suggestion, and how easy it is to understand, we did a quick little pilot, we saw some uptake, and we never looked back since. Three years later, technology is still evolving, the use cases are increasing. It’s now ingrained in how we do business at Antares.
Great. Just the last few minutes for questions, but we have one here which says, “I like starting small. Can you share some basic actionable insights?”
Sorry. Can you repeat that?
It says, “I like starting small I guess with project transformation. Can you share some basic actionable insights, maybe to get started and get going?”
Yeah. I mean for us, I think the first suggestions we put out there was really to identify pharmacies that were having difficulties with our copay cards, right? Based on the information that was coming back to us, we were sending out a simple suggestion to the rep, go visit this pharmacy, and train them on our copay card. I mean once we did that, we already saw an uptick just with that suggestion there, because now pharmacists are very busy. They have lots of patients. Every copay card is different. Ours had two codes that they had to use, one if you’re insured, one of your you’re not insured. Just by putting that suggestion out, we saw an immediate uptake and some quick success. Keep it simple. I mean what is the issue you’re trying to solve, and what does the suggestion need to look like to solve that issue.
Matthew Van Wingerden
It’s good. Maybe I can just throw one small piece on there as well, because we’ve been talking a lot about access and copay cards, which of course are a bit specific to the US. I think if you’re in other parts of the world, you see different examples. A lot of our European customers find gathering digital consent to be a big challenge, and there’s some simple use cases that we can get started with there about, “Hey, you’ve identified a pool of HCPs, or we can help you identify a pool of HCPs who seem to have digital affinity or are willing to engage with you digitally, but you don’t have consent with them.” Just trying to prioritize and help people work that.
You’re not just saying something simple like, “Go get consent from all your HCP customers.” Well, that’s a little bit less helpful than giving them specific actionable insights there. I think the other relatively simple, but also very powerful thing that we’ve seen is just giving visibility across the different channels. I know there’s different ways of doing this, but just suggestions that say like, “Hey, there’s a campaign that the headquarters team is running that’s coming up about X and Y topic. You might want to consider talking about that with your key HCPs in your territory, just to take advantage of the momentum that perhaps that headquarters campaign is going to do.”
Just connecting anything that we can do to make the field and the headquarters a bit more connected, and so the message coming to the HCPs and surround them is really powerful.
great. I think we’re coming towards the end of today’s discussion, so unless there was anything else you guys wanted to share. I just want to thank you all for the presentations today. It’s been very enlightening. I hope the audience I’m sure found it very useful and informative. I’ll just take us off camera before we close, and just a reminder that if there’s any other questions or if you’d like to find out more information, then please do check out Aktana’s website. Also, as we mentioned before, today’s webinar will be on demand shortly after today’s session, so feel free to listen back, or share with your colleagues.
We look forward to you getting in touch and giving us some feedback on your thoughts today, but thank you again for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you again soon on another pharmaphorum webinar. Thanks for joining us.