Could field reimbursement managers be the unsung heroes of the field force?

If you ever have a few minutes and need a lift, listen to an episode or two of the “My Unsung Hero” podcast. Each episode features an individual recalling an incident from their past where another person – usually a stranger – had a significant impact on their life.

Sometimes these “heroes” offered much-needed words of encouragement. Sometimes they would extend a helping hand or a small act of kindness. In other cases, a stranger has boldly intervened to ensure the individual’s safety. Each story is a reminder of some of the best parts of humanity.

When I think of the “unsung heroes” in my work at IQVIA, I can’t help but think of the Field Reimbursement Manager (FRM).
Commercial teams at major biopharmaceutical companies have incorporated the FRM role into their field forces for about a decade now. Even so, the role is sometimes underutilized. This is especially true for small and medium-sized businesses that are getting ready to launch (or trying to figure out why a product isn’t working as expected).

Who exactly are FRMs and why are they so important?

Patient advocates. Experts in their travels.

An FRM plays a vital role in getting patients to start and stay on treatment. Sales representatives are responsible for educating healthcare providers (HCPs) on clinical considerations. FRMs educate staff at an HCP about the expected patient journey — including any applicable pre-authorizations or staged changes — and what it will take to keep a patient on track.

FRMs are familiar with payers and health care plans in the geographies they cover. They create and maintain strong relationships not only with the sales people they support within a sales organization, but also with staff in HCP offices. Effective FRMs help HCP staff save time. They also allow the HCP office to focus on medical – not administrative – decisions and tasks. They are removing affordability and access concerns from their “list of concerns”. They know that FRMs are truly passionate about helping people.

Compliance rules prohibit sales reps from talking to healthcare professionals about specific patients. But with patient consent, MRFs can discuss individual patients with HCP staff. So they don’t just claim to be patient-centric; they offer personalized support every day.

Beyond that, the best FRMs have a distinctive set of skills and characteristics. They are skilled and tenacious problem solvers with an exceptional work ethic. They have a “patient first” attitude, as evidenced by their level of care and trust.

In short, MRFs are heroes helping patients get faster access to innovative and much-needed treatments.

When to invest in FRMs

Not all therapies need behind-the-scenes support from FRMs. However, for therapies that are more complex, more expensive, and/or subject to greater scrutiny by payers, the role of FRM can be essential.

Ideally, these professionals will be involved as part of the launch planning. Imagine having an FRM who has seen how each payer typically performs within the first six months of launching a new therapy. Their past experiences can help avoid the pain of learning the hard way. Already started and struggling to gain traction? It may be time to welcome the FRMs into the field force.

Of course, this type of talent is in high demand, making it difficult to identify, recruit, and retain FRMs. Plus, teams don’t need the same level of support at every stage of the product lifecycle. For these reasons, consider an outsourced model. It provides access to great people who can adapt over time.

With an outsourced approach, you also benefit from years of collective experience, as well as documented best practices. For example, IQVIA’s Contract Sales and Medical Solutions group has developed – and continually updates – a playbook for the FRMs we deploy on behalf of our customers. We designed the playbook so that FRMs can have a bigger impact faster. This includes increasing engagement with HCP offices, navigating health plans more efficiently, and acting as “unsung heroes” to even more patients.

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