PharmExec Blog

Missed Opportunities in Advanced Data Analytics

SAS’s Brad Sitler talks about the importance of incremental sales, customer proximity, and anticipating a compensation model based on health outcomes

Brad Sitler

Brad Sitler

Brad Sitler, principle industry consultant at SAS’s Center for Health Analytics and Insights group (and one of PharmExec’s Editorial Board Members), sat down to discuss the opportunities that advanced data analytics can bring to the bottom line, and why pharma has been slow to embrace a more quantified approach.

PharmExec: What are some of the ways that pharma can leverage data analytics to adapt the sales and marketing functions?

Brad Sitler: Data influences how you spend on healthcare providers (HCPs), based on his or her current value and potential value to the brand. Much of senior management came up through the sales organization, which has been largely based on relationship selling, versus analytical or data-driven selling. The highest decile prescribers are getting hammered by sales reps, and/or multi-channel non-personal promotion. From an analytics perspective, you can start to invest in HCPSs in the mid-tier decile, and base your target on potential to prescribe, and incremental lift; the analytics provide a much clearer view as to who is being left by the wayside.

PE: Why aren’t marketers targeting these mid-tier docs?

Sitler: No one has ever been let go for using the traditional, deciling-based approach that you might get from your trusted, outsourced partner. This model is a result of senior leadership coming up through the sales function. Companies have become comfortable with that model, and have continued to expand upon it.

PE: What’s the problem with outsourcing the somewhat onerous task of data crunching?

Sitler: Before joining SAS, I did my own independent consulting work, focused on top 10 pharma companies. I’ve been to brand meetings where we looked around the table and there were 10 of us sitting there, and not a single person worked for the pharma company as a direct employee; everyone was third-party. These were bi-weekly strategy meetings assessing the status of where the brand was, and how we’re going to make potential course corrections to the brand strategy, and then the tactical roll-out of the strategy. If you have that level of hands-off, you lose touch with your end customer, whether it’s a prescriber or a patient. Outsourcing the strategy of a brand is a dangerous slope to go down, and the Bains and McKinseys of the world agree that this is not a sustainable model. As a third-party, you don’t have full visibility to know where the organization is going as a whole, where the company is going to make future R&D investments, for example.

PE: With healthcare reform, many new patient data repositories are coming online, at the national and state level. How can this data be used to improve outcomes?

Sitler: If healthcare reform stays intact, then patient outcomes will determine compensation rates, which means accountable care organizations (ACOs), for example, will begin to marginalize sales and marketing. They will use the data to determine the most appropriate treatment for a given patient, and start locking out reps and locking down multi-channel marketing. Pharma will have to figure out what to do, and I can see them partnering with health plans, they’re following the plans into the data mine. The capability for the analytics is there, the question is how they leverage the commercial model, and how they successfully leverage the analytics. The key will be finding the business partnerships and models that support everybody sharing their data, and putting it together.

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