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  • Writer's pictureSAKS Market Access Team

3 Key Tips on How to Engage with a Payer Customer in the Healthcare Landscape

A drawing of a head with gears is sketched out symbolizing how to engage with payer customers in the healthcare landscape_SAKS Health

As Shakespeare might say, when they are pricked, they bleed. Likewise, when they are bored, they tune out. And when they are engaged in something that matters to them, they pay attention. Payer customers are people too.

But when informing a payer customer about a complicated new product, how do you know what will matter? And how do you get and keep them engaged? At SAKS Health, we like to keep the following three tips in mind when trying to engage with a payer customer.

1. Identifying “what matters” to a payer customer takes skill.

Traditionally, it has been said that payer customers really only want to know 3 things: How big is the population for this drug, how many of my members will be candidates, and how much is it going to cost me? Today the “payer customer” can encompass traditional health plans of various shapes and sizes, PBMs, and integrated delivery networks. Some are more highly focused on their bottom line, while others layer in more concerns about provider and patient satisfaction.

With the help of skilled and experienced strategists, effective communicators understand different audience motivations and tailor messages accordingly. Separate presentation tools for different audiences are an option, but more commonly a single tool can incorporate everything needed. It’s just a matter of organizing the material to allow a trained presenter to locate what they need at the moment they need it.

Be sure, also, to balance what matters to your audience with what matters to the brand. Always be asking: Is this content helping my communication meet its strategic objective? If it isn’t, why are you spending time on it?

2. Payer customers care primarily that it works, not necessarily how it works.

Science is cool. The details of how an innovative mechanism of action works can be interesting to intellectually curious clinicians. And they certainly can be interesting to a manufacturer involved in its discovery and development. But most payer customers are not looking for “reasons to believe.” Deep understanding of an MOA is worth their time only if tied to clinical outcomes. That said, don’t disregard MOA completely. Payer customers will commonly organize their thinking about managing a treatment category around MOA, so a mechanism new to a category is a value driver, and a strong reason for formulary inclusion.

3. Be compelling.

Whether in market access communications or any kind of writing, a good communicator develops a voice uniquely her own, so effective style can’t be copied from a manual. But here are a few things that may help lead you there:

  • Write like you talk. Nobody wants to be assaulted by a sales pitch. Be natural; have a conversation.

  • Support words with visuals. Data visualizations engage the brain in a different way and enliven the audience experience.

  • Respect their time. Payer customers have a lot on their plates and listening to an account manager may not be at the top of their list. Breaking a complicated narrative into smaller bits is helpful. Get to the point.

  • Edit yourself. Music industry legend Rick Rubin says he is a reducer not a producer. Good writing is often a matter of shaving away what’s not essential. Omit needless words.

  • Write with nouns and verbs. Messages are stronger when unencumbered with adjectives and adverbs. Use modifiers sparingly, and they will have more power when you do.

  • Use the active voice. Also makes any message stronger.

  • Highlight strong data. Strong data is strong data whether that comes from phase three studies or generated overtime through real world evidence.

  • Work from an emotion. Before typing a word, take a moment to identify an emotion that can animate the writing. When you’re looking through the lens of emotion, even the driest brand situation analysis can suggest anger, fear, joy, pride, relief, confidence, frustration, or satisfaction driving the story for various stakeholders. Empathize with them. Payer customers say they respond to data, but people respond to other people feeling something.

At SAKS Health, our energizing emotion is pride in enabling Better Healthcare Tomorrow. Our market access communications, surround sound approach, and nonpersonal promotions are helping more people get medicines they need. We hope these thoughts will help others in their efforts to do the same.



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