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KM: healthy Rx for pharmaceutical firms

In the booming pharmaceutical industry, shepherding products through all the necessary steps to approval--and to market--demands above-and-beyond effort, innovative technology and constant oversight.

Knowledge management system technology is helping to solve many of the problems inherent in the hundreds of steps involved in the information gathering, tracking, marketing, regulatory and accountability processes.

You could say that pharmaceutical relationship management (PRM) has combined with customer relationship management (CRM) to create a broader initiative -- across-the-board satisfaction.

To receive regulatory approval to market a new drug, pharmaceutical companies must compile and submit a multitude of document types including pre-clinical studies, statistical data and clinical trial results. Creating, developing, charting, tracking and verifying all the phases involved in complying can involve several hundred thousand documents. Delays in the regulatory approval cycle can cost a pharmaceutical firm a million dollars a day or more.

Pharmaceuticals must satisfy many complicated regulatory compliance obligations upfront. Medicare, Medicaid and new FDA mandates, such as the Pharmaceutical Drug Marketing Act (PDMA), require drug companies to meet certain strict regulations.

I-many.com -- formerly named SCC -- has several regulatory compliance products that, according to the firm's executives, deal with automated contract management in the medical and surgical industry. Its solution called "CARS/Medicaid" offers help in dealing with multiple types of policies including Medicaid rebates and the plan's supplemental agendas, as well as the growing arena of non-standardized state programs.

According to Solvay Pharmaceutical's Medicaid assistant, Melissa Johnson, "Now that we have converted (to CARS/Medicaid), our processing time will be much faster because the application enables us to process claims from multiple states simultaneously. In addition, the Windows environment enables our processing managers to multitask, which provides greater speed and efficiency."

Many plates to juggle

Among the diverse pharmaceutical issues are time-to-market; regulatory approval and compliance; workflow; content collaboration, sharing and management; customer relationship needs; and product launch and counter-launch. Other undertakings include marketing and integration of call/sampling information, sales force effectiveness and competitive intelligence practices. Not to mention how to put black ink on the bottom line.

IMS Health Strategic Technologies is the pharmaceutical branch of IMS Health, a diverse company that concentrates on providing services and products for the healthcare industry.

Through a combination of integrated software, customer databases, service and support, IMS Health Strategic Technologies provides customized pharmaceutical relationship management solutions. It implements knowledge management solutions aimed at helping clients achieve maximum return on their investment.

John Moran, marketing director, explains, "Our mission is to enable pharmaceutical companies to increase return on their sales and marketing investment. We serve to integrate information and services from a variety of sources."

One of IMS Health Strategic Technologies' newest offerings is PhasTrak, a sales personnel handheld helper. Enhancing the capabilities provided by that type of versatile, easy-to-use field information device, IMS has embedded database technology to aid in account prospecting and targeting, business and health data, electronic signature capture, call history detail, and product sample control and management.

CEO Ronald Brown says, "Based on feedback (from sales reps), we developed a product that provides the convenience of a handheld device that performs daily call activities and easily can be integrated with a laptop for completing planning and analysis tasks. By understanding individual prescribing patterns and opportunities, representatives can deliver more effective messages and promotions, resulting in higher sales volume and improved profitability."

A company that partners with IMS Health Strategic Technologies to provide fast, accurate information to its sales force is Sybase, which has just introduced a product called Sybase SQL Anywhere Studio. It allows developers to embed a fully functional relational database management system into enterprise applications and to deploy them to clients without requiring the support of a database administrator. Sybase's new synchronization capability helps to lower a pharmaceutical firm's total costs and enables rapid deployment of mobile e-business computing solutions.

Director of information technology for Ventiv Health, Tom Pollock plans to use PhasTrak and Sybase's SQL for his 2,200 sales representatives.

"Because PhasTrak is built on Sybase SQL Anywhere's relational database," Pollock says, "we'll have a lot more flexibility in the way that we refresh data on the sales force's handhelds. We want to make our sales reps' jobs easier. By providing them with more information and functionality, they will be able to have better sales calls in the very limited time they have with the doctors. That should translate into increased sales and market share."

Healthcare companies are required to provide enormous amounts of critical data throughout their long, complex drug testing and submission cycles. Innumerable types of KM-oriented services and products are necessary to support the regulatory-intensive nature of the pharmaceutical industry--all for the purpose of helping pharmaceutical personnel effectively launch new drug and comply with ever-changing rules

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