How purpose-built tech can help pharmaceutical and life science companies streamline healthcare provider interactions

In today’s hypercompetitive pharmaceutical and life sciences (PLS) industry, strategic partnerships are more critical than ever.

A smaller life sciences company may have relationships with hundreds of healthcare providers and healthcare organizations. For larger manufacturers, that number can easily stretch into the tens of thousands. PwC research from early 2021 revealed that businesses overwhelmingly expect their dependence on third parties to grow, along with heightened regulatory scrutiny of third parties and an increase in third-party risks ranging from security issues to finance and compliance. 

For PLS companies, these scientific and commercial relationships are key to doing business. Healthcare providers (HCPs) and healthcare organizations (HCOs) aid with scientific and market research, provide educational services in the form of consulting and speaking engagements and work with PLS companies on charitable activities. These relationships also help actively develop therapies and improve awareness around emerging treatments for a wide range of diseases and disorders.

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Unfortunately, these third-party relationships are also fraught with risk. Conflicts of interest among PLS companies, doctors and patients are increasingly common, resulting in issues of off-label or unapproved promotion of products, drug safety violations—and even outright fraud. This, in turn, has led to increased scrutiny into PLS and HCP/HCO relationships and government regulations and calls for increased transparency.

In addition to numerous rules on how to engage with HCPs and HCOs, manufacturers are also required to report their payments to their respective regulators.

The challenges of managing HCP/HCO relationships on a global scale

The regulatory risk landscape is just one challenge in navigating relationships with HCPs/HCOs. Yes—documenting and managing these partnerships is daunting. But they’re part of the controls in place that promote much needed transparency, accountability and trust. For example, to engage with a doctor, a pharma company has to undergo a multistep process. They need to verify that physician’s credentials, define the legitimate need for their services, determine a fair market value for their compensation, create and complete a contract with the provider, maintain defensible proof of services provided and manage the actual payments.

There are other factors driving the increasing complexities of these relationships, not the least of which is the globalized nature of HCP engagements. And playing on a global stage also means competing globally and pushing harder to expedite development of vital therapies.

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