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Nurse Teams: Don’t Miss The Opportunity

Posted on: 31 Jul 02


Nurse teams are becoming ever more prominent in the sales and marketing plans of pharmaceutical companies. Nurses can offer pharmaceutical companies a unique opportunity to deliver multiple outcomes s
For almost a decade, Ventiv Health has been at the forefront of providing nurse teams to generate significant return on investment for clients and improve clinical outcomes for patients and the NHS. Whilst the use of Ventiv nurse teams has been shown to be highly effective in achieving these goals, PharmaTimes discovers that many companies are missing out on the opportunity to maximise sales. Nurse teams are becoming ever more prominent in the sales and marketing plans of pharmaceutical companies. Nurses can offer pharmaceutical companies a unique opportunity to deliver multiple outcomes such as closeness to key opinion leaders, optimisation of patient care, long-term support of patients, and importantly critical leverage within the marketplace. However, few companies make the most of nurse teams’ potential. The typical nurse team needs to double in size to optimise coverage and business opportunity. But, when you consider the potential return, Ventiv has demonstrated it’s an investment worth making. Nevertheless, to yield the best return on that investment, you need to work in partnership with a company with an established track record of experience, high level delivery and flexibility. Anyone can offer a nurse team – and once they get the contract, they employ the headcount. But successfully recruiting or managing representatives doesn’t guarantee effectively led nurse and specialist programmes. The ethics and training requirements are very different, for example. So, you need experience to ensure that you attain your business objectives without compromising customer relationships or patient outcomes. Ventiv offers unsurpassed experience that, combined with a proprietary audit process, offers a powerful lever for competitive advantage. In the forefront For almost a decade, Ventiv Health has spearheaded the development of nursing teams to hone competitive edge on behalf of its clients. So, Ventiv can show, unlike many of its competitors, that it builds influential relationships at all levels, from individual GPs to the boards of PCTs and trusts. The relationship develops because nurses are clinical specialists, rather than salespeople. So, nurses can drive changes in the practice/PCT environment that result in a win for the client, a win for the NHS and, most importantly, a win for patients. There’s never been a more opportune moment to take advantage of such a specialist resource. Recent NHS changes encouraged initiatives that improve health outcomes. So clinical governance, NICE, national service frameworks, and STBOP aim to drive improved outcomes. Nurses advisers can play a central role in implementing these changes. But NHS resources, despite the increased expenditure, remain limited. ‘Many GPs, PCTs and trusts want to implement these initiatives, but they simply don’t have the resource,’ comments Jon Hodgson, Ventiv Health’s Managing Director. ‘Nurse teams offer that resource. So, by working within accepted best practice, we help healthcare professionals improve outcomes. Pharmaceutical companies also win. They increase sales, strengthen their customer base and improve relationships with prescribers.’ Nevertheless, much of the potential arising from these changes remains untapped. Doctors or nurses should regularly review patients suffering from chronic diseases. Representatives commonly report that GPs would like to have the ability to review their patients in line with guidelines and novel therapies. However, primary care simply doesn’t have the resources to review or switch patients. So, the doctor tends to prescribe the drug only in new cases. ‘The nurse team facilitates regular review and helps doctors intervene with appropriate existing patients,’ Jon says. ‘In all cases, nurses work within protocols and implementation plans as agreed with the doctor. This ensures that patients at all times receive the optimal and most appropriate treatment. As part of our specialist audit capabilities Ventiv Nurse programmes can, in addition, uniquely create a cost neutral impact to primary care for many pharmaceutical interventions.’ Balancing ethics and commerce Obviously, Ventiv needs to balance its drive to improve health outcomes with delivering commercial gain for its clients. But the two imperatives are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, Ventiv’s corporate structure augments its ability to balance the commercial and clinical. Helen Cunningham, healthcare services director, heads the team that implements and delivers programmes, which are designed by a team led by Graeme Dixon, healthcare outcomes director. Graeme explains that Ventiv begins by clearly characterising the client’s business objectives and the NHS clinical objectives: ‘We develop programmes that deliver these objectives, while balancing ethical, clinical and commercial issues,’ he says. After Ventiv recruits and trains the team, it regularly reviews progress against project milestones. And it remains flexible. So, Ventiv can meet changing objectives in what are often volatile political, clinical and commercial environments. Jon notes that, for example, if the client buys representative and nurse headcount, Ventiv can adjust the mix as appropriate. For example, it may switch some of the headcount from representative to nurses throughout the contracted period, allowing resource to be placed where the opportunities are the greatest. Nevertheless, Ventiv stresses that its nurses remain clinically independent and up-to-date with the changes in the NHS and their therapy areas. So, Ventiv insists on rigorous training and recruitment standards. Ventiv’s training and development programmes are undergoing independent accreditation by the Royal College of Nursing – something no other outsourcer currently offers. Obviously, Ventiv’s nurses follow the ABPI code, but Ventiv is leading the Industry in working with the ABPI/RCN to improve standards of programme management. ‘We’d never expect a nurse to do anything unethical,’ says Graeme. ‘But, in practice, it’s never arisen. We deal with such problems when developing the programme. Our experience allows us to anticipate any issues.’ That experience means that Ventiv ensures a smooth transition once pharmaceutical funding ends. All too often commercially funded nurses are ‘pulled’ without considering what that means for patients. This leaves PCOs and trusts suspicious of all pharma-funded nurses – and with a poor view of the client. ‘Careful education of NHS staff and managing transition ensures that there is no gap when service discontinues,’ Helen comments. ‘This means the NHS is left with a good impression of the nurses and the client.’ Indeed, some pharmaceutical advisers now encourage practices to join Ventiv schemes. Ventiv also has relationships with many PCOs and trust boards that other companies cannot rival. Often after working with one practice identified by a representative or as a pilot agreed with the board, the scheme rolls out rapidly across the entire PCO. Few other approaches so rapidly and so effectively target the entire PCO and include those practices other strategies cannot reach. Commercial success As a result, Ventiv’s programmes are commercially highly effective. Nurse teams typically are perceived as an expensive luxury add on, yet in reality pound for pound a nurse team will cost the same, or less, than a dedicated or in-house representative team, and because of their potential for direct patient intervention, offer a far higher return on investment. Several organisations have already identified that, by incorporating specialist or nurse programmes into the marketing mix they can realise this increased return on investment, and also optimise the return on investment from their existing sales resource. Ventiv can prove its business credentials through its proprietary approach to audit. Despite halving the time required, the Ventiv audit process can offer some unique state-of-the-market insights, down to the level of anonymous practice/PCT model data. As an aside, Ventiv can also prove its scientific credentials. Ventiv can (and has with existing clients) develop partnership strategies to support publications regarding its nurse programmes in peer-reviewed journals and to present at leading meetings. Nevertheless, despite the sector’s growing recognition of nurse benefits, the approach remains under-utilised. Helen comments that, on average, a current team typically includes ten to fifteen nurses. ‘Nationally, twenty-five to thirty nurses would offer reasonable coverage, without spending a disproportionate amount of time travelling,’ she adds. ‘However, it depends on the size of the representative resource supporting the programme and the clinical area that the programme is operating within. In one case, we supported a representative team of 400 with sixty nurses.’ Ventiv Health has extensive experience within a range of therapy areas, from cardiology to sexual health, encompassing primary, secondary and tertiary care – able to deliver specialist programmes that bridge across strategic health authorities, supported also by its in house representative teams. This allows complete programme service from centre generation to clinical intervention and outcomes for the pharma client. Over the decade that Ventiv Health has been in the forefront of using nurses to generate commercial advantage and improve clinical outcomes, the sector has increasingly recognised the high value that such teams offer. Yet, they remain under-utilised. In an increasingly competitive market, that’s an opportunity you – literally – cannot afford to miss. For a unique and tailor made insight utilising real life data to demonstrate how this approach might benefit your organisation, contact Ventiv Health, Network House, Basing View, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 4HG Tel: 01256 307550.

Karen Ashurst

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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