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Postcards from China, part 3

Improving market access through integrated solutions

inVentiv Health, China, market access

Making healthcare more accessible and affordable for the public is a prominent focus of the Chinese government's current health reform efforts – a focus that will not alter despite the recent transition in leadership at the central government level.

Read parts one and two of inVentiv Health Communication's Postcards from China. 

Achieving this mandate requires stringent cost-control measures, most notably in the form of harsh national drug price cuts and restricted access to innovative therapies.

This environment creates for industry an opportunity to ensure patients have access to the right care at the right time by aligning business, marketing and sales strategies with government reform priorities; as well as a need to demonstrate and communicate clearly about the broader value of innovative therapies to gain optimal access as cost-pressures increase and competition intensifies.

To address these market access challenges and opportunities, industry players require a more holistic, streamlined and strategic approach to achieving optimal access.

Traditional marketing approaches have depended on proving the efficacy of a product and then reaching out to clinicians – considered the main stakeholder group – generally via key opinion leaders. Today, however, efficacy is the minimum standard for access, with decision makers now increasingly looking at the wider health economic impact of a therapy to determine access.

Across China, more interest is being paid towards cost-effectiveness and pharmacoeconomic analyses to inform a therapy's value, and consequently its price and level of reimbursement. This makes it vitally important to demonstrate to multiple stakeholders both the clinical benefit as well as the health economic value of a given therapy within a highly competitive and complex market.

Aligning behind the common aim

Achieving optimal access should become a common aim, bringing internal stakeholders together to meet common challenges and maximise opportunities across a product's lifecycle – from clinical trials through to patent expiry. Rallying behind this common aim provides an opportunity for the industry to engage multiple stakeholders in discussions that go beyond pricing and reimbursement, and enable integrated teams to demonstrate the total value that a product will bring to society.

Aligning behind the common aim to achieve optimal access requires a systematic shift in the way internal teams operate in China. Cross-functional teams, including government relations, marketing, communications, pricing, medical and health outcomes, should be established to unite thinking and develop integrated access communications strategies, messaging and activities. If done successfully, such teams are able to construct needs-based access communications programmes that showcase the true value of a therapy to a wide range of stakeholder groups and connect the treatment to established unmet needs amongst patient populations.

Connecting stakeholder needs and solutions

To be successful, access communications need to be informed by and aligned with the government's agenda and stakeholders' needs at a national, provincial and local level. It is never too early to engage with stakeholders to understand their challenges and priorities.

By conducting mapping and profiling of the policy and stakeholder landscape we can develop a clear understanding of unmet needs across stakeholders, and develop appropriate strategies that will not only improve access to care, but also support our stakeholders' objectives.

With such a dynamic shift in China's customer landscape and the increased importance of demonstrating both clinical benefits and the wider value of a therapy, more support is needed for field-based teams. A number of tools can be developed, in collaboration with experts in the field, to help implement the overarching access communications strategy and clearly communicate the value of a product to multiple stakeholders.

Examples of several highly effective tools include:

  • Value message matrix – This essential tool maps out a product's value story against different stakeholder needs, enabling field teams to quickly assess which messages will resonate with different stakeholders based on their situation
  • Stakeholder value detail cards – A series of detail cards that clearly tell the value story of a product from different perspectives helps field teams bring the concepts of a value message to life through a visual aid. Different cards can be selected for use with different customers. The use of infographics can enhance the communication of complex information
  • Patient pathway guides – Managing capacity and demand is often a huge challenge for stakeholders, payers and clinicians alike. Providing teams with the knowledge to discuss this challenge and ability to explore potential solutions with a stakeholder will help to demonstrate value beyond the product alone. By working with stakeholders to collate examples of patient pathways that have streamlined access to care and sharing this good practice will encourage health services to adopt new models of care
  • Cost calculators – Simple Excel-based cost calculators can be developed to enable field teams to demonstrate the economic burden of disease and apply product value to a specific local population. By enabling the user to add in local demographics and variables, the tool can become a valuable localised decision tool.

As the China healthcare landscape evolves, so too must the industry's approach to access communications and stakeholder engagement. Only by putting market access at the center of marketing and communications efforts in China can the industry achieve effective brand management and optimal access in this time of change.


inVentiv Heath, Sarah Giles, ChinaSarah Giles is access communications and engagement director at inVentiv Health Communications/China and can be contacted at

26th November 2012

From: Marketing



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