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Why Your Channel Strategy Matters

Channel strategy underpins the deployment of a life science company’s overall commercialization strategy. A company’s channel strategy is the tie that binds the market access, patient access, marketing, trade, and sales strategies to meet brand goals effectively. Ideally, it tightly integrates the processes for managing the logistics of getting products from the manufacturer to patients, implementing services to support patient access and medication adherence, and capturing channel data to measure success and inform decision-making.

Getting your channel strategy is essential to ensure patients can access and adhere to therapy – here are four ways channel strategy can positively impact your brand’s success:

1. Differentiating your product

With the pharmaceutical industry facing diminishing returns on development investment, and increased payer utilization management controls, the stakes are high. Strategic product differentiation, particularly in competitive categories is a must key to mitigate risk and improve the probability of success. The promise of positive patient outcomes alone is insufficient alone. Payers require manufacturers to prove the real-world value of their brands, which means that patients need to be able to access and adhere to therapy.

Your channel strategy essentially creates a post-launch infrastructure to substantiate the value of a product beyond efficacy and when applied correctly can differentiate it from competing therapies that may struggle to generate significant adoption. When data is an integral part of your strategy, you can gain a deeper understanding of patient needs and show how your brand uniquely solves unmet problems, such as enhanced tolerability, convenience, greater safety, or reduced healthcare costs.

2. Improving patient experience

Consumerization is one of the biggest healthcare trends impacting pharmaceutical commercialization today. Patients want the same experience they get from other industries, such as retail, consumer technology, and banking. At the same time, healthcare providers are busier than ever and under the gun to improve the quality of care and manage new blended care models. A poor prescriber experience often results in reduced brand loyalty.

A well refined and modern channel strategy can improve patient and provider experience by minimizing the complexity associated with patient access, ultimately generating a stronger value proposition by:

Improving outcomes by accelerating speed-to-therapy

●  Limiting healthcare costs resulting from non-adherence

●  Reducing the burden placed on prescribers to address lengthy PA requirements

●  Minimizing poor outcomes due to prescription abandonment

3. Expanding coverage and reimbursement

Getting a prescribed therapy from manufacturer to patient – effectively and efficiently – is crucial to hitting sales forecasts and, ultimately, brand success. Multiple studies have shown that broad payer coverage correlates with better outcomes, so it makes sense to ensure favorable coverage in today's value-based system. However, manufacturers would be wise to consider the fact that broad coverage doesn’t always translate into a high % of covered dispenses.

A key element of a company's channel strategy is the design of its drug distribution model. Each plan's coverage, coding, and payment criteria determine whether a therapy is covered and at what price. Pricing and reimbursement systems are notoriously complex to navigate. Failure to optimize your distribution network can lead to poor coverage and reimbursement outcomes, undermining commercialization efforts even if your market access team has signed payer contracts.

Life science companies – particularly those in certain therapeutic categories or that are smaller or startups – can generate a substantial competitive advantage and avoid a product mid-life cycle crisis with a streamlined distribution model that offers comprehensive coverage and high reimbursement rates.

4. Accelerating therapy starts

Although the negative consequences of delayed therapy are well documented, medication delays are common. In a 2021 report, 82% of patients experienced delays accessing their medications for various reasons, including cost and insurance challenges.

More and more payers are implementing utilization management measures, such as prior authorizations (PAs), to stem rising healthcare costs, especially related to specialty medications. In fact, 79% of medical practices report that PA requirements increased between 2021 and 2022. The PA process, by design, is a significant barrier to medication access – it can leave patients waiting for days or weeks for approval, and coverage can be denied despite being appropriately prescribed.

A pharmaceutical company’s channel strategy can be instrumental in accelerating patient access to therapy. Integrating technology to simplify and automate the PA process for pharmacies and providers can effectively reduce medication access delays.

Getting your channel strategy right

Your channel strategy is essential to the patient journey and should be as unique as your product and the patients it treats. It can make or break your brand’s success. Watch Phil’s on-demand webinar to discover vital considerations for your channel strategy and how to evaluate channel partners so you can build a channel strategy that will have the most significant impact on your patients and your bottom line.