At GSK we recognise the need to adapt to a changing world and as part of a drive towards increased transparency we have started to transform the way in which we interact with healthcare professionals.
Over the last year in the UK, we have introduced several new ways of working. These include how we deliver medical information and education, and the way in which we reward our customer-facing colleagues. The focus is on developing a sustainable and responsible business model that meets the understandably high expectations of industry stakeholders while delivering the commercial success that allows re-investment in new medicines and vaccines.
The pharmaceutical industry across Europe as a whole is moving to the disclosure of payments to individually-named healthcare professionals. GSK currently discloses payments made to healthcare professionals at an aggregate level, but from 2016 we will publish all payments made in the previous calendar year on an individually named basis. This is a Code of Practice requirement of our UK trade body, ABPI, which we support.
During 2015 we ended the practice of paying healthcare professionals for speaker engagements about our prescription medicines and began the process of moving the decisions about support to help healthcare professionals to attend medical education congresses to independent third parties. At the beginning of this year changes have come into force everywhere in the world that GSK operates.
As customer needs change in tandem with shifts in the healthcare environments, the opportunity emerges for us also to harness new technologies and ways of communicating with customers; providing information how, when and where they want it. So our focus now is on expanding and enhancing our multichannel approach to sharing information with prescribers, and using our own team of doctors and scientists to talk about our medicines and vaccines. Meanwhile we have completed our first funding round as part of our new independent medical education grants framework, which will provide arm’s length funding to support medical education activities that are directly aligned with patient health outcomes.
We have also made changes to the sales force measurement framework so that sales team members are measured and rewarded on applying key competencies – including technical skills, elements of customer engagement and business planning – and no longer on individual sales targets.
Any new business model can only be a success if it, and the reasons behind it, are understood by the people who are going to deliver the changes.
Our implementation programme has brought together colleagues for face-to-face training on how the changes affect them. Listening to our colleagues has also been important in planning the implementation and putting in place the right materials to allow customers to understand what we are doing and why.
Our approach is perhaps vindicated by the results of polling we commissioned, that suggested patients’ trust in their healthcare professionals would be adversely affected by the knowledge that he or she had received funding from industry. Interestingly, a survey of GPs and hospital doctors had predicted just this impact on trust.
Our industry is about long-term commitments, both when investing in research and also when working towards enhancing trust among patients, healthcare professional, regulators and investors. These are the latest evolutional changes in a journey that GSK, and the wider industry, is taking towards achieving the levels of transparency, and thereafter trust, that patients demand of the relationship between industry and prescribers.
By Matt Boom, National Sales Director, GSK UK Pharmaceuticals.