It is a fact - organizations are facing increased regulation and governance. Often, compliance with many of these challenges involves data collection and reporting. One such challenge facing life science organizations is managing and reporting the total dollars spent on physicians.

Business Challenge

Physicians can interact in many ways with pharmaceutical organizations. They can prescribe medications, participate in clinical studies, attend or speak at symposiums or publish in relation to certain drugs. The government is increasingly interested in not only the amount expended in a sales effort, but also in the economic value of specific activities with physicians. Regulations governing these expenditures are complex and span local, state and federal jurisdictions and controls. An organization must be prepared to answer such questions quickly and correctly, as errors or delay can be costly in dollars and public relations.

A common challenge is that the data is spread across various disjointed applications with varying degrees of standardization. As one pharmaceutical leader put it, "It is as if someone has come to my front door and demanded to know how many calories worth of food is in my refrigerator. Sure, I could go back and inventory and calculate, but not without a fair amount of work. Now, we have regulations that are demanding we know exactly how much is spent on a physician regardless of how we interact with them. The answer is in so many systems and databases that just finding the buckets to go look in is a challenge. What I really need is a report or dashboard that grabs all this data, organizes it and allows me to answer the questions that matter."

Data Management Response

As is commonly the case, the business manager makes the solution sound simple. Those of us in the data management profession recognize this as a complex data management issue involving many disciplines, such as integration, warehousing, master data management (MDM) and business intelligence (BI). Stepping back from the problem, with the big data picture in view, the data management professional should not only see this as a compliance challenge, but a BI opportunity.

There is an acute need for collecting, consolidating, condensing and communicating the data around total physician spend. Concurrently, though, attention should be paid to what other business challenges can be solved with this solution.

Physician spend will need to draw from systems such as customer relationship management (CRM), event planning, financial systems and clinical trial management, among others. The solution will also be a witch's brew of data management techniques, including:

  • MDM. To provide a view that reaches across the various systems, a master view of the physician is required. The master view must be inclusive and provide a party-based model that can adequately represent all the ways a physician may financially interact with the company.
  • Data warehousing. Because much of the data will be higher latency, warehousing of the data combined with the MDM environment will most likely provide the measures and dimensions required to satisfy needs.
  • Reporting and analysis. Compliance will require a set of reports to satisfy the need for complete high quality reporting of total dollars spent on the physician. The initial focus can be on reports, but other constituencies may also be satisfied by using analytics and BI.
  • Dashboards. The aggregate and average metrics that are associated with physician spend can be input to a compliance dashboard and give compliance officers a heads-up to impending risk areas.

Satisfy the Constituencies

The data management professional can use this opportunity to satisfy multiple constituencies. The data assembled for the physician spend compliance challenge can provide significant value to other areas. A simplified constituency analysis could benefit various groups, including:

  • Sales management. Having an understanding of the high- spend physicians can assist sales management with optimization of deployment of the field sales professionals. There may be physician segments where there is high spend and high return, which can be replicated in other segments.
  • Marketing and event management. In creating symposiums and educational events, understanding how this spend of resources and dollars can translate into higher prescribing activity may be a valuable tool for management.
  • Clinical trials management. A master data view of the physician will ensure that the internal management team has a complete view of the physician and the various interaction points with the company when clinical trials are being planned and executed.

Physician spend is a compliance reality for life science companies. The data management professional, with a view into the various data consumers of the company, can transform a solution that was built for compliance into a high value-add solution, helping many other areas of the organization. This requires "big picture" thinking, to step back and look at the challenge in context and not just as a compliance requirement. It also requires a firm understanding of the various data management tools and the best way to deploy them. 

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