Does your product messaging align with what the NHS actually wants?

When working with one of my Pharma, MedTech and Devices clients in the summer, I noticed the language used by the market access team was mainly: “I need tools, I need data, I need something snazzy I can take to the customer.”

It took me less than half an hour to dismantle this way of thinking and persuade the team that using a different approach to what they say would render far better results.

Sometimes just banging on the door won’t work – you have to step back and look at what you’re offering and how it aligns with what the NHS wants to achieve.

The four questions you need to answer

This team was struggling to get access to the NHS so the first thought was to go hunting for tools they could use to crowbar the door open for them.

They were working at system and place level, right at the top of the tree in terms of access, through the 42 Integrated Care Systems or one of the 300-plus place footprints. 

So I spent time helping them understand that talking about tools and data would not convince the NHS to work with them. Here’s what they needed to focus on instead:

Integrated care systems have four core purposes:

  • Improve outcomes of population health and healthcare.
  • Tackle inequalities in outcomes, experience and access.
  • Enhance productivity and value for money.
  • Help the NHS support broader social and economic development.

So I took time to learn more about their product, the area they worked in and the needs of the patient populations so I could convert their messaging away from being directly about their product and more toward addressing the four points that matter to the NHS.

Can your product cut admissions?

We then moved on to have a look at the NHS long-term plan and did exactly the same thing again. The common themes there to focus on, incidentally, are improved patient outcomes and the reduction of unnecessary appointments, referrals and admissions.

So we took the key messages from their product and showed exactly how working with them could improve patient outcomes, reduce appointments, referrals and admissions, tackle inequalities and reduce unwarranted variation between the providers.

I showed how all that could be achieved in a very short space of time using the client’s product.

But there were still a few questions, a few nagging doubts around the table that this was the best way to go. So I turned to the Prevention Agenda. This comes from the NHS Long Term Plan and contains all the standard health messaging around obesity, smoking, alcohol, sexual health and antimicrobial resistance.

But the Long Term Plan is now asking for a focus on other areas – not just honing in on stopping people becoming unwell (which is still in there) but asking how do we reduce avoidable referral and avoidable admission? So the key is to tap into that.

Align your objectives and they’ll listen to you

It’s crucial any product message shows the NHS that by working together, you can achieve one or both of those things – preventing people falling ill and/or keeping people out of hospital.

Don’t stop there though. Could it also support reducing health inequalities, and potentially tackling unwarranted variation between the different providers? System and place plans are required to demonstrate that the key areas of inequality are being tackled and how any additional funding is being laser-guided toward that objective.

And of course, don’t forget that tackling health inequalities is now part of the primary care network DES contract. How can you align your product messaging to provide the solution there?

Equally, training, learning, education and upskilling NHS teams to better manage the patients is all part of the Prevention Agenda. It has the knock-on effect of reducing appointments, referrals and admissions through better patient outcomes. So again, how would your messaging line up against that?

Clear and relevant messaging is the key to success

I received some feedback earlier this week on this project which hammered home the points above: “Since our meeting in the summer, the team have been really implementing the messaging to help grow the business and make things better for patients. There is a really confident swagger going on. Thank you so much for your support.”

The customer went on to say they have opened up so many new projects since, simply by aligning their product messaging with the NHS agenda. And that really stems from the workshops that I delivered with them, back in the summer.

There is always a way to change your messaging and take a completely different approach to the NHS but you have to be prepared to step back and look carefully at what you’re doing.

You then need to be prepared to go and try something different, something no other Pharma, MedTech or Devices company is doing – the result may surprise you and may well surprise the NHS at the same time. My experience is that this approach is definitely opening up all kinds of opportunities for the clients I work with on a retained basis. Please feel free to reach out on LinkedIn if you’d like to know how I can support your market access team too.

Scott McKenzie helps pharmaceutical, medical technology and device firms increase revenue by getting their products and services in front of the right NHS decision makers. If you want to get your products fully embedded into treatment pathways we can help you. We’ve doubled revenue for our clients and can share these processes with you too.