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Interview with Atlanta Kassatly - Vice President, Consulting

We spoke with resident value communication specialist and Vice President of Consulting Atlanta Kassatly about developments in market access and the ingredients of a successful customer engagement tool.

Can you start by saying a little about your background in health economics?

Sure. I’m particularly interested in the role of health economics in global development, and before joining BaseCase I worked for an NGO called Tostan, in Senegal, running non-formal education programs for disenfranchised communities.

Before that, I completed my undergraduate degree in biological sciences at the University of Edinburgh, and a master’s in public health economics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

How does that fit with your current role at BaseCase?

My master’s was particularly focused on analyzing health systems, and the role of different stakeholders within them, as well as modeling the clinical and economic impact of a given intervention. A lot of that modeling work of course feeds directly into what our consulting team does on a day-to-day basis. I’m currently responsible for managing the consulting department as a whole, and overseeing the development of the value communication tools that we build for clients.

What kinds of tools are your clients looking to develop?

There’s a wide range. Often they’re interactive versions of a budget impact model, a cost calculator, or some kind of economic model that shows the monetary benefits of the product. We also develop interactive versions of value dossiers, and data recording tools that allow our clients to collect responses from a survey.

And are your clients in the US mainly?

Now that I’m based in the US I work with a lot of our US clients, but we also have a lot of clients in Europe and elsewhere. Often we’re building apps with the global team for a company, developing a core tool to be adapted for their affiliates in different countries.

Who creates these tools?

Normally it’s the market access director or the HEOR director for a given product or therapeutic area within a company. They develop the tools for their key account managers or their commercial and medical affairs liaisons to use in the field, in discussions with payers and providers.

Are you creating tools completely yourself or can the client also use the platform?

With the flexibility of the platform, our clients can build apps themselves. With a little bit of training on how to use BaseCase, you can develop your own interactive tools from scratch. Often, clients develop a core tool with us, and then manage the country adaptations and updates in-house. Or, for example, we might develop a template for a particular product that can be adapted to other products, or therapeutic areas, or be localized for different settings. It depends on the client.

Could they outsource the work to you completely?

Absolutely, if desired we can manage the process from start to finish. In this case, the client will send us their materials and branding guidelines and discuss the value story they want to communicate. We do the rest.

What’s the difference between outsourcing to your team, as opposed to using a custom app vendor?

The platform is very flexible, and the content that you develop isn’t fixed. This means it’s very easy to update, for example if new studies emerge, or if you want to localize the tool to different settings. Because there’s no programming involved, it’s a lot faster and more flexible than developing custom apps, and it tends to be cheaper.

What’s the biggest obstacle to effective value communication?

Keeping it simple is key. It’s often tricky to overcome the desire to include everything in the tool that the audience might conceivably want to see. If you try to do this, you risk losing the audience in a mass of information. It’s important not to dilute the impact of the key message.

How do you overcome that?

When we develop apps internally we spend a lot of time at the beginning identifying what the communication objective is for the tool. Anything that doesn’t directly support that can be removed or added to secondary ‘layers’ away from the main value story.

What are the key priorities you have when creating a customer engagement tool?

Ultimately, we want to communicate the message in the most simple, clean and concise way. We want the audience to look at the tool and very quickly understand what the message is, regardless of whether they have experience in health economics or in that particular therapeutic area.

We also want the tool to be as visually appealing as possible. We don’t want the reps to feel like they need to read from the iPad - it should be immediately obvious by looking at the visualizations what the benefit of the product is.

Of course we also want the tool to be easy to use. If it’s not clear how to navigate through it then it won’t be used, and you could find that your tools are left unopened on iPads.

What’s the most important aspect of the platform for you?

The real benefit of the integrated spreadsheet editor is that it works just like Excel. You can upload a budget impact model in Excel format, for example, and the formulas will be maintained, and it will work in the same way.

As well as market access-type apps, do you have clients in the commercial space creating e-detailing tools?

Yes, a lot of the benefits that apply to market access clients - flexibility and cost for example - apply equally to the commercial space. They can create the same interactive, multimedia-rich apps as a custom app vendor, but in less time, and the tool can be modified easily on an ongoing basis.

What emerging trends have you noticed in the market access space?

There’s an increasing focus on emerging markets and the untapped potential there. A tool that we create initially for the Canadian market for example might be adapted to countries like Algeria, Lebanon and Morocco.

This is partly because the platform lowers the barrier to entry and makes it possible for more budget-conscious countries to create the same high-quality tools used in the mature markets.

More competition in many therapeutic areas often means that the tools we develop, and the way that market access teams engage with payers, is defensive. Discussion about the value of a given intervention and justifications on its price continue long after launch. It’s important to keep maintaining relationships with payers and providers, to keep the dialog open.

There’s also been an increasing involvement of patients in decisions about their healthcare. Patients are increasingly more educated about the healthcare they’re receiving, and we’ve seen a shift towards more patient-facing tools. The life sciences industry is more interested in bringing patients into the discussion about care.