4 Ways to Enhance Healthcare Product Launch Readiness

Learn how life sciences companies can create an integrated communications approach to help shape the market, maximizing awareness, understanding, and product adoption.

When preparing for the launch of an innovative new healthcare product, one of the most important questions we ask life science companies is: Can you tell us about your target market? This simple question reveals a lot about a company’s market development readiness and strategic communication opportunities.

It is no longer enough to produce a game-changing or next-generation product. By the time a new product launches, a life sciences company needs to have communication strategies in place that will successfully motivate behavior changes and shift the market to where it needs to be. To do so, they need an initial understanding of their target market, including the existing attitudes and behaviors of key audiences.

Learn four key steps to create an integrated communication approach that helps shape the market, maximizing awareness, understanding, and, ultimately, product adoption.

1. Define Communication Objectives

The first step is to reconcile (A) where the market is today with (B) where you need the market to be at launch. The communication objectives define the priorities for getting from A to B and guide the development of strategies to help move stakeholders along the adoption readiness curve.

Product Launch Readiness 

It’s ideal to begin the process with a situation analysis to help ensure the communication objectives reflect an understanding of the market and the needs the new product serves. Key questions to consider:

  • What is the clinical evidence supporting the therapy? How novel is its mechanism of action (MOA)?
  • What is the clinical burden of disease, the epidemiological landscape, and the degree of unmet need?
  • How competitive and crowded is the space? What are the existing treatment options, and how is the new product differentiated from the current standard of care?
  • What is the economic burden of disease and what costs to the healthcare system could be averted? Does the product fit into existing reimbursement and payment models?
  • What kind of existing presence, profile, and relationships does your company have in the therapeutic area? Can you leverage synergies among the new product, other brands, and the overall company mission?

This exercise enables the development of objectives that target “adoption levers,” such as raising awareness of unmet therapeutic needs, creating understanding of the product’s clinical profile, educating payers on the product’s value to increase willingness to reimburse it, and encouraging adoption of the product by those who treat patients who could benefit from it.

Answering these questions also helps to prioritize stakeholder groups and communication strategies when setting objectives. For example, a novel therapy in a crowded chronic disease market may warrant a larger focus on healthcare provider education on the MOA and clinical evidence to differentiate the product from competitors. In contrast, a treatment for a rare disease with high unmet needs may require dedicated disease awareness campaigns targeting consumers and healthcare providers, as well as a pronounced focus on payer engagement and education to support market entry.

Cross-functional collaboration is another important part of this step to fully appreciate and understand external stakeholder perspectives. Without inviting discussion across functional groups and geographies, companies risk a disjointed product launch that fails to reach target audiences with a clear set of aligned communications. So, be sure to include representatives from key functional groups (e.g., commercial, clinical development, regulatory, medical affairs, and patient advocacy) and relevant affiliates in the situation analysis and throughout the communication planning process. Together, these representatives should consider stakeholder needs across development and launch milestones to ensure alignment with the overall brand strategy and communication plan.

2. Articulate Required Behavior Change

In many cases, adopting a new product may require a behavior change and a perception shift for one or more key external stakeholder groups. Companies should determine desired behavior changes to fulfill the objectives established above, such as increasing stakeholders' awareness, understanding, and adoption of the product, and then develop communication strategies to achieve the desired impact. For example, a company may need to emphasize healthcare provider education and training to increase understanding of and comfort with a first-in-class medical device.

Product Launch Readiness 

To get started, launch leaders should align on and understand all key stakeholder groups so the appropriate communication strategies and messages can be developed. Key stakeholder groups could include everyone from internal employees to the public, patient groups, healthcare providers, regulators, and payers. This integrated approach to key stakeholder communication enables companies to probe, understand, and prioritize stakeholder needs holistically before determining the right mix of supporting campaigns and deliverables. Another goal should be to jump-start advocacy outreach and relationship-building early in the launch planning process, so impactful joint strategies, such as scientific messaging and disease awareness campaigns, can be articulated and implemented.

3. Map Key Communication Activities

Once cross-functional team members have aligned on desired attitudes and behaviors among key stakeholder groups, then it is time to determine functional owners and supporting activities for each of the communication objectives. This will help all involved to better understand and plan for the interdependencies among departments, as well as the optimal sequence of activities and investments. For example, companies can cross-functionally define how and when data generation initiatives should be sequenced relative to scientific and medical messaging opportunities (e.g., key congresses and competitor clinical trial milestones).

In addition, create a global planning timeline pegged to key development milestones and external touchpoints, such as scientific conferences, clinical data readouts, regulatory submission, and approval. From here, the cross-functional teams can align on a draft plan of action, understand immediate gaps that need to be filled, and be ready to kick off near-term activities. Importantly, when functional leaders and affiliates agree on key communication plan components, all team members are better positioned to communicate consistently with key external stakeholders, thereby reinforcing communication objectives and driving desired changes in perceptions and behaviors.

Product Launch Readiness 

4. Develop Success Metrics to Measure Impact

The development of key metrics to measure desired behavior changes allows companies to assess and monitor performance of communication strategies and supporting activities against established performance targets across phases of development. To accomplish this, a systematic approach to defining and measuring key performance metrics is required.

To start, desired behavior changes among key stakeholder groups as defined above should serve as the foundation for defining appropriate performance metrics, thresholds for success, and the timeframe and frequency required for measurement. This exercise can include a variety of market research, insight gathering, and analytical tools. For example, stakeholder surveys or insights from medical field teams can help launch leaders ascertain how many healthcare providers understand the unmet need a product is designed to fill, while social media analysis can help gauge changes in public awareness of the need, product, or company. With this in mind, the integration of a cross-functional communication strategy with defined and measurable performance expectations across functions can enable coordinated, consistent, and impactful communication activities across internal and external stakeholders.

Learn more about creating an integrated communication strategy for your next product launch.

-- Caitie Zavila, Gurjit Singh Bansel, Brian Sattin

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