Oli Hudson, content director at Wilmington Healthcare, explains why the rapidly changing NHS needs a fresh approach from pharma’s KAM teams

The days when NHS customers fitted into clearly defined groups within primary and secondary care have long gone; now there is a complex web of decision-makers and influencers drawn from health, social care and the wider community.

Identifying these stakeholders, understanding how they fit into decision-making units and determining where to target resources locally is a major commercial challenge for Key Account Management (KAM) teams.

In this article, we will look at these issues in detail and explain how Customer Relationship Management (CRM) practices can be redefined to help pharma navigate the new and emerging integrated care landscape.

Internal KAM challenges

As the NHS structures services around places, new organisations such as Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) are being introduced. Changes are also occurring within some existing organisations, such as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), many of which are merging and taking on more strategic roles.

Within this new structure, complex decision-making units are being formed, with staff being drawn from across health, social care and the wider community. Identifying key stakeholders, mapping roles and responsibilities, and understanding their sphere of influence, particularly with regards to budgets and prescribing guidance, is complicated. To make the situation even more challenging, there is considerable variation in the way local health systems are being run.

For example, in any given locality, it could be the commissioner or the programme manager in the Integrated Care System (ICS) Programme Office, or the divisional director working in the Trust who co-ordinates between the programme management office and the clinicians in medicines management.

Furthermore, medicines management staff in some locations could also be working on medicines optimisation and they might be tasked with helping to change pathways with new technology – as in the work of medicines management teams in Staffordshire CCGs to guide secondary care teams on the use of online clinical decision support tool BluTeq for off-tariff drugs. This would be an absolutely vital piece of intelligence to build into a tailored market access strategy.

Historically, KAM teams have relied on lists of contacts and job descriptions for stakeholder management and this was sufficient when groups of contacts were more clearly defined. However, now KAM teams need far more detailed information to engage with decision-makers and influencers in different localities and to track and influence prescribing habits.

This is further complicated by the fact that many KAM teams store their contact lists on one system and their prescribing data on another, and there is no interoperability between the two.Consequently, when speaking to clients, heads of salesforce excellence and business unit managers often struggle to piece stakeholder and prescribing data together, let alone drill down into the granular level of detail and insight they need to really understand the rapidly changing market.

What do KAM teams need?

To manage the complexity of the integrated care structure, KAM teams need enhanced CRM systems and granular data to uncover key stakeholders and influencers in decision-making units, identify customer patterns, and measure progress using SMART metrics.

To create a compelling localised proposition, they also need a clear picture of the action they should take in each individual local health economy, informed by a thorough understanding of its priorities, challenges and needs, as well as sound insights into key stakeholders and their prescribing habits.

Given that prescribing levels can reveal significant and sometimes unexpected variation by patient group and key account, KAM teams need to be able to break this data down into individual towns and cities within local health economies too. So, for example, if Bristol has a high level of prescribing and efficacy for a certain drug, yet rates in Truro are comparatively low, then the approach can be tailored accordingly, and resources directed effectively.

However, while data sets and intelligence tools can bring a wealth of valuable insights to KAM teams, it is hard to realise their full potential if outcomes are stored on different and unconnected systems or if they are not clearly aligned with the overall account strategy and plan, and communicated across relevant teams.

To fully capitalise on the power of data and ensure a well informed and consistent approach, KAM teams need the ability to integrate key customer data and insight with other relevant account information and interactions, and store them on one platform to create a single version of ‘the truth’.

This means that, at the touch of a button, staff can access all relevant background data and insight on an account and view daily customer interactions as well as inputs, such as investments, and outputs, including direct sales information from SAP and Oracle. They can also view strategic plans and priorities.

An integrated KAM platform can also form a repository for other useful knowledge and information, such as guidelines for a therapy area and decisions made by formulary committees, enabling them to be viewed quickly and efficiently by everyone who is connected with a campaign.

Collaborative approach

KAM teams cannot work in a vacuum when it comes to sharing data and information with other functions within pharma. Indeed, they must take a cross functional approach to account planning if they are to drive improvements and achieve true customer-centricity.

For example, it is important that wider functions, including medical, marketing and sales teams, understand the KAM approach in order to obtain a holistic customer view and become more closely aligned with KAM goals.

KAM teams should also enlist the help of different functions internally to manage the KAM platform. In addition to the sales team, there should be CRM input from divisions such as information and data services, as well as from pricing and reimbursement.

It is also important to ensure that Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) are closely involved in KAM management, particularly given their close proximity to Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and their ability to identify issues through peer-to-peer discussions and help to provide solutions.

Internal management

The ability to view the activities of all stakeholders internally and externally helps KAM teams to promote a consistent approach across the field sales force and to ensure that everyone is working towards the agreed plan. The performance of individuals and teams can be easily monitored, and tasks delegated appropriately.

Another key advantage of creating that single version of ‘the truth’ on an account is that it is easier to spot problems, identify solutions and share best practice. This iteratively enables teams to improve account management processes by learning from successes and failures and ultimately helps to develop a good KAM culture within the company.

On a broader level, a single platform supports the wider culture change that is needed around NHS engagement where traditional salesperson to clinician tactics need to be replaced by a ‘many-to-many approach’ that sees networks of KAMs and related teams engaging with networks of healthcare professionals. Such change must, of course, be supported by training and consultancy for sales teams.


The move to integrated, place-based care that is happening apace in the NHS is not only changing pharma’s customer base but also redefining the role of KAM teams whose customers are becoming part of complex networks that can be difficult to define and understand.

The ability to unite data and insight about NHS stakeholders and local health economies with other relevant key account information can give KAM teams the edge in equipping salesforces with the right information. It represents the beginning of a culture change in customer engagement tactics.

By joining this platform up with other functions, such as marketing and medical affairs, KAM teams can also start to embed their market access strategy into the heart of their organisation and inspire diverse teams with a common customer-centric purpose.

Oli Hudson is content director at Wilmington Healthcare. For information on Wilmington Healthcare, visit www.wilmingtonhealthcare.com