Monthly Archives September 2012

Top Marketing Planning Considerations

In my last few posts I shared ideas on how to enhance product planning efforts to maximize the market potential for a product. This is just one important component. A truly successful approach to product development requires a solid understanding of the clinical issues and data, a careful assessment of the market, and a framework to analyze this information and evaluate opportunities. Seasoned marketers play a critical role in these early phases of development to ensure the product can reach its full potential once it is on the market.

As you embark on product planning for new products and new uses of existing products, consider these five key questions to guide your assessment of the market.

1. Is there an unmet need that the new/improved product can address? Too often we fall into the “build it and they will come” mentality. If your product doesn’t fulfill an unmet need don’t fool yourself into thinking “they will come.”

2. What is the true size of the market? While some conditions afflict millions of patients, a treatment may only be appropriate for a small subset of them. Patients are often stratified by severity and certain treatments are only appropriate for particular severity levels. Don’t get caught here—know which patients would likely receive your treatment and how many would be eligible for treatment.

3. Do you have the necessary budget to create awareness with healthcare providers that there is a solution to the problem? This is a particular challenge when your product is treating a common condition treated by large numbers of healthcare providers, as well as for rare diseases and disorders that are difficult to diagnose and may span a number of specialties.

4. Will a new condition need to be created in order for the product to gain success? To do this successfully requires a significant amount of awareness creation, time, and resources. Evaluate your company’s resources carefully to determine if this is possible.

5. Is the go/no-go strategy encompassing multiple sources and are they in alignment? Don’t base a go/no-go decision on just a few sources. Pull together multiple sources of information from a variety of experts. Look for consistency in their recommendations. If you receive the same comments or advice a number of times, stop and evaluate what you are hearing.

I hope these five questions have prompted you to think about the process you use to understand your product’s marketplace. Successful product development requires a view of many areas. Use an integrated approach to understand the critical clinical and marketing issues. Establish an analytical framework to assess opportunities and drive actions.

What questions do you ask as a part of your market planning efforts? In your organization, is this done early in the process, or closer to when the product is ready to be launched? Please share your experiences and we can learn from each other.

Product planning is an exciting endeavor. At the same time it can be overwhelming. Engage a partner to help you with it. At Snowfish, we have the in-depth knowledge of the industry needed to answer your questions and provide actionable insights. Our website provides detailed information on our services and expertise. If you’re interested in more information on effective product planning, we published a White Paper titled “No More Product Losers! Strategic Lessons Learned”. Please click here for a list of White Papers.

Finally, I am more than happy to have a one-on-one conversation with you. Please call me at  +1 703-759-6100.

Posted by Dave Fishman  |  Comments Off on Top Marketing Planning Considerations  |  in Management Consulting

Narrowing the Primary Care Gap

The primary care shortage in the US is destined to grow even more dire as indicated in an article featured in February 12th issue of the Washington Post. In light of the Healthcare Affordability Act there will be a need for at least 30,000 more primary care providers given the fact that tens of millions more individuals will likely enter the healthcare system.  Many of whom have not had adequate care for many years, if ever.

The deficiency of primary care physicians is not a new phenomenon. For the last few decades a variety of factors ranging from the economic to ego tend to steer graduating physicians away from primary care toward the lucrative and esteemed medical specialties. The article highlighted the significant debt carried by many graduating physicians noting that one-third of the class of primary care residents at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC carry more than $200,000 in student loan debt. Couple that with the significant salary disparity between primary care and specialists, it is easy to rationalize the decision to pursue a specialty over primary care.

Among the solutions examined in this article including federal initiatives to close the primary care gap, a discernible exclusion is the role of mid-level practitioners (nurse practitioners [NPs]/physician assistants [PAs]. In the U.S., NPs and PAs have been practicing as far back as the 1960’s and 70’s when the professions were created in response to a shortage of healthcare providers. This has since evolved into more than 150,000 NPs and 74,000 PAs in the U.S. according to the ACNP and AAPA respectively. While the role has branched out to multiple specialties, the mainstay remains primary care.

Thus, a large proportion of the mid-level practitioner population is ready and willing to take on primary care roles. A recent white paper published by Snowfish featured results of an analysis including 500+ NPs and PAs. It noted that in general mid-level practitioners are very suitable to manage non-urgent issues and management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. A sizeable number of mid-level practitioners function autonomously. Though their specific responsibilities vary depending upon the specialty and clinical setting, it is clear from the survey that NPs and PAs are involved in all aspects of disease state management. In many of the responsibilities described, there is little distinction between these clinicians and physicians. Furthermore, by 2015, all newly graduated NPs will require a doctorate degree (DNP).

In any case, the future of primary care may essentially be the shift away from the individual provider model toward the patient-centered “medical home”, in which a team approach is used to optimize patient outcomes. The obvious leader of this team would be the primary care physician who will use their years of education and rich understanding of physiology and disease management to guide the delivery of high quality care. Those ideal to deliver these services under such leadership are the mid-level practitioners.

As it takes much less time to graduate quality mid-level practitioners than it does for physicians, this is an excellent solution to filling the primary care gap while ensuring that delivery of primary care to the management of the millions of newly insured patients remains the best it can be.

Snowfish is uniquely positioned to provide executive decision makers with critical investment insights. We integrate clinical, business, and analytics to meet a client’s specific and specialized objectives. We are happy to provide the mid-level practitioner survey results discussed in this blog entry. More information on the survey and Snowfish is available at and by calling Snowfish at +1-703-759-4547.

Posted by Dave Fishman  |  Comments Off on Narrowing the Primary Care Gap  |  in Management Consulting

Top Product Planning Considerations

Innovation is critical to the sustainability of the life sciences industry. Product planning is fraught with twists and turns. One major error can cost a company millions, if not billions, of dollars along with missed opportunities and poorly-allocated resources.

Over the past decade, we have worked with numerous companies to help them avoid major product pitfalls. Through these experiences I have developed a list of five questions to ask as you are embarking on your own product planning activities regardless of the stage of the product’s lifecycle.

1. Do you fully understand the clinical environment? To prevent critical design issues you must understand how the product will be used in clinical practice. For example, requiring extensive training or additional staff to provide the treatment will impede its uptake by the clinical community. To the best of your ability, design the product so it can easily fit into existing clinical practice.

2. Do you have the appropriate intellectual property (IP)? All patents are not equal. Check with your legal counsel to be sure your IP does not allow for “easy work arounds.”

3. Will the product differentiators resonate in the minds of healthcare providers and patients? The product may be different, but if it isn’t meaningful for healthcare providers and patients it may not matter once the product is on the market.

4. Do you have a clear understanding of the clinical data and results associated with various products’ trials? This knowledge allows you to establish benchmarks for success through a historical view of relevant approved products. This data can also be used to inform a SWOT analysis against your competitors, and guide key message development too.

5. Last, but certainly not least, can the cost be justified? A typical method of analyzing this is quality adjusted life years (QALY). If the cost of therapy significantly outweighs the benefit offered to the patient, it will be difficult to obtain payer acceptance. Unless the product is used in a self-pay situation, such as elective plastic surgery procedures, not having payer acceptance is a deal-breaker.

I want to know what questions you ask as a part of your product planning. Please share them and we can learn from each other.

Feel free to call me at +1-703-759-6100 to discuss your issues on this topic.

Effective product planning requires asking questions, seeking answers, and analyzing the answers for insights. Don’t despair; you are not in this alone. We have the in-depth knowledge of the industry needed to answer your questions and provide actionable insights. Our website provides detailed information on our services and expertise, including our practice areas. If you’re interested in more information on effective product planning, we published a free white paper entitled “No More Product Losers! Strategic Lessons Learned.” A list of all our white papers can be found at the same location. Select as many as you like in one request.

Posted by Dave Fishman  |  Comments Off on Top Product Planning Considerations  |  in Management Consulting