Over the past few years, even before COVID, physicians have been forced to deal with additional barriers and administrative tasks that have made it harder to get their patients on the therapy that they want. Additionally, physicians also found it difficult to get the support they want from pharma, when they wanted it. Impiricus was founded in 2020 with the goal of using technology to create a physician-centric future of medicine where these issues are a thing of the past.
Impiricus helps make the lives of physicians easier while also working with pharma on ways to better engage with them. At the heart of that is Impiricus’ AI-platform Concierge, which answers any questions physicians may have for a pharma company and helps them navigate the challenges that may prevent patients from getting their prescribed medication.
PM360 spoke with CEO & Co-Founder Sandy Donaldson about the future of pharma-physician engagement, the impact that Concierge and other offerings are having on patient care, and how they hope to make Impiricus physicians’ one-stop shop for accessing all pharma resources.
PM360: Why did you start this company?
Sandy Donaldson: I cofounded the company with Dr. Osama Hashmi who is a dermatologist. I was on the pharma side working as the head of Omnichannel at UCB. Both of us saw a need to have much better engagement between industry and physicians. For example, I could see that a lot of money was being inefficiently spent on push tactics such as impressions. Dr. Hashmi found it very difficult to get on-demand information and support from pharma companies when he needed it.
When you guys were designing Concierge, what did you have in mind for how to solve those issues you both were seeing?
Number one is that when a physician actually needs support or access to materials from pharma it is very hard for them to navigate all of the fragmented resources because there’s hundreds if not thousands of websites. When they actually try to access some of these resources, such as getting samples, it is a very cumbersome experience with a lot of friction. The abandonment rates are very high and many physicians have completely stopped trying to access pharma resources.
The second thing we are putting in place is a better way to provide the messaging that pharma wants to provide physicians. The vast majority of touch points today are in push mode, such as emails, banner ads, rep visits etc., and what we do is provide an on-demand connection point where physicians can access information when it’s suitable for them with the right channel at the right time.
Talk me through how physicians actually use this. What are they seeing, searching for, or interacting with when they use this platform?
When it comes to us distributing and curating information towards them, we’re using email, SMS, and video. We’re not only providing nonbranded information updates about their therapeutic area, but we’re also working with our pharma partners to occasionally push a branded message to them as well. What’s different is that we have a physician council, which has to approve all of the pharma messaging that is going out through our network for clinical relevancy. That’s why physicians find it very impactful, they know the information on Impiricus is peer reviewed.
When physicians use Concierge, they can access support via the web app or SMS. At their fingertips they’ve got a one-stop shop for requesting support from pharma such as help with prior authorizations, accessing copay cards and patient support programs, requesting samples, and identifying who their sales rep is for a certain brand.
One of the other tools I saw on your website is the ability to help physicians determine the lowest payment for patients for the brands they want to prescribe. How does that work and does it factor in copay programs and other financial assistance available in addition to insurance coverage?
It does, and the way that it works is that physicians submit their request to the Concierge. We guarantee a response within 48 hours, but most are solved within 45 minutes. Concierge is driven by a mix of AI and we have employees who are trained medical assistants, so if it’s a very specialized request then the medical assistant will give that request white glove treatment. We actually have quite a few cases where physicians have asked us to help get a patient on therapy and we’ve identified a patient support program or even a specific pharmacy local to that patient where the patient can get the drug with a significantly reduced copay. Our goal is to support one million patients to access therapy by 2025.
On the pharma end what are the opportunities you offer to help reach physicians?
We have various different products within the portfolio of Impiricus. Our forward-facing products are SMS, email, and video where we can send physician council approved pharma messages on behalf of our clients directly into the hands of their target physicians.
Impiricus is an engine that constantly listens to physicians and creates tools. To that end, we created Impiricus Labs to provide our pharma clients the opportunity to partner with us in the creation of those tools. Opportunities range from accessing the data on physician’s needs, to sponsoring select therapeutic area specific tools to joining a hackathon to co-create the next wave of clinical tools.
What are some of the other offerings you have?
We have Impiricus Hub, which is a virtual booth that is always on. Instead of maintaining different virtual booths for the various events, clients are provided a dedicated virtual booth and can upload any of their resources. Impiricus is the one-stop-shop for physicians, and Impiricus Hub provides a one-stop-shop for a brand to connect with them on-demand.
Another impactful addition is Impiricus Orchestrator, which takes in the requests from physicians we receive from Concierge about who is their rep or MSL. Impiricus clients can have a video call set up directly between their respective rep and the physician in a matter of minutes.
What are some of the results you’re seeing in terms of pharma companies and their engagement with physicians?
Pharma clients are seeing higher engagement than compared with other solutions. Other digital platforms contribute to more noise and have stagnant or declining engagement rates. Due to the trust we have with our network and the value physicians see in using Impiricus tools, we see significantly higher engagement, up to 90% in some campaigns.
Pharma is using Impiricus to reach their physicians. Even before COVID, access has been dramatically declining in the U.S. Because we can reach over 90% of all physicians, even in academia and institutions, pharma companies are using us to not only cover their white space but to also amplify their reps and touch points. Impiricus is the first platform that combines reach, deep engagement, and capabilities that balance push and pull. The future winners in pharma will be the companies that can master the push/pull ballet.
Are you working on any new offerings that you can mention at this time?
We are currently in development of our next generation of tools. Impiricus Cover is a new capability we have in beta. If a rep leaves the company, goes on maternity leave, takes sick leave, or even if they need a little bit of a booster in terms of touch points, then Impiricus Cover can be switched on. Within 24 hours, Impiricus starts to deploy messaging to the identified physicians to ensure continuity of relationship. Our Concierge service then steps in as a virtual rep and handles any requests for resources or information.
Looking more long term, what goals do you have for the company five or 10 years down the line?
In two to three years, we want Impiricus to be a brand name that every physician in the U.S. will turn to when they need support. We want to build on our ability as an engine to continually identify and create tools for clinical practice.
In 10 years, we would like to be solving problems that go past just physician-pharma engagement. Our company DNA is about not accepting the status quo and using disruptive innovation to solve complex challenges. Patient education and adherence, the further integration of digital tools into HCPs clinical practice, and driving efficiencies in healthcare delivery costs are all targets on our roadmap